West Orange Board of Education News Bytes

BOE meets. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
WOHS Principal Hayden Moore and Mountaineer Academy teacher Michelle Martino. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
Perry Bashkoff. Credits: Cynthia Cumming

WEST ORANGE, NJ - Here's a recap of the presentations and topics covered at the Nov. 10 West Orange Board of Education meeting.

Mountaineer Academy - West Orange High School Principal Hayden Moore and Michelle Martino, on Special Assignment with the school's retooled Alternative Program, updated the board on the program. The program currently serves 18 students (14 are classified) and is geared to help them reach a point where they can transition into regular classes. Two students are about to do so. The program employs a behavorial point system that rewards students for their good behavior and achievements. In addition to increased academic rigor, ongoing parental contact and counseling (course-related strategies) are offered to students. 

The students are encouraged to participate in after-school activities as appropriate.

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Social Media - Perry Bashkoff, Social Media Director for the township, discussed the importance of the use of social media for communication, discussion, trust, and transparency. Platforms mentioned included Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The Board appreciated Bashkoff's input, along with Amy Simon, the school district's public relations person.  Concerns were raised about cost, state regulations and interactivity with minors.

"80-90 percent of parents use social media," said School Superintendent Jeffrey Rutzky. "It's not going to go away."

PARCC- The Superintendent then laid out the preliminary plans for PARCC testing, which will include delayed openings at various schools and times during testing periods. BOE member Mark Robertson criticized Rutzky for the slow start up of some of the computer-based work that the district is working to implement in an attempt to prepare the children to take the new online test.

Rutzky responded by saying that teachers only went through the "Performance Matters" company based training last week. "Do we have enough devices?" asked BOE member Michelle Casalino.

"We do," said Rutzky, who went on say that more could probably be purchased for the middle and high schools, but that he and Tech Coordinator Fil Santiago were gearing the district up for a 'simulation' to ascertain that as well as other potential issues.

"We have the money in the tech budget," he said, "but you have to be careful you don't throw it all into one pot, especially if the state comes back and says, by the way, you also need to do this or that."

2015 School Budget - A brief commentary on the 2015 school budget yielded the news that Rutzky and Business Administrator John Calavano would be employing "Zero-based budgeting."

Zero based budgeting is "A method of budgeting in which all expenses must be justified for each new period. Zero-based budgeting starts from a "zero base" and every function within an organization is analyzed for its needs and costs. Budgets are then built around what is needed for the upcoming period, regardless of whether the budget is higher or lower than the previous one.

ZBB allows top-level strategic goals to be implemented into the budgeting process by tying them to specific functional areas of the organization, where costs can be first grouped, then measured against previous results and current expectations."

Approval of New Courses, - Assistant Superintendent Donna Rando reviewed a long list of new course additions and changes to be voted on and implemented, particularly at the high school.

Election Day and Voting in the School  - Rutzky was firm in his determination to have polling places removed from the schools. After explaining that the district had to spend $4,200 on Election Day for police officers, he said, "I am not a fan of voting in schools...we talk about security and yet our doors are wide open to strangers coming into our schools to vote."

After mentioning the township's effort to identify alternative sites, he noted it had not come together in the required time, and continued, "I am going to work quickly to identify any new criteria and will continue to work with the town and county."

Ebola - Registered nurses in the school district will receive training on Ebola and other communicable diseases this week.

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