Westfield Voters’ Approval Needed to Get $2.7 Million in State Aid for School Roofs and More from Board of Ed Meeting

The Westfield Board of Education Credits: Alexandria Addesso
Replacement Bond Referendum for Roofs Credits: Alexandria Addesso
[from left to right] Rosanne Kurstedt, Ann Cary, Mark Friedman, Gretchan Ohlig and Brendan Galligan Credits: Alexandria Addesso
(left to right) Dana Sullivan, Lucy Biegler, Mitchell Slater, Ginny Leiz, Dr Margaret Dolan and Richard Mattessich Credits: Alexandria Addesso

WESTFIELD, NJ — New teachers, as well as other changes to staffing, were approved at the Aug. 27 Westfield Board of Education meeting. For a full list and information about salaries, view the agenda here. State aid to help cover the cost of district-wide roof repairs and a parent’s concern about the implementation of the Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying Law (HIB) were among other topics discussed.

Exactly one week before Westfield Public Schools were to open, work to repair Roosevelt Intermediate, Washington Elementary and Westfield High School’s roofs is still taking place. While Washington School and Roosevelt School’s roofs are near completion, work on the WHS roof will continue when the school year starts, according to Board Member Dana Sullivan.

Washington’s and Roosevelt’s roofs “are pretty much done by this point,” said Sullivan, “but the high school is a bigger project.”

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Repairs and replacements specified in the $13.6 million roof referendum approved in Dec. 2012 included repairs to nine other district buildings. Aside from the three roofs that were fixed this summer, all others are scheduled for repairs during the summer of 2014.

On May 30, Governor Chris Christie announced that there would be additional state grants given out for school facilities projects. It was announced at the meeting that, after immediately applying, the Westfield School District’s application was approved.

The district will receive $2.7 million in state aid toward the remaining roof projects if the revised version of the December 2012 referendum, which was approved by the board at the meeting, receives enough votes during the Nov. 5 general election.

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During the public comment portion of the meeting, parent Tracy Factor got up to the podium to discuss and issue she had with the HIB law.

“I’m very concerned with the anti-bullying law,” said Factor.

As Factor began to talk about her specific situation, the board called on the district’s attorney Richard Kaplow, who instructed Factor to not make any specific references for legal reasons.

Factor described how her fourth-grade daughter received an offensive phone call from another student and when she tried to make a HIB case she was told she couldn’t. Factor said the law’s confusing wording contributed to conflict with implementing it and  added that there should be more seminars for students and parents to learn about their rights under the law.

“I don’t think the kids know and the parents certainly don’t know their rights,” said Factor.

Both Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan and President Richard Mattessich agreed with Factor that the law is complex and further seminars are needed.

“The HIB law is very complex,” said Mattessich. “We are working hard to make sure we are in compliance with the law.”

Multiple policies were approved at the meeting, including 0168 Recording Board Meetings, 2464 Programs for Gifted Pupils and 9713 Recruitment by Special Interest Groups. Of all the policies passed, the one most discussed by the board was number 5516 Students Use of Personal Technology. The exact wording of the policy was edited by the board during the meeting.

“We felt it had to be updated to reflect policy,” said Board Member Gretchen Ohlig.

The Students Use of Personal Technology Policy is in reference to “electronic communication and/or recording devices” (ECRD). The policy states that elementary students must keep their ECRDs turned off if they bring them to school, but high school and middle school students must have them on silent and can use them for educational purposes if the teacher permits. Students may not record or take pictures of other students or staff members without first getting approval from the teacher and then the students and/or staff members.

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