WEST ORANGE, NJ — After meeting last week to discuss how to accomplish the West Orange Board of Education’s (WOBOE) goals to analyze and update the district’s policy manual, the policy subcommittee—co-chaired by WOBOE Vice President Terry Trigg-Scales and member Cheryl Merklinger—led a public workshop earlier this week in order to devise a plan to begin the revisions.
“We want to get the job done because we realize that this is really the guidebook for the administration and in the smooth and efficient operation of the school district,” said Trigg-Scales.
According to guidelines set by Strauss-Esmay, which provides school policy and regulation consultation, the policies that need to be updated can be broken up into four categories: mandated policies; policies that must be adopted as is; blanks or options to select in policy; and policies that are unique to the West Orange school district.
While focusing on the 175 mandated policies earlier this week, Trigg-Scales—who has experience dealing with education policy—explained that it would be too difficult for each member to read through all of the policies independently. She suggested that it might be more “efficient and expeditious for the board to each take a group and read through them.”
Since each board member has a different point of view, however, Merklinger said it would not be effective to take only “one person’s point of view without taking considerations from everyone else.”
Despite the differing perspectives on how to tackle policy changes, the administration agreed to break up the mandated policies by category—including bylaws, administration and teaching staff, programs, students, finance, support staff and property, operations and community—and have the first set prepared for first and second readings in May.
The board intends to look at the next group of policies—which includes 219 individual policies that must be approved as is—prior to the June meetings.
When the board reaches the last category of policies—which are those “typically unique to the district”—WOBOE President Ken Alper suggested that the board members “look at those carefully and make sure that they’re not accidentally changing something that exists.”
West Orange Superintendent of Schools Dr. J. Scott Cascone further suggested that the board organize a schedule to review and provide feedback on policies. He also said public work sessions should be held for continued discussion so that the board can update the policies and distribute them to the district by the start of the 2020-2021 school year.
The next WOBOE meeting will be held virtually on May 4 at 7:30 p.m.