NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — The West Essex Regional Board of Education unanimously approved the 2018/2019 Tentative Budget on Monday to be submitted for review to the County Superintendent of Schools as required.  The board authorized the tentative advertised budget as follows:

Total General Fund:   Budget:  $38,744,329     Local Tax Levy:  $36,277,785

Total Special Revenue Fund:   Budget:  $263,000     Local Tax Levy:   $----

Sign Up for E-News

Total Debt Service Fund:   Budget:  $2,176,550     Local Tax Levy:  $2,059,950

TOTALS:   Budget:  $41,183,879     Local Tax Levy:  $38,337,735

Finance committee chair and board vice president Cynthia Egan reported that the district is expecting state aid to remain flat. However, the district was preparing for an increase of approximately 7 percent in transportation costs as well as an increase in aid in lieu of transportation reimbursements, she said.  An increase in the health-care costs are expected, according to the board, but the experience ratings and their financial impact has not been confirmed yet.

Built into the budget is the hiring of four new staff members, replacement of chrome books for the 7th and 10th grade and new copiers needed in the district.  The budget is a fluid document and is required to be adopted in its final form by May 14.

In other news, the board members also unanimously passed a new policy, “Board of Education Website Accessibility,” which ensures that people with disabilities have an opportunity equal to that of their non-disabled peers to access the information on the district’s website, except where doing so would impose an undue burden or create a fundamental alteration of the district’s website. When fundamental alteration or undue burden defenses apply, the district will make reasonable modifications/accommodations for individuals with disabilities in order to provide equally effective alternate access, according to the board.

The board also updated the existing entitled “School Security Program.” The policy is as follows: 

“The safety of students, staff members, and visitors on school grounds is an important concern for the board of education. The board authorizes a School Resource Officer Program in partnership with the municipality and local law enforcement. The program is designed for municipal officials, law enforcement officers, and school authorities to work together to identify major problems faced by their schools and to create a more secure school environment through the presence of law enforcement officers within the school district. A School Resource Officer assigned to the school district shall remain an employee of the municipality and its police department.

“The board of education authorizes the employment of school district security officers. The district’s security officers will be required to wear board-approved uniforms and shall work in cooperation with the school administration to provide security services on school grounds.

“The security officers will be provided the necessary equipment to perform the security functions assigned by the administration. The district’s security officers will not carry a gun. The Superintendent of Schools will ensure all school district security officers receive appropriate training for the responsibilities of the position.”

Ryan Gupta, Interim Supervisor of Math & Business, presented an update on initiatives and outcomes within the departments.  Most notably discussed was the profound increase in the computer science courses by the students with a nearly 50-percent participation increase from the 2015-2016 school year. 

There was also a marked increase in students taking AP Computer Science and achieving at least a 3 on the AP exams. The last year of confirmed data in 2016-2017 noted that, of the 85 students who took the exam, 52 passed. There are currently there 101 students in the program.

In order to attain positive results from the objective of improving standardized test scores, Gupta indicated that he has implemented Albert IO in AP courses, which is an opportunity for students to take practice exams online, SAT and ACT boot camps, use of Khan Academy/College Board in SAT prep courses as well as PARCC professional development for ELA and Math teachers.

In closing remarks, board member Judith Amorim Dias reported her attendance at a New Jersey School Boards student tribute held in West Orange on March 15. She said that the students were recognized as “unsung heroes,” and nearly all of the Essex county school districts had a member of their senior class honored for their outstanding achievements. 

Amorim Dias announced that West Essex student Jonathan Luke Pryor received this prestigious recognition on behalf of his selfless acts and represented West Essex Regional High School proudly.

The next West Essex Regional Board of Education meeting is scheduled for April 24.