By: Julie Maxwell Allen & Simon Toffell
At the Board of Education meeting on September 21, Glen Rock residents voiced great concern about the lack of air conditioning in the elementary schools and the lack of appropriate responses from the district during the heat waves. Additionally, transparency of expenditures at the elementary versus the secondary level was a concern, as was the need for establishment of a long-term budget plan. Potential bonus merit pay for the Superintendent and the Business Administrator was also discussed at some length.
However, the elementary schools’ no AC conditions largely consumed the night. During the open public comment time, several parents and residents demanded action on the AC situation. It started with MaryAnn Mahar questioning, who goes to work in this day and age in a cramped and overheated space? She then continued to challenge the board asking what are the reasons why there hasn’t been a stronger push— there has been money spent on various other projects, why not AC?
During the heat wave there were many incidents of students feeling ill, having headaches and beginning stages of heat exhaustion. A teacher actually fainted in her classroom in front of her students. Safety, fairness, and health concerns regarding a lack of AC at the elementary schools were the main topics, brought up at this BOE meeting on 9/21/2015.
Vlad Onik point-blank confronted the BOE saying, “I challenge the Board and administration to take a pledge not to use air conditioning until this is resolved.” It followed by the audience made up of many residents and teachers giving his idea a big round of applause.
Many other metro area schools closed or had 1/2 days during the heat waves. One question that came up during Public Comment was why GR did not do the same. The Board of Education (BOE) and administration did not offer an explanation. Board member Barbara Steuert, however, did acknowledge that the climate is getting warmer.
Several residents in Glen Rock expressed their concern about how the lack of AC effects the health of the teachers and students and their learning environment. A few concerned residents noted that Glen Rock School District teachers and staff are working hard still without a fair contract proposal as of 6/30/2015. The GREA (Glen Rock Education Association) and the negotiating members of the Board of Education came to an impasse in August. The next date of negotiations is October 22, 2015.
Even with this lack of contract, and the inside temps of the classroom from the heat wave last week, the teachers are putting their all into their careers of teaching the Glen Rock Students. Despite this effort, a resident stated that the students are not learning in their heated afternoon classrooms because of extreme discomfort. One resident suggested that school should be half days when it is very hot out.
The BOE did not respond to any of these comments and questions. BTN has reached out to the BOE for their responses.
In addition to the AC topic, the lack of transparency in budget concerns was another concern to residents. A resident asked for a list of all capital projects and what priority they are given. This resident sought more open, transparent communication in the future on Capital projects. Board member and President, Rona McNabola, stated that the buildings and grounds supervisor has a list, and that the board’s is shorter.
Two board members expressed their personal frustrations on budgetary Issues. Board member Carlo Cella III, complained that it has been taking so long to create the 5-year budgetary plan he’s been asking for. Dissatisfied with the year to year school budgets, he said he is very “disappointed” that it’s been so slow. Board member Barbara Steuert defended the board and its budgetary planning practices in the past.
Board member Gene Calderon asked for accountability in remembering the questions that should be dealt with at the next BOE meeting.
Resident Jeff Lipson called the $600 the district spends per football season, $76 per game, for pictures that high school students could take “deplorable,” and suggested that students be given the class credit opportunity to apply what they are learning from their technology classes; Dr. Kathy Regan’s summer curriculum work presentation had preceded Mr. Lipson’s remarks and had stressed technology. He suggested that the $600 savings could be put towards the air-conditioning.
The BOE also discussed the P1 / P2 Merit Goals. These were first established when the state took away the board’s ability to pay the Superintendent a salary decided by the board. The state mandated that GR can pay a superintendent no more than $157,500 (with no increase). The Five Merit Goals must be outside of the job description of daily work and are jointly made by the superintendent & the BOE. These merit goals may total 14.99% of the salary and the dollar amount is not pensionable.
After Thursday, the recommended Merit goals go to the Bergen County Superintendent, who can approve them all, some, none, or ask for them to be revised. Superintendent Dr. Paula Valenti must prove to the board that she has achieved these goals in order to receive the bonuses. The Business Administrator, can get up to three Merit bonuses. Glen Rock’s Business Administrator gets one.
Mr. Cella, Mr. Hirschberg, and Mr. Calerdon vocalized various positions on P1 and P2.
The Merit Goals discussed are seen in Appendix E & F are attached here.
Regarding football, the GRHS football field lighting will be done October 1st. The first Friday Night football game in the history of the school will be played on October 9th under the lights. Soccer will also have night games.
There is a blood drive at the High School on September 30th, please come support the students.
GR School district has 30 + new teachers through out the schools. They were introduced during the meeting.
The next BOE meeting is October 5th.