SUMMIT, NJ - Projecting, based on New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's budget proposal, that it will receive $350,000+ more than anticipated from the state next year, the Summit Public School District, its administrators and the Summit Board of Education welcomed the development.
“It’s all good news for Summit,” said Lou Pepe, Assistant Superintendent for Business.
The preliminary District budget did not plan for the increase. Pepe said that the increase will allow for a part-time security guard in addition to the full-time security guard. The position, about three hours per evening, would total $16,714. The balance would be applied to reduce the tax levy from 1.89 percent to 1.384 percent.
During the meeting, Board Member Donna Miller asked for more specifics on the planned reduction of five elementary classes. Superintendent June Chang said that he did not have any official information. “We have somewhat of an idea, but I can’t confirm,” he said. He said that possible retirements might impact the decision.
Miller also asked about the expense for the turf field at Upper Tatlock. Pepe said that it is part of the five-year facility plan but that it not would impact the budget this year. The field has a 10-year life expectancy, and it is 12 years old. He said that capital reserve will be used for the project, which will be replaced in its entirety probably during the summer of 2019. “We have to figure out the optimal time to address the field because it will be out-of-use for a couple of months, “ he said
Board President Rick Hanley said that the District has been working under the guidelines of Focus Area #3, to provide a safe environment for students and teachers. He said that the District has been allocating the time and resources to bolster security, entrance ways, the processing of visitors, and policies “to the chagrin of some.” He said that the ALICE (alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate) active shooter drills that are taught in the school, along with staff training, and new intercom systems add to the safety level. Additionally, the schools now have numbered windows to help locate classrooms rapidly.
A “canine sweep” of Summit High School was done on February 21, and no illegal substances were found. “Students can enter a drug-free environment and focus on education,” Hanley said. He said that the members of the Board have a collective 16 children either in or recently graduated from the Summit Public Schools, so they want to make sure the buildings are “as secure as they can be.”
IXL Skills Testing
Education Committee Chair David Dietze said that they were working toward remedying the challenges faced by sixth grade test scores. He said that much of the problem is in grammar and supportive text. Dietze said that there are several steps being taken by the District to improve the scores including professional development, which gives the teachers the latest tools to teach grammar, sharing best practices among the schools, and using podcasts.
Dietze also shared plans for the new 'Pathways' program, to be introduced next year beginning with the Class of 2021. It is a program that focuses on STEAM, and allows students to “specialize” in an area, like a major. Summit High School Principal Stacy Grimaldi said that the classes will be in areas such as pre-engineering, biology, computer programming, computer engineering, pre-med, and sustainability. The program will not use any additional budget dollars, and students in the 'Pathways' program will be in the same class as other students not enrolled in 'Pathways'. There will be a preset menu of courses to take to answer the question,”What should I take if I want to do 'X' as a career?”
Lice v. Nits
Policy Chair Vanessa Primack said that the policy has been updated. The mention of the word “nits” has been removed from the head lice policy. Students are allowed back in the classroom once active lice have been treated; nits are no longer mentioned, in accordance with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control.
The 'Summit Story'
Communications Chair Chris Bonner said that his committee has been working on updating 'The Summit Story,' a 20-page document that gives a snapshot of the District. “It tells folks coming to Summit what they are buying into,” he said. It compares Summit to districts of like size, and explains how students are doing in the classroom. Twenty pages is too long, he said, so this spring and summer the committee will revamp the document.
The Board acknowledged the retirement of Dr. Jane Kachmar-Desonne, long-time director of special education services with a standing ovation. According to a District spokesperson, no decision has been made regarding Kachmar-Desonne's replacement and the position will be posted.