Editor's Notebook: Sept. 17 Board of Education
By Rebecca K. Abma
Falling ceiling tiles, new and revised policies, the possibility of another referendum and send-receive agreements were discussed at the Sept. 17 meeting of the Board of Education. Superintendent of School
Dr. Marie Cirasella also gave her annual back-to-school update, which included new information about PARCC assessments, Common Core State Standards, a reformulation of graduation rates and pilot Share & Grow Learning Partnership being explored with Waldwick.
Dr. Cirasella gave an update on the ceiling tiles that fell on a classroom of students last week. The tiles, which were original to the building, did not contain asbestos and an environmental inspection of the room revealed no problems with air quality. No students were seriously injured in the accident.
The tiles, which are original to the 50-plus-year-old building, fell spontaneously due to age, she said. Absolutely no one could have foreseen this happening, she added. As a result, the district has inspected similar ceilings in the building and proactively shoring up any ceilings in nine rooms.
Ceiling and light fixture replacements were included in the referendum that voters rejected last December. According to School Business Administrator Stacy Garvey, the plan included tearing down and replacing ceilings and lighting throughout the school replacing them.
A New Referendum?
The district is waiting to hear from the state about its grant applications. The state is currently offering 40% grants for certain school projects. According to Garvey, the district has submitted all of the projects that were in the failed referendum, except for projects that have already been completed, such as the roofs.
Meanwhile, the district has been approved for $1.5 million in upgrades under the Energy Savings Initiative Program through Honeywell. The program works by leveraging money saved on energy costs to pay for improvement projects such as boilers, heaters and windows.
Honeywell funds the project upfront and the district repays the company out of money realized through energy savings over the next 15 years. The district is meeting with Honeywell this week to learn what project they will fund.
Whether or not the district will go out for another referendum after the state grants are awarded will depend on the projects approved and funding needed. Board officials expect to hear about the grants next month and said they are waiting until then to determine the next steps for a referendum.
Parents questioned the status of the district looking into possible send-receive agreements with other districts. Previously the board met with Ridgewood and Waldwick. Ridgewood does not have room for us, and while Waldwick also isn't interested hosting us, officials are working to develop a pilot program for students to share electives and AP courses.
School Board President Bill Sullivan said he also met with Northern Highlands Superintendent of Schools and School Board President about five months ago, but they are not interested in working with us.
Sullivan said he asked (a) if Northern Highlands would be interested in working with us, (b) if they had room to accommodate Midland Park students, and (c) if they could offer the same program to our students as they currently offer the students enrolled in the regional district. He said he was told they would look into it, but they never got back to him.
Parents pressed Sullivan to follow up with the regional school district, to which he responded "what do you want me to do, leave 57 messages?". Board Trustee Robert Schiffer said Sullivan was being polite, and that Northern Highlands said they weren’t sure that they could give our students the same education they give theirs.
“If I’m a second class citizen while they are courting me, how is it going to be once we’re married,” he said, adding that Northern Highlands officials said that their students would get first priority on all AP courses, not to mention extra curricular activities and sports. In addition, Midland Park would not have a voting seat on their board.
New & Revised Policies Introduced
The Board passed 10 policy changes on first reading, including a change to their bylaws to include appendix items along with the agenda online prior to the meeting. One of the board’s goals for this year is to improve transparency and communications.
After much discussion, the policy revision was scaled down to eliminate reports and support material, but include items clearly labeled as an apendix on the agenda. Board concerns included additional work required to post the items online, possible confusion over draft copies that are later revised, disseminating too much information too soon, and that they aren’t legally mandated to share the information online.
The measure passed on introduction 6-to-3, with Trustees Schiffer, Brian McCourt and Sandra Criscenzo opposed to the change. All policies introduced will be up for a final vote at the next regular meeting.
Other policies introduced include two related to smoking, technology and social media use. MPK Press will post copies of the introduced policies as soon as we get them.
There was a problem with the mailing of the district calendars and many people did not get them this year. Dr. Cirasella explained that 2,000 calendars got lost somewhere between Teterboro and Hackensack. As a result, only two of nine postal routes received calendars. The district is hopeful the Postal Service will find the calendars, otherwise they will need to reprint them.
Sept. 17 Board of Education meeting