SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit Board of Education, at its November meeting, voted to approve a tuition-based Full-Day Kindergarten (FDK) program for the 2018-19 school year with a full tuition rate of $5,500 per year, a $1,650 annual tuition for those on the federal reduced-rate lunch program and $550 for those on the free lunch program. The fees represent a 23.35 percent drop in the current FDK fees of $7,175, $2,152.50 and $717.50 for the current school year.

Superintendent June Chang announced, however, that his position on FDK remains the same -- he fully supports the program and is targeting, by the 2019- 20 school year, a plan to provide “a plan to recommend full-day Kindergarten” to the ongoing debate between universal and tuition-based FDK.

Chang added he will be looking for a program that will “minimize the impact” on the district’s budget while, at the same time, providing for the best program that will be “pivotal for the district.” During the public portion of the meeting, a resident asked Chang to outline the difficulties he saw in having the District provide a universal program and how residents could help provide “creative solutions” to make that concept a reality.

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The school district’s chief executive said that the budgetary impact would be about $1 million and funds would have to be moved around from other areas to make that possible. Chang also said he did not want to commit to a program unless it was sustainable, with consistent funding, meaning a possible price tag of $1 million annually.

Chang noted that and his administrative staff, who recently spent about six hours in one meeting trying to come up with the outline of a solution, would “need to work creatively” to develop a long-term solution. The superintendent indicated he would welcome a community discussion in finding this solution.

For the 2018-19 tuition-based program, enrollment will be determined by a lottery for six classes of 23 students each with the superintendent authorized to add two more classes if registration warrants it.

Board education chairman David Dietze announced at the meeting that there will be a “rolling registration” this year, with registration accepted from the start of the signup period each day until the capacity of the program is reached. 

Chang urged parents to enter the lottery process by completing a lottery registration form prior to December 13 to secure a seat number for the lottery on December 14. He also said the seventh and eighth classes would be added if registration reached “a critical mass.”

In her operations committee report, Board vice president Debra McCann noted that, when the Summit school board first decided on tuition-based FDK, during the 2014-15 school year, the full tuition was set at $5,500 annually.

McCann added the program had resulted in about a $6,000 negative delta to the budget every year, and the aim always had been to have the program be “budget neutral.”

She said this year the factors that resulted in a reduced tuition rate were:

  • Retirements of a number of staff members
  • Anticipated increases in class size
  • Increased enrollment
  • A change in the enrollment of those in the free and reduced lunch programs.

Commenting later in the meeting on the history of FDK, Board president Richard Hanley noted the concept of a tuition-based program came about only after the community turned down a free, District-provided program.

Hanley also said Board members agreed the program would have to be budget neutral and the tuition rate would not be reviewed every year.

On another topic, resident Jay H. Flame asked how Summit school officials would deal with budgeting for athletic coaching positions in light of the fact that new revelations about concussions had been driving athletes to more lesser-contact sports.

Flame, who said the participation of his son and daughter in sports while they attended Hilltop City schools were “wonderful experiences,” noted that there are about eight million students enrolled in scholastic sports across the United States and about 283,000 in New Jersey.

He said trends show more boys signing up for such lesser contact sports as lacrosse, cross-country and track and more girls signing up for such sports as volleyball and outdoor track.

Flame, who said he works as an advisor to non-profits, offered to meet with Chang to discuss how the school board can compensate for the “tilt” to lesser contact sports and help with meet the challenge of “smaller” sports, some of which only have one coach and a volunteer supervising programs, or just a coach.

The superintendent replied expenditures on all sports are tracked every year when the athletic budget is submitted and adjustments often are made when higher participation rates are evident.

He cited for example, a decision last year to eliminate the bowling team and provide coaching for gymnastics.

Assistant superintendent for business Louis Pepe added that the athletic director, in presenting a budget for his department, which totals around $1 million, breaks down budgetary expenditures by sport, participation rates and supervisory ratios among various sports.

He also pointed out that, athletics, like any other portion of the budget, was addressed as one of a number of competing interests in the district.

The business administrator also noted that budgetary constraints often are overcome because of the large amount of community support for athletic activities.

Hanley added that groups such as the Summit Educational Foundation contribute about $750,000 a year in support of programs throughout the entire budget.

The Board president also noted about $100,000 to $150,000 per year is contributed by volunteer citizen groups to sports in the district, which amounts to about 10 percent of the district’s budget for athletics.

He pointed out, however, that any money coming into the district ultimately is reviewed in connection with the budget by the school board.

On other budgetary matters, McCann said the key budgetary challenge for the coming school year again would be containing healthcare costs.

She also announced that Chang and Pepe would give en overview of the budget at the board’s January meet, with a more detailed presentation at the February meeting and possible adoption of the tentative budget on March 8 prior to action on the spending plan by the Summit Board of School Estimate later that month.

On another topic, Teresita Usme of 13 Ascot Way, asked the school not to eliminate the position of ELL (English Language Learning) coordinator in the upcoming school budget.

She said the person in that position provided a valuable service as a liaison to both parents new to the community whose native language was not English and to children new to the district who spoke Spanish at home and felt uncomfortable when they entered a new school in an English-speaking area.

Usme said, for those parents whose native language was not English, there was an analogy upon entering schools such as those in Summit for the first time, to those whose native language was English who would feel uncomfortable entering a meeting where only Spanish was spoken.

These were situations, she said, where the ELL coordinator was very helpful.

Chang, noting he spoke no English when he came to the United States from Korea, said he agreed it was necessary to “embrace those who come from the outside” said he understood the situation.

Hanley added he appreciated Usme’s comments and they would be taken into consideration when the budget was being prepared.

On another matter, Irvy Pinzon, the husband of Teresita Usme, announced there would be a “Meet and Greet” for those of any nationality who were new to the city sponsored by the Mayors Committee on Diversity on December 12 from 7 to 9 pm at the Summit YMCA.

Another event was announced by board communications chairman Christopher Bonner, who noted the second community meeting to give the board input on its new focus goals would be held on November 30 at 7 pm in the Summit High School Media Center.

The first community meeting was held on November 15.