Caldwell-West Caldwell Board of Education Considers School Facility Expansion Referendum

Caldwell-West Caldwell Board of Education President Marie Lanfrank presides over Tuesday's meeting. Credits: Bob Faszczewski

WEST CALDWELL, NJ—Caldwell-West Caldwell Superintendent of Schools James Heinegg outlined the parameters for a referendum on possible expansion of school facilities in the regional district at a board of education meeting on Tuesday.

Heinegg noted that one of the district’s proposed goals for 2016-2017 is to develop a proposal to submit a plan for new facilities in the district to the state following a public referendum.

Should the board approve that goal, the superintendent added, the public would vote on two questions in the referendum:

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  • Whether the district should be permitted to issue bonds to finance construction of new school facilities; and
  • Whether property taxes should be increased to pay for the additional staff needed to provide instruction and other services in the expanded facilities.

Heinegg also said that a second part of the proposed goal was that the school board would continue to review all aspects of the recently completed community survey to determine the precise needs of the district.

He said that the amount of the bond issue and other costs had not yet been determined, although school officials had a fairly good idea of the costs due to the fact that expansion and construction often had been explored in the past.

In fact, the superintendent noted, construction has been underway on facilities approved in a December 2014 referendum.

In response to a question from the public at Tuesday’s board meeting, Heinegg said that, should the referendum be approved, including tax increases to provide for increased staff, the district could use temporary trailers until the new facilities were completed.

Use of the trailers would depend on the total enrollment at the time a referendum is approved.

Replying to another question, the superintendent said it would be “virtually impossible” to complete construction of the new facilities in time for the start of the school year in September 2017 because of the time it would take to get state approval.

Kindergarten class size in the future would depend on what decisions are made concerning facilities, he added.

If facilities were not expanded and enrollment increased class sizes probably would increase. If facllities were expanded smaller class sizes would be possible.

An audience member pointed out that, if the state did not approve the proposed facilities plan, the district itself might have to bear significant costs in trying to meet the needs of increased enrollment.

In his report on the recently completed community survey on the schools, Heinegg said that there were 1022 responses. Of that total:

  • Forty-nine percent were parents of students currently in the district
  • Twenty-four percent identified themselves as parents of future district students
  • Fourteen percent were community residents who were not parents
  • Seven percent were staff members, and
  • The remainder were not residents of the district

The superintendent noted that 91 percent of the respondents said there was a positive climate in the district; 53 percent said the district responded well to parental input; 89 percent said district schools were safe, clean and well-maintained; and 81 percent said Caldwell-West Caldwell students were well-prepared for college.

On the question of full-day kindergarten, 22 percent of survey respondents said it was a nice concept, but not a top priority, while 61 percent said that FDK should be a top priority.

As for the use of various school facilities for expansion of kindergarten and other grades, this is how the number of respondents for each option broke down:

  • 347 said Harrison School should be converted into an early childhood education center.
  • 321 said Harrison should be a strictly kindergarten-to-fifth-grade facility.
  • 249 believed that the district should build a new building devoted strictly to the fifth grade.
  • 209 supported a kindergarten wraparound program.
  • 194 believed that renovation should happen at Washington School.

The superintendent noted that a demographer hired by the district believed that all the enrollment growth in the district should be accommodated at Washington and that all district buildings would not be appropriate for renovations to accommodate enrollment growth.

As for increasing taxes to pay for FDK, survey percentages as each level of possible increases broke down this way:

  • $100 to $200—30 percent
  • $100 to $150—16 percent
  • $50 to $100—20 percent
  • Less than $50—13 percent

On the question of increasing taxes to reduce class size, 491 respondents, or the majority, agreed with this concept.

In a separate report, on the graduating class of 2016, the superintendent reported the following vocational choice percentages:

  • 80 to 81 percent went on to four-year colleges
  • 12 percent went to two-year colleges
  • Three percent went directly into employment
  • Two percent went into the military

He noted that the figures for those going directly into employment and into the military were increases over the figures for the class of 2015.

Among three teaching-staff resignations accepted by the board was that of Richard Porfido, director of athletics and supervisor of secondary education at James Caldwell High School, effective Aug. 31 of this year. Heinegg cited Porfido for his many years of outstanding service to the district and its students.

The board also agreed to the appointment of Daniel Romano as director of athletics and supervisor of secondary education at annual salary of $116,601, to be pro-rated, effective Oct. 24, or when released by his current district, to June 30, 2017.

In addition, Ron San Fillipo was named interim athletic director at a rate of $500 per diem, on an as-needed basis, effective Aug. 29 to Nov. 4, 2016.

The school body also approved 10 teaching staff and leave replacement appointments.

In addition, Martin Rodriquez was named varsity assistant boys soccer coach at a rate of $6,544, effective for the 2016-2017 school year.

Also, Rocco Antoniello was named to replace Allen Curtiss as assistant football coach at a salary of $8,328, effective for the 2016-2017 school year.

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