Business Administrator Dana Sullivan presented a report on the proposed budget for the 2020-2021 school year. She reported that this budget is preliminary since, at the time of the Board meeting, state aid information had not been received from the State and was expected on February 27. Mrs. Sullivan noted that once state aid information is received, the Board will adjust the 2020-2021 budget before tentative approval on March 10 and submission to the County Superintendent before the March 20 deadline. She stated that the County has a month to review the tentative budget before the district holds a public hearing and adoption of a final budget on April 28.
Mrs. Sullivan noted that a Board workshop was held in November 2019 to develop a Guiding Change Document to set parameters for the budget, resulting in these priorities:
- Maintain class sizes within policy guidelines
- Maintain funding for:
- Recently approved courses
- School Resource Officers
- Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)
- Maintain fund balance at 2%
- Stay within 2% tax levy cap, plus eligible waivers
- Consider increasing the student activity fee due to increased transportation costs
To maintain existing programs and fund contractual and mandated costs, the increase to the operating budget is estimated at $3,506,128.
- Salaries $1,811,777
- Special Services (excluding salaries) $1,203,532
- Athletics $ 173,629
- Buildings and Grounds $ 86,440
- Health Benefits $ 159,271
- Transportation $ 174,644
- Decrease in other areas of budget ($ 103,165)
With the estimated increase in expenditures totaling more than the estimated increase of $2,449,408 in revenues, Mrs. Sullivan noted an estimated projected over cap amount of $1,056,720. She pointed to significant cost increases over the past six years in certain areas, including a 26% increase in special education, a 39% increase in out-of-district tuition, and a 44% increase in the cost of transportation. A severe nationwide shortage of bus drivers has created transportation challenges for the district, Mrs. Sullivan said.
To stay within the 2% tax levy cap, Mrs. Sullivan outlined proposed reductions in staff salaries and benefits, transportation, technology, utilities/building maintenance, and special education. She noted that retirements could help to offset any possible staff layoffs, that the proposed budget is still in its initial phase, and that there is some flexibility with a large budget.
In a chart comparing similar school districts, it was again pointed out that Westfield’s cost per pupil is at the lowest range and less than the state average as well, while the percentage of the budget spent on instruction for each student is on the higher end.
Board members discussed possible ways to ensure that the district continues to provide quality programs for students and to attract and retain high caliber staff members, including whether to ask voters in the future to allow the district to exceed the 2% cap.
The Board accepted with regret the retirement of the following staff:
- William Alusik, Westfield High School – Science 6/30/2020
- Linda Frame, Edison Intermediate School – Secretary 1/31/2020
- Vinh Ho, Wilson School – Custodian 6/30/2020
- Randi Perlman, Business Office – Executive Secretary 6/30/2020
- Laura Scaturo, Lincoln School – Special Education 6/30/2020
During her 24 years in our district, Ms. Frame worked diligently in the main offices of Roosevelt and Edison, particularly enjoying her interactions and responsibilities with our students. Mrs. Perlman is a valued employee who has held several positions over the last 16 years and is known for her professionalism and attention to detail. For 38 years, Mr. Ho has considered the students and staff of Wilson School to be among his highest priorities and we will miss his thorough, competent presence. Conscientious, hardworking and respected, Mrs. Scaturo teaches our youngest learners and seems to literally remember all of her students by name from her 29 years of teaching. Mr. Alusik has been a valued member of the science department for 40 years, starting his career at Edison before moving to Westfield High School where his field has been earth science. He truly is focused on teaching the whole child. We wish all of these staff members a happy and productive retirement.
Board member and Wilson parent Robert Garrison praised Mr. Ho as “a tremendous person” who is always the first person at the school and the last to leave. Board member and fellow Wilson parent Tara Oporto and Board president Peggy Oster echoed Mr. Garrison’s sentiments.
At the request of Facilities Committee Chair Michael Bielen, who was unable to attend a recent committee meeting, Board member Brendan Galligan reported on the gathering at which plans to refurbish the fitness center at Gary Kehler Stadium were discussed with Supervisor of Athletics Sandra Mamary and members of the Westfield Boosters Association, which has provided a generous donation to pay for the project. Mr. Galligan reported a 98% completion of the replacement door project at the high school and intermediate schools, with plans to begin installing new interior doors at the elementary schools this summer. Students are using the newly renovated television studio at the high school, Mr. Galligan said, as contractors work after school hours to complete a few punch list items.
Mr. Galligan also reported that a few members of the committee attended a recent meeting of the Westfield Town Council and that they look forward to hearing more about the Town Parks and Recreation Master Plan and how it impacts future Board plans for district fields as well as current district needs/usages of those fields. Mr. Garrison again expressed the importance of working collaboratively as a community with town officials.
The Board approved for first reading the following policies:
- 2200 - Scope of Curriculum (Program)
- 2415.06 - Unsafe School Choice Option (Program)
- 2700 - Services to Nonpublic School Pupils (Program)
- 9120 - Public Information Program (Community)
- 9400.1 - School District Staff/Media Relations (Community)
The Board approved for first reading to abolish Policy 2415.03 - Highly Qualified Teachers (Program). Policies Committee Chair Brendan Galligan reported that the policy, which addressed a specific mandate under the now defunct No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), is outdated. He noted that the State has increased its standards and that the district will continue to hire highly qualified and competent teachers.
The Board affirmed my decision on two HIB incidents.
Mr. Galligan also announced the following information about unused “snow/emergency days.” Three snow/emergency days have been included in the calendar for the 2019-2020 school year. Currently, the district has not had to utilize any snow/emergency days. (However, given the time of year and sometimes unpredictable weather forecasts, we may still need to utilize these days.) To help families and staff plan ahead, we will use the following schedule for any unused snow/emergency days:
- If no “snow/emergency days” are used, Westfield Public Schools will be closed on Monday, April 13 (day after spring break), Friday, May 22 (Friday of Memorial Day Weekend), and Tuesday, June 2 (Primary Election Day).
- If one “snow/emergency day” is used, Westfield Public Schools will be closed on Monday, April 13 and Friday, May 22.
- If two “snow/emergency days” are used, Westfield Public Schools will be closed on Friday, May 22.
The last day of school for all students remains as June 23.
CURRICULUM, INSTRUCTION AND PROGRAMS
The Board approved district field trips and overnight field trips as correlated with curricula.
The Board approved for first reading the following curricula:
Chemistry II AP
Integration of Design, Engineering and Architecture
The Board approved for second reading the following curricula:
Visual & Performing Arts
6th & 7th Grade Band
8th Grade Band
Sustainable Design (New Course)
The Board approved voluntary Student Teacher/Intern candidates for the 2019-2020 school year.
The Board accepted with gratitude the following donations:
- A gift of $300 from the Westfield Coalition for the Arts to the Roosevelt Intermediate School Band to go towards masterclasses for 6-8 grade percussion students.
- A gift of $450 from the Wilson School PTO to purchase Number the Stars books for the fifth grade.
- A gift of $353.26 from the Wilson School PTO to fund the purchase of 10 ukuleles and accessories.
- Gifts from the Westfield Foundation to be used as follows:
- $15,200 to help fund the STEM lab at Roosevelt Intermediate School
- $ 4,000 to help fund an asphalt recreation area at Roosevelt Intermediate School
- A gift of $700 from the McKinley School PTO to help fund the Kapers Wranglers.
- A gift of a Little Free Library (“take a book, return a book”), valued at approximately $477.57, at Jefferson School from Girl Scout Troop 40916.
- A gift of approximately $66,000 from the Westfield Boosters Association towards the renovation of the Fitness Center, located at Gary Kehler Stadium.
TECHNOLOGY AND COMMUNICATION
Technology Committee Chair Robert Garrison announced that the former Technology Committee is now the Technology and Communication Committee. At its recent meeting, committee members heard from Coordinator of School and Community Relations Mary Ann McGann who provided an overview of the ways in which the school district is working to better communicate with its many stakeholders, including students, parents, staff, alumni, senior citizens and other members of the Westfield community. Mr. Garrison noted the increasing importance of the district website at www.westfieldnjk12.org and district social media (Facebook@westfieldpublicschoolsnj and Twitter@westfieldnjk12.org) as factual resources of news and information about the school district.
In response to a question from Board member Gretchan Ohlig, Mr. Galligan confirmed that the Board will receive amended by-laws for the Technology and Communication Committee at its next meeting.
Mr. Galligan reported on a recent meeting of the Union County School Boards Association at which staff member use of social media and other topics were discussed.
Mrs. Oporto reminded Westfield residents to complete a survey by the Westfield Memorial Library, if they haven’t already done so. The survey is part of the library’s three-year strategic plan.
Mr. Garrison reported on a recent meeting of the Wilson School PTO at which upcoming events were discussed.
The Board heard from three parents with first graders at Tamaques School who expressed concerns about the current first grade class size. The parents asked that an additional section (class) be added next year for second graders. I stated that if the number of current students stays the same or increases next year, we will need to add another section.
One of the parents expressed surprise at the issues surrounding the increase in transportation costs and shortage of licensed bus drivers, asking if there were creative solutions to the problem. Mrs. Sullivan explained that school districts are strictly regulated by the State but that parents are welcome to lobby state legislators. Whenever possible, Mrs. Sullivan said, the district has looked at sharing bus routes for out-of-district placements with other districts to be more efficient. Additionally, Mrs. Sullivan said the district considered purchasing buses but found that, without being able to stagger departure times to accommodate both instruction and athletics, it was not a cost effective option.
A recording of the entire Board of Education meeting can be viewed on the district website at www.westfieldnjk12.org under the Board tab.
Four Westfield High School seniors have advanced as finalists in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program, having met academic and other standards to become eligible for scholarships which will be announced in the spring. The program honors students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies. Congratulations to Ian Gurland, Aidan Kilbourn, Connie Liu, and Julia Tompkins.
Congratulations to Westfield High School 11th graders Eric Palia for a perfect score on the Math portion of the December SAT and Sean Hazard who achieved top scores on the Science and STEM sections of the December ACT. Kudos also to 9th grader Alexandra Cicala who recently received the President's Volunteer Service Award which recognizes people of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of time to their communities. Alexandra also received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award for exemplary volunteer service.
The Westfield High School Concert Choir will perform with the Hofstra University Chamber Choir on March 18 at 7 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, as part of Hofstra’s 2020 Northeast American Tour. The public is invited and admission is free.
Congratulations to World Languages teacher Kim Ou-Yang who attended the 66th Annual Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, where she presented a workshop on the use of technology tools to supplement world language learning. The theme of this year’s conference in New York on February 14 was “Languages for All: Envisioning Language Learning Opportunities for Every Learner.”
The Westfield High School Theater Department is proud to present “Chicago, the High School Edition” as its spring musical this year. More than 130 student actors, technicians, and musicians will once again combine a myriad of talents. The WHS musical runs from Thursday, March 12 through Saturday, March 14, beginning at 7:30 p.m. each evening in the WHS auditorium at 550 Dorian Road. Tickets for the public will be available for purchase soon at whstd.booktix.com.
Edison Intermediate School kicks off the season of spring musicals in Westfield Public Schools on March 5, as the student cast and crew bring to life many of the whimsical characters created by Dr. Seuss. The musical performances of “Seussical, the Musical” will be held in the Edison auditorium at 800 Rahway Avenue beginning at 4 p.m. on March 5, and at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7. Tickets are $10 for the Friday and Saturday performances for both presale and at the door. Visit eis.booktix.com to purchase tickets. Please note that tickets for the matinee on Thursday, March 5 will be on sale at the door only at $5 each for general seating.
Save the date as the Roosevelt Intermediate School Theatre Department presents “Matilda, the Musical,” based on the children’s novel of the same name by Roald Dahl. The matinee performance on March 19 begins at 4 p.m., with 7 p.m. performances on Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21 in the Roosevelt auditorium at 301 Clark Street. Ticket information will be available soon on the school website at roosevelt.westfieldnjk12.org.
Join Dr. Mykee Fowlin on March 10 as he presents "You Don't Know Me Until You Know Me: A Celebration and Acceptance of our Differences." This is the fourth and final offering in the Edison Speaker Series for the 2019-2020 school year. Dr. Fowlin combines his psychological training with professional acting talents to promote inclusion towards all people. Visit “Recent News” on the district website at www.westfieldnjk12.org for more information and to register.
The 27th Annual Awareness Expo will be held on Wednesday, March 11 at Edison Intermediate School from 7:15-9:45 p.m. Presented by the Westfield PTC – Special Education Committee, the Awareness Expo will provide parents and educators of special needs children with information and resources to aid in their ongoing education and growth. The event is open to the public and free of charge. A complete agenda of the evening's informative sessions, along with registration information, can be found in “Community Flyers” under the Family Resources tab on the district website at www.westfieldnjk12.org.
Whether mapping curriculum, analyzing testing data to help inform instruction, examining issues surrounding student mental health, or joining together in Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) teams to create PSAs to foster a continued culture of kindness, there was plenty of professional learning taking place during the staff inservice day on February 14. Special thanks to the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Programs and all who helped to organize this engaging, daylong program of sessions.
The next meeting of the Parent Teacher Council will be held on Wednesday, March 18 at 10:15 a.m. in the Board room at 302 Elm Street. The PTC is the umbrella organization for all ten of the Westfield School PTOs. At these monthly meetings, the PTO presidents meet with the PTC board, Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan and a Board of Education representative. All parents are welcome and encouraged to attend. Future meetings will take place on the following Wednesdays: April 22, May 20 and June 10.
This is a reminder that the Rotary Club of Westfield’s 54th Annual Breakfast with the Bands is this Saturday, February 29 from 8:00 a.m. to 12 noon at Westfield High School. This popular event features performances by top bands from Westfield High School and Edison and Roosevelt Intermediate Schools, along with lots of great food. Tickets are $10 and available from Rotarians or at the door. All proceeds benefit the Rotary Club’s scholarship, community grants programs, and Project Hunger.
In honor of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, the JCC of Central New Jersey invites the public to a screening of “Shoelaces,” an engaging family dramedy about the knotty relationship between an aging, irascible mechanic and the exuberant special needs son he abandoned. The screening will be held on Thursday, February 27 beginning at 7:30 p.m. at 1391 Martine Avenue in Scotch Plains and is free and open to the community. Registration is required at www.jccnj.org. Contact Courtney Teicher at email@example.com or (908) 889-8800 x227 with any questions.
The Westfield High School Strive Club is hosting its annual charity concert this May. The club invites all Westfield students and residents to attend auditions on March 30th or 31st at 3:30 p.m. in Cafeteria B at the High School. This is your chance to shine! All proceeds will go to the Strive Scholarship Fund to help students across the globe to continue their education. Auditions are on a first come, first served basis but those who contact firstname.lastname@example.org in advance will receive priority.
NEXT BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING
The next meeting of the Westfield Board of Education will be held on Tuesday, March 10 at 7:30 p.m. at 302 Elm Street. The complete agenda will be available on Friday, March 6 on the Board section of the district website at www.westfieldnjk12.org.