BOE Reports & Notes

  • BOE President's Report May 13, 2015

    Posted by Donald Webster, Jr. at 5/14/2015 9:00:00 AM

    State/Federal Issues

    We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester.  Federal legislation to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB) continues to be discussed and debated in Washington. A re-authorization bill in the Senate has moved out of committee with unanimous bi-partisan support.  In the House of Representatives, the re-authorization bill that was voted out committee along party lines is still stalled.  Both of the proposed bills have some positive aspects and some negative aspects to them. I have emailed Congressman Smith and Senators Menendez and Booker about my thoughts and concerns related to these bills and the need to continue the push to get this long overdue legislation approved in the current Congress.

    At the state level, important discussions continue related to the State Budget for 2015-2016.  Hovering over the budget is a lawsuit related to required pension payments for public sector labor unions.  Depending upon the outcome of this lawsuit, the state may need to dramatically alter its spending plan for the remainder of this fiscal year and its proposed budget for next year.  Since over 50% of the state budget relates to state aid payments to schools and municipalities, the outcome of the lawsuit could potentially have a dramatic negative impact on local school and municipal budgets going forward.

    Activities in Our Schools

    The Board of Education formally adopted the budget for the district for Fiscal Year 2015-2016.  The budget, which has been approved by and complies with State law, is within the provisions of the 2% State Cap Law.  The Operating portion of the budget is increasing by just 1.27% over the prior year.  We have not utilized any waivers from the cap to which we are entitled.   The budget includes the use of a small portion ($195,000) of “Banked Cap” (underspending from prior budget years) for needed technology upgrades in the Middle School and the High School.  All current programs and staff would be retained under the proposed budget.  The budget includes one new staff position in the expanded Technology Department.  We will also be replacing some of our oldest buses that are required to be taken out of service due to current state law.  We will also be replacing some textbooks and the adding some technology devices.  Projected enrollment would see a slight increase.

    The tax impact of the budget on a home assessed at the current township average of $157,000 would be a $57/year increase.  One-third of this increase is attributed to debt service payments related to referendum projects approved by a recent public vote.  It should be noted that since most properties in the township are assessed at less than $100,000, the most common effect of the budget increase would be $36/year or less.  Our actual and budgeted cost per student remain well below both the actual cost state average ($504 less/student, 2013-2014) and the budgeted average cost for our demographic grouping (K-12, up to 3,500 students)  at ($528 less/student, 2014-2015).

    Cost savings have been achieved in the budget wherever possible including:  significant energy cost savings initiatives and cooperative purchasing of electricity and natural gas, transportation routing savings  initiatives, cooperative group purchasing for school supplies, equipment and maintenance services, the refinancing of debt as appropriate, the use of shared programs and services with the township (paving, recycling, police SRO in HS) and the creation of jointure agreements for shared services with other local school districts in the county.  State-aid funding continues to account for only 11.4% of our budget due to the state-aid funding formula that views Manchester as a wealthy community.  Our projected state-aid next year will actually be $1.1 million less than what we received from the state just 5 short years ago.  Reduced federal funding next year will account for just 1.9% of the budget, even though federal education polices and mandates continue and actually cost considerably more than the level of funding support received.

    Sustainable Jersey for Schools

    I attended and chaired a meeting of the Certification Committee at NJSBA Headquarters on 5/5.  At this meeting we reviewed the status of school and district enrollment in the program, we talked about the grant applications received and the schedule for review thereof and the awards to be made, we discussed the proposed Certification Process Schedule for 2016 and we heard updates from various subcommittees related to the overall program.  As of now, we have 200+ schools from 70+ districts enrolled in the program.  It was noted that additional grant funding opportunities for our schools will be made available in the coming months as a result of the generosity and donations from interested organizations.  This program is designed to provide sustainable and green options for schools that will reduce operating costs, help the environment and provide classroom educational and grant opportunities for our schools.

    NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)

    I attended and spoke at County School Board Association Meetings in Cape May, Monmouth, Ocean & Somerset counties over the past several weeks.  I also represented the association at a LEE Group (Leading Education Associations of NJ) meeting at the NJASBO Office’s on 5/6 in Robbinsville.  At this meeting various topics of interest to the groups were discussed including the status of the proposed state budget for 2015-2106, pension reform and funding implications, ROD grant program changes, and whether state-aid payments would be withheld for May.  I co-hosted a Celebration of Special Education Week Awards Program in Princeton on 5/11.  This program recognizes achievements and innovation in NJ’s special education programs.  I am also attending an Audit Committee Meeting and Chairing the Board of Directors Meeting of the Association in Trenton on 5/15. I will also chair the Semi-annual Delegate Assembly Meeting of the Association on 5/16 at the Mercer County College Conference Center.  The Delegate Assembly will include reports on the status of the association by both the Executive Director and the Vice President for Finance.  It will also include a discussion and vote on proposed changes to the association’s bylaws.  A resolution submitted by a member district related to changing the timing of re-organization meetings following the November School Board Elections will also be discussed and voted upon by the delegates.

    Next Meeting

    The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education will be held on June 10, 2015 with the public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM at the Ridgeway Elementary School.
     
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  • BOE President's Report April 22, 2015

    Posted by Donald Webster, Jr. at 4/23/2015 8:00:00 AM

    State/Federal Issues

    We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester. A bill in the House of Representatives that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, out which came No Child Left Behind-NCLB), has stalled.  Although the bill was passed out of committee along party lines, it has not been brought to the floor for debate and a full House vote due to a lack of consensus on its content.  In the US Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is still working to come up with a re-authorization bill.  Further action is expected during the week of April 13.  We are concerned that several different versions of the bills have emerged.  Each of the bills have different perspectives on the reauthorization with respect to national standards, student testing, funding, teacher evaluations, and the role of the Federal government in public education.  Some of the provisions in these bills are encouraging, while others would appear to have a negative impact on our students, schools and funding. 

    In the NJ Legislature, the State Assembly has passed a bill that would delay the impact of PARCC testing, provide a formal state-wide opt-out process, and mandate alternative educational opportunities for students who choose to opt-out. The State Senate has yet to consider companion legislation.  

    Activities in Our Schools

    I attended the Whiting School’s 60th Anniversary Celebration on April 2.  It was a very nice day and included a spirited program.  It was great to see such a large number of former teachers, administrators and support staff who came back for the event.  The invited guests included 92 year-old Mary Clarke, who was a teacher at the school in 1955.  We enjoyed the student performances and viewing pictures of the school, students and staff from a long time ago.  The video presentation also included music from the past several decades.  Congratulations to all those who made the event so very special.  I also attended both a boys' baseball and a girls' softball game over the course of the past two weeks.  Our students played well and showed good sportsmanship.

    NJSBA School Security Task Force Presentations

    Mr. Ray Wiss, President Emeritus, Burlington County SBA President Brandon Pugh, and I participated in a BlogTalk radio program dedicated to school security issues on April 21.  The radio show focused on best practices for school districts as identified in the Association’s School Security Task Force Report entitled, “What makes schools safe?”  We also fielded and answered a number of questions from listeners around the state.

    NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)

    I attended the National Schools Boards Association (NSBA) Delegate Assembly and Convention in Nashville, TN on 3/19-3/23, at no expense to the district.  At the convention we elected Mr. John Tuttle of Oklahoma as the new National President.  Mr. Kevin Ciak, a former State President of NJ, was elected as the new NSBA Secretary-Treasurer.  We approved a number of modifications to NSBA policies and bylaws, debated and approved resolutions on educational policy as submitted by member states, and we heard from several keynote speakers including Jane Pauley and Montel Williams.   I had the opportunity to attend several training sessions on school security, educational leadership, and the closing of the achievement gap. 

    I attended and spoke at the Mercer County SBA Association Meeting on 4/16.  In the coming week, I will be speaking at the Monmouth, Atlantic and Somerset County School Board Association Meetings.  I attended an Audit Committee Meeting and Chaired the Board of Directors (BOD) Meeting of the Association, which were both held in Trenton on 3/27. At the BOD meeting we honored outgoing members, welcomed new members, reviewed and approved proposed changes to the association’s policies and bylaws, and we had a general discussion about the initial round of PARCC testing and its impact on our students and schools.

    Next Meeting

    The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education will be held on May 13, 2015 with the public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM at the Ridgeway Elementary School.
     
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  • BOE President's Report March 18, 2015

    Posted by Donald Webster, Jr. at 3/19/2015 8:00:00 AM

    State/Federal Issues
    We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester. Currently, a series of bills have been introduced and are now being debated in the United States Congress that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, out which came No Child Left Behind-NCLB), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for special needs children, the National Healthy Schools Lunch Program, and the Head Start Program, which serves low income students prior to their enrollment in the public schools.  We are concerned that several different versions of the bills have emerged.  Each of the bills have different perspectives on the reauthorizations.  Some of the provisions in these bills are encouraging, while others would have a negative impact on our students, schools, funding, and our community.  During my recent trip to Washington, I encouraged the members of the NJ Congressional Delegation to provide full funding of their legislation, give local districts flexibility in dealing with the mandates, observe educational best practices and seek input from locally elected school board members and educators in the field before finalizing these bills.  Hopefully, our concerns will be addressed through amendments to these proposed bills.

    Activities in Our Schools
    I participated in the Read Across America Day by reading a Dr. Suess story to two of our handicapped classes at the Whiting Elementary School on 2/27.

    Governor’s School Security Task Force
    The members of the Governor’s task force have now completed their work. We gathered pertinent information and met with individual experts on school security.  We also visited Newtown, Connecticut in order to speak with law enforcement and school officials there.  A series of three public hearings were heard during the week of 1/12/15 in order to seek the public’s input on school security related issues and concerns.  The task force reviewed, debated and discussed recommendations to submit in its final report to the Legislature and the Governor.  Our draft report has been submitted for review and approvals.  The final report of the Task Force is expected to be issued by April.  I believe the final report will closely mirror many of the recommendations that were included in the NJSBA School Security Task Force Report that was issued by our association last October at Workshop 2014.

    Sustainable Jersey for Schools
    I attended a couple of meetings as a Trustee of this organization on 12/4/14 and 2/26/15.  At these meetings we elected a new President of the Trustees, discussed the overall finances of the organization, the status of currently enrolled districts (100+), and our plans for rolling out the program on a state-wide basis in February of 2015. The group also discussed plans to make available grants later this year totaling $100,000 to districts who need financial support in order to implement sustainability programs in their local districts.  The Manchester Township Public Schools are now enrolled in this worthy program that helps to reduce our operating costs, is good for the environment by minimizing our carbon footprint, and may lead to additional funding resources to help support our schools.

    NJSBA School Security Task Force Presentations
    Mr. Ray Wiss, President Emeritus, Dr. Larry Feinsod, Executive Director, Brandon Pugh, President of the Burlington County School Boards Association and I gave three presentations around the state on the findings and recommendations of the task force.  An average of 50-60 people attended each of the presentations including local school board members, school administrators, parents, local police officers, current school security personnel and private security vendors.  The presentation and the recommendations contained in the final report were very well received by the attendees.

    NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)
    I attended and spoke at County Association Meetings in Atlantic, Hudson, Ocean, and Hunterdon counties over the last several weeks.  I also attended and spoke at an Urban Boards Committee Meeting in Trenton on 2/6.  I also chaired the Executive Committee Meeting of the association, which was held in Trenton on 3/3.  I attended and spoke at the New Board Member Weekend Orientation Program at Educational Testing Services in Princeton on 3/13-3/15.  This is an orientation program for newly elected school board members and is required by state law.  The association officers and I will be traveling to Nashville, TN in order to attend the National School Boards Association Delegate Assembly and Convention on 3/19-3/24/15.  I will be attending the conference as a Voting Delegate for NJ at no cost to our district.   

    Next Meeting
    The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education will be held on April 22, 2015 with the public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM at the Ridgeway Elementary School
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  • BOE President's Report Feb. 18, 2015

    Posted by Donald Webster, Jr. at 2/19/2015

    State/Federal Issues

    We continue to monitor education related bills that may affect Manchester. Currently, a series of bills are being introduced in the United States Congress that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which became No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for special needs children, the National Healthy Schools Lunch Program and the Head Start Program, which serves low income students prior to their enrollment in the public schools.  We are concerned as to what will happen with these bills as several different versions have emerged.  Each of the bills have different perspectives on the reauthorizations.  Some of the provisions in these bills are encouraging, while others would have a negative impact on our students and our community.  During my recent trip to Washington, I encouraged the members of NJ Congressional Delegation to provide full funding of their legislation, give local districts flexibility in dealing with the mandates, observe best educational practices and seek input from locally elected board members.

    Activities in Our Schools

    The district will be holding the 2015-2016 School Budget Presentation Meetings on 2/24 & 2/25 at the Ridgeway Elementary School beginning at 6 PM. Principals, Administrators and Department Heads will be presenting their budget requests to the Board.  They will also discuss emerging trends, issues that they are dealing with and recommendations for the future of education in our schools.  The Board will have an opportunity to ask questions and make comments about the requests.  The public is invited to attend these meetings although public comment will not be taken at these meetings.  The formal Public Hearing on the final district budget request will come after the budget is approved by our Board and subsequently submitted and approved by the Executive County Superintendent of Schools for the State of NJ. The public hearing on the budget will likely occur near the end of March and the date, time and location will be announced in the near future.

    Governor’s School Security Task Force

    The members of the Governor’s task force have continued to meet on a weekly basis.    The task force has completed the process of reviewing a preliminary draft of the report including a discussion of the recommendations to submit to the Legislature and the Governor.  The final report of the Task Force is expected to be completed by the end of March.  I continue to believe that the final report will closely mirror the findings and recommendations that were included in the NJSBA School Security Task Force Report that was issued last October by the association.

    NJ School Boards Association Activities (NJSBA)

    I have attended and spoke at County Association Meetings in Ocean, Mercer, and Somerset counties over the last several weeks.  I also attended and spoke at an Urban Boards Meeting in Trenton on 2/6.  The association officers and a number of local school board members from around the state traveled to Washington, DC on 2/1-2/3.  The purpose of the trip was to attend the National School Boards Association (NSBA) Advocacy Institute Conference.  At the end of the conference we met with all of the members or their staff of the NJ Congressional Delegation in order to discuss the status of Federal education bills, school funding, local control and governance issues and concerns. 

    Next Meeting

    The next regular meeting of the Manchester Township Board of Education will be held on March 18, 2015 with the public portion of the meeting beginning at 7:30 PM at the Ridgeway Elementary School.

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