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Midland Park

Editor's Notebook: Sept. 3 BOE Meeting

09/03/2013 11:15PM ● By Rebecca K. Abma

Highland School

The Board of Education approved district goals for the 2013-14 school year, discussed a proposed policy revision to post meeting agenda appendices online, and heard public commentary on school lunches, sporting fields and the high school track.

District Goals

The district goals for the upcoming school year as approved by the Board of Education are as follows:

Goal 1: Improve student achievement results and student grade level cohort performance on standardized testing and in-district formative assessments; insure classroom assessment is ongoing and authentic, i.e., rubrics, performance tasks, and grade-level appropriate to both content and tool, i.e., Fountas & Pinnell, Achievement Series, in-district writing assessments.  (Emphasis will be placed on student cohort/content areas identified through analysis of state benchmark assessments and in-district assessment data.)

Goal 2: Insure compliance with all aspects of the TEACHNJ Act, including the development of SGOs for instructional staff on or before November 15, 201; implement pilot program for the principal evaluation system.

Goal 3: Improve Special Education Program and 2014-2015 budget planning by analyzing current out-of-district (ODP) placement costs and examining the potential for increased special education classroom capacity/placement in-district; improve existing protocols for determining/approving ODP students; include tuition-in students for district-offered programs.

Goal 4: Seek to increase the district and school self-assessment scores with regard to the Anti-Bullying/HIB grade to be assigned the NJDOE in September 2013; re-evaluate existing programs/initiatives.

Goal 5: Improve community engagement and the dissemination of school and district information.  Continue to increase use of communication tools to share school and district news with school community.  Special Education:  Increase the engagement of parents and community in special education matters by increasing the frequency of, and improving the format/content of, the Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC).

Proposed Policies

The Policy Committee plans to introduce several policy revisions for first reading at the Sept. 17 meeting. One of the proposed changes is for the posting of supplemental material along with meeting agendas on the district website on the Fridays before meetings. 

Policy Chair Tim Thomas explained that including the appendix reports along with the agenda would provide residents with more information about agenda items, without the board having to print out copies of supplemental materials to distribute at the meeting.

In the past, several parents have complained that supplemental materials were not made available to the public. The district reviewed the proposed policy change with the board attorney who advised the board that they are not legally required to post the appendices, however, they can post certain items if they so desire. Items regarding confidential matters such as personnel, negotiations and student disciplinary actions cannot be posted online.

Board trustee Robert Schiffer questioned why the board would want to post supplemental material of it isn’t required to and thought having proposed information available would end up confusing in the long run. Other trustees questioned if posting appendices would require additional staffing. Schools Superintendent Dr. Marie Cirasella noted that it may be necessary to create a new internal schedule for preparing agendas in order to ensure everything is posted in time.

The proposed policy revision will be introduced at the next meeting on Sept. 17 and, if approved on first reading, will have a final reading at a later meeting. The public will be given opportunity to comment prior to a final reading.

The policy committee also discussed a potential new policy for social networking in the district, which is expected to be introduced next month.

New Courses & Curriculum

The board approved Horticulture as a new course and curriculum at the high school. A new greenhouse, purchased through a $1,000 donation from the High School PTA and the Midland Park-Wyckoff Rotary Club, will offer hands on learning for the class.

New curriculum was also approved for AP Music Theory. Revised Curricula was approved for AP Biology, Chemistry and World History.

In addition, the district approved a new seventh and eight grade science club, which will allow for the Junior High to hold a Science Fair.

Track & Fields

A board member inquired about the state of the track at MPHS, which some parents have suggested the district work with the town to apply for Open Space Grants to fix the property. School Board President William Sullivan noted that it will be discussed at the next meeting between the liaisons between the council and Board of Education.

A resident suggested the district look into selling the track and fields to the borough, who would take over maintenance of the fields. The town does an excellent job of maintaining their fields, he noted, and all of the fields are also used by the Rec Dept. Sullivan said he would add that discussion to the agenda for the meeting with the council liaisons.

Lunch Menus

Another parent brought up concerns over the menus provided by Pomptonian, who fulfill school lunches for the High School and Elementary Schools. Parents expressed concerns of the health and quality of the meals, and suggested healthier alternatives could be provided by other companies.

School Board Secretary Stacy Garvey explained that the last time the district went out for bids, Pomptonian was the only one who responded. Due to having a smaller district, other food service providers aren’t interested in contracting with us, she said, noting that she personally reached out to several other companies, but none submitted bids other than Pomptonian.

One parent expressed dismay at the lack of healthy choices offered: Mac & Cheese, a roll and corn, she said, may fit the government’s definition of healthy, but is way too much starch. “We talk about eating the rainbow, but there is no color in these meals,” she said.

Officials noted there is always a side order of salads and fruits available that isn’t also listed on the menu. In years past, when a wider variety of vegetables were offered, they said that students did not eat them, so Pomptonian reverted to selections students ate.

When asked if students could have meals brought in from local delis or other food delivery services, officials said that was a building decision to be discussed with individual principals. 

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