Montclair Board of School Estimate: New Superintendent, Old Budget Issues

BY  |  Tuesday, Mar 21, 2017 8:30am  |  COMMENTS (0)

Residents made it clear to the Montclair Board of School Estimate (BoSE) their concerns about the 2017-18 school budget, especially proposed cuts to paraprofessional staff.

the Montclair Board of School Estiamte

The first order of business was to introduce the Montclair school district’s new interim superintendent, Barbara Pinsak, who recently retired as superintendent of the Teaneck district.  Pinsak said she was in love with Montclair and promised to work very hard for the children and parents of the district.  Mayor Robert Jackson said he was certain she would do a good job. Continue Reading

Barbara Pinsak Is New Montclair Interim Superintendent Effective March 17

BY  |  Monday, Mar 20, 2017 6:39pm  |  COMMENTS (1)

Barbara Pinsak is the new Interim Superintendent of the Montclair Public Schools by a unanimous decision of the Board of Education, effective March 17.

“We are privileged that Barbara Pinsak will be stepping in as Interim Superintendent to bridge the gap for us while we continue the search for a permanent Superintendent. We will continue to interview candidates for the permanent position. In the meantime, Ms. Pinsak comes to us with extensive school administrator experience as she recently retired this past August from Teaneck Public Schools. We are delighted to have her,” said Board President Jessica de Koninck.
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Montclair Board of School Estimate: Staff Reductions Cause Concern in Budget Review

BY  |  Friday, Mar 17, 2017 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

the Montclair Board of School Estimate

The Montclair Board of School Estimate began deliberations on the 2017-18 school budget passed by the Montclair Board of Education at its first meeting on March 16 – held two days later than originally scheduled owing to the March 14 snowstorm that shut down the district for two days.

Interim Schools Superintendent Ronald Bolandi, already having presided over his last Board of Education meeting on March 13, made his last public appearance as superintendent at the BoSE meeting, reiterating for the benefit of Mayor Robert Jackson and the township councilors on the BoSE much of the ground he covered in school board budget workshops.     He highlighted the district’s intention of emphasizing priorities such as a world-language supervisor, who would get $125,000 for a 10-month position, a student advocate, who would get $95,000 for the same time frame, $100,000 for special-education development, and greater support for curriculum wiring programs and support materials for said programs.   But he also lamented the staff reductions and paraprofessional cuts involved.

“A lot of things caught up to the district this year,” Superintendent Bolandi said, “the fact that we have a very little surplus which we couldn’t use.”  He noted the surplus had been used before for property tax relief.   “We ran into a problem with that, and we didn’t have enough money to put in.”  He noted that Business Administrator Steve DiGeronimo had worked hard to cut costs in two areas – health insurance and transportation – to avoid deeper cuts in the classroom.

DiGeronimo said there would be greater premiums if the district tried to join any of the Horizon policies in the State Employee Health Benefit Program (SEHBP), due in part to the fact that the district plan follows a school year while the SEHBP plan follows a calendar year, so it wouldn’t make sense to switch over to SEHBP at this time.  Mayor Jackson said he did not agree with the analysis that was done, and the way to do the analysis would have been to take the annual SEHBP plan expense of $17.9 million, divide it by two, and figure out the projected amount for premiums for the second half of 2017.  Premiums for 2017 are projected at $16.6 million in the budget.  The mayor said the assumption would give him a number one would look at to determine whether to move into the state plan or not.   He did concede that analyzing the numbers this way would have possibly led to the same conclusion, and DiGeromino said there was a lot of guesswork about what the state increase would be.   He said Horizon would submit a proposal for 2017-18 to the district in April.  The district is currently working with a Horizon projection 10.5 percent increase based on 87 percent of claims paid.

Public comment centered not on the complicated actuarial tables of comparisons of health insurance plans administered through either calendar years or fiscal school years but on the more personal and visceral issue of student counselors.  Montclair Education Association President Gayl Shepard revisited the $675,000 expenditure for the Effective School Solutions (ESS) contract for serving 54 middle- and high-school students with five counselors and the issue of three counselors serving far more students being let go to save a smaller sum of $210,000.  She found it inequitable. Continue Reading

Snow Day For Schools on Wednesday, March 15

Tuesday, Mar 14, 2017 6:35pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

Montclair, Bloomfield, Verona and West Orange Schools have announced they will be closed tomorrow, Wednesday, March 15.

Glen Ridge, Cedar Grove and Caldwell-West Caldwell posted a delayed opening for Wednesday.

Montclair BOE Adopts 2017-18 Budget, Says Goodbye To Bolandi

BY  |  Tuesday, Mar 14, 2017 10:38am  |  COMMENTS (4)

Montclair Board of Education adopted its version of the 2017-18 school budget at its March 13 meeting, with board member Joseph Kavesh casting the only dissenting vote.  The Montclair Board of School Estimate (BoSE), chaired by Mayor Robert Jackson, will take it up at its first meeting on Thursday, March 16, after the impending blizzard caused the March 14 BoSE meeting to be postponed.  The second BoSE meeting, which was to have taken place on March 16, has not yet been rescheduled.

Interim Superintendent Ronald Bolandi, presiding over his last school board meeting in Montclair, and Business Administrator Steve DiGeronimo went over the finer points of the budget for a public audience much larger than the audience that greeted the board on March 6.  Superintendent Bolandi reiterated the need for the district to develop more programs to direct teaching to the students as an alternative to greater spending.  He said the district needed to throw programs, not money, at problems.

Montclair School Board President Jessica de Koninck presents a plaque of appreciation from Essex County to outgoing Interim Schools Superintendent Ronald Bolandi.

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Renaissance at Rand Student Named N.J. National Geographic State Bee Semifinalist by National Geographic Society

BY  |  Monday, Mar 13, 2017 2:52pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

EPSON MFP image

Oscar Counsell, an eighth grader at Renaissance at Rand Middle School in Montclair, has been named a New Jersey National Geographic State Bee Semifinalist by National Geographic Society. Continue Reading

Montclair Robotics To Present at Montclair BOE Meeting, 3/12

BY  |  Friday, Mar 10, 2017 2:45pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

Montclair High School Robotics Team will be making a short presentation to the Montclair Board of Education this Monday, March 13th, at 7:30 PM in the cafeteria of the George Inness Annex Atrium at the Montclair High School at 141 Park Street, Montclair.

The team members will talk about what it’s like being on Montclair’s award-winning high school robotics team. Teenage robotics students will explain how they use their coding, CAD, 3-D printing, fabrication, and electronics skills to design and build their robot, and they will bring a robot or two to show to the Board and the audience. Continue Reading

Staff Cuts and Concerns about Special Education As Montclair BOE Reviews Tentative School Budget

BY  |  Tuesday, Mar 07, 2017 9:42am  |  COMMENTS (1)

The Montclair Board of Education during the 2017-18 tentative budget presentation

The Montclair Board of Education met on March 6 to review its tentative 2017-18 budget, which it passed without much enthusiasm. The budget blueprint, which is being sent to the county this week but still has to be reviewed by the Board of School Estimate, reflects Interim Schools Superintendent Ronald Bolandi’s goal of doing more with less.

Superintendent Bolandi said the budget, which he worked out with Business Administrator Steve DiGeronimo, reduces staff in some schools to bring equity to the district and tries to bring more clarity and sense in scheduling paraprofessionals.   While the $120.2 million budget for 2017-18 increases investments in some areas, it makes cuts in many others.  Arousing some concern among members of the public was the budget’s plan to reduce paraprofessionals to 2014-15 levels.  The superintendent was emphatic in stressing that the spending plan was an attempt at getting the district away from “throwing money” at problems, and he said some of the cuts should be made even without the threat of a shortfall. Continue Reading

Montclair BOE Considers Sobering 2017-18 Preliminary Budget

BY  |  Tuesday, Feb 28, 2017 8:30am  |  COMMENTS (16)

The Montclair Board of Education

The Montclair Board Of Education spent its February 27 meeting on starting the process for the adoption its 2017-18 budget, something Board President Jessica de Koninck and her colleagues hope to get behind them before Interim Superintendent Ronald Bolandi leaves, as required by law, and is replaced by incoming interim superintend Barbara Pinsak.  Pinsak, a former schools superintendent in Teaneck, was at the meeting and said hello to the board and the public.  She added she was looking forward to meeting and speaking with students and staff alike.

Superintendent Bolandi painted a sobering picture of the budget challenges for 2017-18 before Business Administrator Steve DiGeromino spoke about the preliminary spending plan that was presented.   He said his first responsibility was to the students and his next responsibility was to preserve the magnet system in the district.  He noted that, with the many elective courses attended by a small number of students at a time of sudden spending restraints, it was necessary to make some cuts and look out for the greater good.  Superintendent Bolandi also challenged residents to come up with ideas on how the budget could be improved, adding that throwing money at the problems the district faces is not the answer.  He sought to make clear that he wanted the public involved in formulating a budget that would use the best ideas at the smallest cost. Continue Reading

Let’s Talk About Sex…Earlier and More Consistently

BY  |  Monday, Feb 27, 2017 10:15am  |  COMMENTS (0)

The idea of discussing sexual education, or even puberty, with their children makes some parents cringe. Relying on the schools to broach the topic “at the right time” is a fallback for many parents. Happily, New Jersey gets top marks for its sexual education, which falls under what is termed “Family Life” curriculum. However, those top marks are graded on a bell curve in comparison to other states, and too many of those states are failing their students when it comes to learning about their bodies, sexuality, preventing pregnancy and STDs, and forging healthy relationships.

Many parents and caregivers remain unsure of what goes on in Montclair’s Family Life classes. They have reported that questions about sexual education curriculum in their schools have been met with a range of reticence, discomfort, and vague answers, making it difficult for parents to find out what is being shared with their children during the school day. Asking their children can be somewhat enlightening, but with inconsistent reliability. So what kinds of results do those “top marks” give Montclair students when it comes to Sexuality Education?

Montclair parent Sarah Blaine wants to find out. Her daughter, now in 6th grade, has received no puberty or sex education at all in the Montclair Public Schools. Blaine acknowledges that different elementary and middle schools around town may approach health education differently, but the state mandate is the same for the entire district. In addition, separate from simply fulfilling state mandates, this seeming lack of health education concerns her because many students begin their menstrual cycles and mature physical development while still in elementary school.

It was heartening to hear from both high school students and parents that the 9th Grade Family Life classes cover a variety of in-depth topics ranging from physical changes to sexual health to consent to healthy dating and family relationships. There is even lore of styrofoam tools to assist with prophylactic instruction. But 9th grade is too late to begin comprehensive sexual and relationship education.

NJ Standards for what middle school students should have learned by the end of 6th and 8th grade. Click to enlarge.

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A great looking building for Montclair Center with appropriate height, massing and details. Bravissimo!

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