WARREN, NJ - The Warren Township Board of Education approved the 2017-18 budget at its meeting on April 24. The total budget for 2017-18 is for an adjusted $42,492,100, a $706,896 increase over last year.
The budget includes a school district tax rate of .862, down from .872 last year. Taxes for the average Warren homeowner increase $115 because the average assessed home value has increased from $717,015 last year to $738,628 this year. The budget presentation can be found here https://www.warrentboe.org/business/budget/
Included in the budget are changes to the Warren Middle School schedule and all four elementary school schedules.
Middle School schedule
Elementary School schedule
Also included in the budget are staffing reductions in the reorganization of unified arts staff and staffing additions of an additional pre school teacher, two health/physical education teachers, a middle school instructional specialist and IEP driven staff positions resulting in a net reduction of 4.7 positions.
Teacher Nancy Andrews addressed the board during the public commentary portion of the meeting and read a letter signed by district teachers and staff on the need of a full time computer teacher/technology coach.
Dear Members of the Board:
As we move towards a more technologically based learning system, the need for technological support and education increases. Students and teachers, now more than ever, need support staff on a daily basis to help navigate through the day to day issues and situations that arise with this usage. By decreasing the amount of time these vital teachers spend in each building, you are placing a much larger burden on the shoulders of the students, parents, and teachers.
There are several reasons why we need a full time computer teacher/technology coach. On a daily basis, students and teachers alike have issues with laptops, chromebooks, and Smart Boards. Classroom teachers simply do not have the skills and training necessary to address many of these issues. Often times, a teacher is in the middle of teaching when there is an issue. We cannot stop our lessons to help troubleshoot. Often, the student can get the help within minutes by seeking out our computer teacher. If we have to fill out a help desk ticket, it would take time out of our teaching to do so and then it may take hours or even days for the issue to be fixed.
We are doing a disservice to our children by decreasing their technology instruction and support. In the year 2017, where more than half the school is one to one in terms of technology, it seems as if we are moving backwards. With the addition of tech, comes the addition of issues that arise and we need a trained professional to help assist and troubleshoot. In order for students and staff to be able to troubleshoot independently, they need to be taught those skills. With a 25% decrease in instructional time in computer class, many essential skills will not be taught and/or mastered. The students of Warren deserve much better than this.
In 2015, the district eliminated the role of a tech coach and computer teachers assumed those responsibilities. Now the computer teacher's role is being diminished. I ask you this; how can one person effectively instruct and educate Warren’s students while simultaneously troubleshooting while only being in the building part time?
While some may argue that Warren has a skilled tech team to manage such problems, our team of experts are spread so thinly that all daily problems cannot always be resolved in a timely manner that benefits the students.
You may also be thinking, what about the instructional specialists? While they can help teachers solve instructional technological issues, they are shared among two or more buildings. It is impossible for them to meet the needs of all the various student issues that are generated throughout any given day.
We will leave you with one last thought. As we continue to embark on our 2017 technological initiative, where almost every learner has one to one contact with technology, how can we arm our children to face this ever changing world if we do not have a full time expert on the front lines?
The budget offsets cost increases with preschool tuition totaling $71,250, state aid at $1,247,692, an emergency reserves withdrawal of $318,341, and the tax levy.
Included in the budget are security enhancements -- a visitor management system similar to Watchung Hills', the replacement of Warren Middle School's front doors, modifications to the entrances at Angelo L. Tomaso School and Mount Horeb, and the repairing and/or replacing of the fencing at Tomaso School.
Also included is a technology upgrade, with Dell 70-inch touch screens included in the proposed budget to replace some aging SMART Boards.
Special education costs and benefits costs are always challenging for school budgets. Business Administrator Pat Leonhardt explained the decrease in out of district tuitions and transportation costs plus the increase in benefits costs for the tentative budget.
Tuition costs were reduced almost $500,000 to $1,334,802 from $1,802,976 last year resulting in part from out of district placements being brought back in district, a 26 percent reduction. And transportation costs were reduced just over $100,000 to $2,104,006 from $2,216,712 last year.
But the savings will be offset by an increase in the cost of benefits. The budget includes just over a $500,000 increase in benefits costs to $8,578,018 up from $8,072,478 last year.
Any questions on the budget can be directed to Patricia Leonhardt, Business Administrator, at email@example.com