Education

Synopsis of a Regularly Scheduled Westfield Board of Education Meeting on March 9, 2010

 

WEA AGREEMENT REDUCES HEALTH INSURANCE BUDGET BY ALMOST $1 MILLION

A budget is always a balance of numbers. In our recent community survey, 86 percent of the community indicated that the public school system was very important in their decision to move to Westfield. We have an obligation to continue to provide quality education to the over 6,200 students in our schools. But, there is another important number: 90 percent of the district budget is paid for by local taxpayers and we must be mindful of every dollar that comes from the tax payers - especially as our state aid continues to be cut.

Last year, in order to create a budget that kept us under a state imposed cap we cut back on staff development, technology and supplies. But those cuts were not sufficient. We had to make difficult decisions to eliminate 24 positions and 41 after school programs.

Our work on next year's budget began last summer. We scrutinized our budget and looked for more examples of cost containment. We have continued our energy conservation program to keep energy costs contained. We have saved money by consolidating bids on copiers and decreasing maintenance contracts for copiers. We then focused on a major cost driver not only for our district, but for organizations across this country - health insurance. The Board of Education determined that savings in health insurance costs had to be the main goal of negotiations this year.

In that regard, the negotiating teams representing the Board of Education and the Westfield Education Association (WEA) made health care cost reductions a priority in the WEA's new contract. I am pleased to announce:

• The contract, which is effective July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2013, represents significant health insurance changes, resulting in a savings of just under $1 million ($977,498) to the school district.

• The reduction in health insurance costs includes savings made possible by the elimination of traditional indemnity insurance, an increase in office visit co-pay and prescription co-pay, and contributions from all employees in a Direct Access Plan.

• The WEA agreed to no increase in the salary for first year teachers, and all stipends remaining flat in year one, with modest growth in years two and three. This will yield savings of $65,700 in the 2010-2011 school year.

• The new contract provides for annual increases of 3.9% which continue to be below the Union County and State averages.

• The Westfield Board of Education ratified the three-year contract with the Westfield Education Association (WEA) effective July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2013.

Board President Ginny Leiz, who served on the negotiating team, noted that in anticipation of another shortfall of state aid, the Board recognized that it needed to target the district's largest area of spending. Mrs. Leiz acknowledged that the contract represents a breakthrough in taking personal responsibility of health care. She thanked the WEA leadership and referred to the teachers and other members of the WEA as the "heart of our labor force," working directly with the children of Westfield. She thanked the WEA members for respecting the taxpayers of Westfield.

ENROLLMENT PROJECTIONS for 2010-2011

As we budget for the new school year, it is important to project our enrollment at each grade level to determine space and staffing needs. Based on current enrollment, new registrations, and typical trends, I presented a report to the Board of Education, which can be seen in its entirety at www.westfieldnjk12.org/projectedenrollment. Some of the key points in the report include:

• Westfield High School's enrollment continues to grow, with an expected 44 more students and the need for additional staffing.

• We will see a more balanced enrollment between Roosevelt and Edison Intermediate schools and a slight overall decrease in enrollment of approximately 20 students.

• In the elementary schools, one of our largest grades will be fifth, with 558 students and three additional sections needed.

• Third grade will see the largest elementary enrollment with 559 students and an additional 4 sections.

• With the birth rate having declined in the last few years, we are seeing somewhat of a decrease in enrollment at the primary level. We will be able to reduce three sections in first grade and two sections in second grade.

• We are expecting a kindergarten enrollment almost identical to this year with no change in staffing necessary.

• In summary, at the elementary level, we anticipate a total reduction of one section in 2010-11. With an increase in enrollment at WHS, the position will be allocated there.

SCHOOL BUDGET 2010-2011

There are still unknowns as the Finance Committee, Business Administrator Bob Berman and I present these budget figures, which are surely subject to change. The Governor will deliver his message on March 16 and we will receive information regarding state aid two days later. Bob Berman and I continue to work together with our principals and department heads to find efficiencies as we go forward. Mr. Berman called the figures below a "work in progress." The good news is that the cost savings in health insurance, as a result of new contracts with our employees, have allowed us to present a balanced budget assuming flat state aid.

Cost Savings

• Health Insurance Changes ($930,851)

o Elimination of Traditional Indemnity Insurance

o Increase in office visit co-pay

o Contributions from all employees in Direct Access Plan

o Leave/replacements

• Prescription co-pay increases ($274,296)

• Salary Changes ($ 67,252)

o No increase in stipends

o No increase in first year teacher salary

• Out of District tuition changes ($ 65,700)

Medical Insurance/Salary

• Medical/RX/Dental Insurance $12,973,853 (a decrease from this year)

• Salary $ 53,219,586

Redirecting Existing Funds for New Items

• Expiring leases cover new leases in technology budget:

o Replace 167 library computers $ 53,100

o Replace 260 five-yr old computers $ 82,700

• Included in per pupil cost budget allotment:

o SmartBoard technology (13) $ 61,000

New Items Proposed for Inclusion in the Budget

• Technology costs included in Facilities budget:

o Upgrade wide area network $ 57,000

 Increase speed ten-fold from schools to Verizon

 Increase speed ten-fold from Verizon to WHS

o Increase speed ten-fold to the Internet $ 4,500

Requested Items Not Included in the Budget

• Personnel o Elementary Student Support Counselor

o Special Services secretary

o 2 Part-time custodians

o Psychologist

o Speech Language Therapist

o Computer Technician

• Facilities

o Franklin and Jefferson boilers

o WHS Gym 5 roof repair

o EIS window completion

o Wilson paving

o Tamaques roof repair

The tentative budget as it appears today would represent a 3.67 percent increase.

*excluding salary/benefits & related costs

LONG RANGE PLANNING

Chairperson Ann Cary reported on the first meeting of the Strategic Planning Council that was held on Saturday, February 27, at Westfield High School. She noted that the 50 members are spokespersons for the community and good listeners who brought different perspectives to the discussions which resulted in several areas of consensus. The group looked at accomplishments and challenges and will be meeting again on March 20, when we will develop goals and determine how we will move forward in the next five years.

CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION & PROGRAMS

The Board approved an overnight field trip application for Washington Elementary School fifth grade students to travel to Camp Speers-Eljabar YMCA Environmental Education Center, Dingmans Ferry, PA, in October 2010.

The Board approved for first reading, Language Arts curricula as follows:

• Fine Arts - Sixth and Seventh Grade Dramatic Speech, Eighth Grade Drama.

• Language Arts - English III, English III Honors, English IV, English IV Advanced Placement Language & Composition, and English IV Advanced Placement Literature & Composition.

Copies of curricula are available for review in the Office of Instruction.

FINANCE

The Board approved applications for Extraordinary Aid for pupils classified eligible for special education and related services whose costs exceed $40,000 per student. Although we qualify for between 85 percent and 95 percent of the tuition for Extraordinary Aid costs, in the past districts generally received between 25 and 30 percent.

LEGISLATION

Ann Cary reported that several members of the Westfield Board of Education and I attended a Garden State Coalition of Schools' meeting in Summit last week that featured Bret Schundler, the Governor's choice as New Jersey's Secretary of Education. Mr. Schundler indicated that he is waiting for the Governor's budget address before he could publicly announce the decision on state aid for schools. He recommended that districts prepare for cuts, especially districts like ours that do not receive a lot of state aid. He repeated the Governor's Transition Team's recommendation which supports Board of Education elections in November with no vote on the budget.

In other matters, Mrs. Cary noted that New Jersey was not chosen as one of 16 finalists for the federal Race to the Top program. There could be another opportunity for the state to apply in June.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

FINE ARTS - Youth Art Month The Westfield Public Schools are celebrating the nationally acclaimed Youth Art Month in March with colorful and creative displays throughout the downtown area. Paintings, drawings, sculpture, and painted furniture designed by approximately 400 students are displayed by 62 downtown merchants, who volunteered their window space. The Westfield Memorial Library also is exhibiting student artwork. Enjoy viewing the art that is representative of all 10 of our schools.

SOCIAL STUDIES FUNDRAISER The Social Studies department is holding a fundraiser to support scholarships that are presented to Westfield High School seniors. It will be held on Friday, March 12 through Sunday, March 14 at the Barnes & Noble in Clark. When you shop at Barnes & Noble on the above dates, please mention the Westfield High School Social Studies fundraiser prior to your purchase.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Wilson School has produced a "Pennies for Patients" documentary video based on a successful fundraising event from initial meeting to final donations. This video highlights the hard work and dedication of the entire Wilson family and is roughly 30 minutes long. It was created by third grade teacher John Borja and shown to the entire school last week so that the children could see how what they do directly impacts others. The video will be broadcast on Blue Devils TV36 by the end of March. Look for the schedule on the website.

WESTFIELD HIGH SCHOOL - World Language Dept. Congratulations to Marie-Laure Hoffmann, a French teacher at Westfield High School for the past 12 years, who will be honored on March 15th by the French government for her dedication to teaching. During a ceremony at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York, she will be presented with the Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques. In addition to her teaching career, Marie-Laure has served as president of the American Association of Teachers of French chapter in New Jersey. She is recognized as a leading advocate for the teaching of French, along with promoting French culture and coordinating awards programs. Marie-Laure was recommended by the New Jersey chapter, with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York confirming her selection, before the finalists were sent on to Paris. The final award was announced by French Education Minister Luc Chatel. "Tres Bien" Marie-Laure!

WESTFIELD HIGH SCHOOL - Model UN Congratulations to Westfield High School's delegation who attended the Model United Nations Conference in Hershey, PA in January. They won the Outstanding and Premier Delegation Awards. In addition, some of the other awards include:

Students who won the Premier Diplomat distinction:

Shelley Fussman

Corey Lipschultz

Ravi Jha

Chloe Rothenberg

Samantha Waldman

Named Outstanding First Year Delegates:

Rob Cassie

Cynthia Lam

Paige Xio Alvarez

Matthew Lynn

Brian Pollack

Sarah Chandler

Chosen to attend the Conference on National Affairs:

Amy Roggenberg

Sarah Chandler

Emily Harris

Winning the Outstanding Position Paper:

Charlotte Dreizen

Benjamin Schwartz

Emily Ann Harris, and

The following delegates served as Officers for this year's conference:

Emily Ann Harris

Emily Weeks

Amy Roggenberg

Julia Harbaugh

Rachel Rickles

Michael Oster

Daniel Krack

Julian Seltzer, and Kemal Tamboli

SCHOOL ELECTION The election for three School Board members and the School Budget will be held on Tuesday, April 20, from 7 AM to 9 PM. Voter registration ends on March 30 and will take place for eligible students at Westfield High School on Thursday, March 25, from 10:30 AM - 1 PM.

Candidates for the 3 seats on the Westfield Board of Education include incumbents Ginny Leiz, Julia Walker and Richard Solomon, as well as challenger Mitchell Slater. The term for an elected board member is three years. Each year, three positions become available as a result of expiring terms. A Candidate Forum sponsored by the Parent Teacher Council will be held Thursday, April 8, at 7:30 PM in the Westfield High School auditorium.

PHILHOWER AWARD Reminder: Nominations for outstanding elementary teachers can be e-mailed to rotaryphilhower@westfieldnjk12.org or mailed to 302 Elm St, c/o the Superintendent of Schools.

NEXT BOE MEETING - Tuesday, March 16. The agenda will include continued discussion of the 2010-2011 budget.

Margaret Dolan, Ed.D. Superintendent of Schools

 

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