BoE meeting 3/18/2008 Recap
Sparks flew over the proposed school budget, pay raises, and the election during last night’s Board of Education meeting. In between the bickering there were also presentations about designing the new curriculum, redesigning the school district website, and the latest developments at the Connors School. Your Hoboken411 recap brings you a preview of what you may (or may not) see on Channel 77 this week.
Prevailing theme: Budget and Elections
Superintendent of Schools Jack Raslowsky began the meeting with a request to make a “brief comment” about the $56.9 million spending plan he presented to the board March 4th. He noted there had been quite a bit of discussion internally, citywide, and online about the budget, some of which he characterized as rumor and misinformation. Raslowsky said people are working hard to get a handle on the budget and “Correct the sins of the past”, adding he thought it was “crucial that we keep some level of balance in our own discussion.” At issue was the letter from finance committee chair Tricia Snyder published Monday on Hoboken411.
The complete recap after the jump…
(BoE recap continued…)
Garcia and Farina join the budget battle
Later in the meeting, board member Carmelo Garcia also chimed in, saying he was “surprised” by the information released by Snyder about the budget, and that he had received phone calls about the letter. James Farina complained that he did not have the same information as Snyder, and that “In the spirit of transparency” he wanted the trustees to consider the budget together as a full board as opposed to sending it through Snyder’s committee. President Theresa Minutillo said Farina could hold an open seat on the committee when it was available. The City Clerk responded by saying he didn’t want to “play ring around the rosey” but to hold the meetings on the budget as a full board in public, as opposed to in a committee that “meets behind closed doors”.
Snyder called the budget presented by Raslowsky “clearly unacceptable”. The 1-year board member up for reelection next month noted there would be a meeting of the Finance Committee on Thursday morning at 9am, with a public hearing to be held on Tuesday, March 25th. Snyder admitted the district business administrator had inherited the $57 million dollar budget and changes won’t happen in a single year, adding she looked forward to working with the superintendent. She also noted part of the problem was the previous administration had overestimated enrollment figures for the current school year, leading to the big jump per-pupil costs. Snyder said the district needs to get a better handle on where it is losing students. Apparently parents are pulling kids out once they get through the Abbot Preschool for 3 and 4 year olds.
Carmelo and Jack attack
Garcia went after Snyder again, saying he was “appalled” by Snyder’s figures, calling her letter to 411 “disingenuous”, adding, “You are the finance chair, and this is your budget.” Minutillo said Garcia was being “Unfactual”. She said each board member got the budget numbers at the same time, though the different factions seem to be interpreting the numbers differently. Raslowsky said his numbers show a 4.4% increase in the budget, which is not “huge” or “out of control”. The superintendent (and former school board member himself) said, “I’m making the cuts” and said the per-pupil increase year-to-year “was not hugely significant year to year” blaming his predecessor for bad numbers he inherited from the previous year.
Debate over Retroactive Raises
A debate over whether five non-union employees should receive retroactive pay raises has been going on since September. Apparently comfortable he had the votes this time, Superintendent Raslowsky called on the board to give four employees retro pay for two years at a raise of 5% for each year. A fifth employee was given a 5% retroactive raise for one year only. Among the notable on the list are Director of Facilities Tim Calligy (who had a similar job in the Russo administration), as well as Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent Carmela Mezzina and her husband Alfred, who is the district HVAC coordinator. Carmela’s father was a longtime school board member. The vote was 5 to 4 in favor of the raises, with Minutillo, Snyder, Rose Markle and Carrie Gilliard voting no.
Maureen Sullivan Speaks Up
School board candidate Maureen Sullivan expressed her outrage at the retroactive 5% raises, saying she has a friend in town that is one of thousands who just found out he no longer has a job at Bear Stearns. Sullivan said her friend is not the only Hobokenite dealing with the bad news. She asked the board, “How do you justify 5% retroactive raises when our citizens may be losing their jobs?” Sullivan pointed out actions like this add up, and that is how the district ends up with a budget approaching $60 million. Carmelo Garcia belittled her outrage by saying the Connors School parent was running “for political office.”
Other Notes From The Meeting
- Assistant to the Superintendent Dr. Anthony Petrosino updated the board on the effort to update the district’s curriculum, introducing complex problem solving and critical thinking to the staff who are working to build a curriculum plan. It is a long process involving staff from throughout the district
- Chief Information Officer David Bailey impressed the board and audience with a preview of the new Board of Ed website which will launch in the next few days. It will replace the static, circa-1999 style of the current site with a fully interactive and useful new site (you know, like the City of Hoboken should have, but doesn’t.) Well have a full review once the site goes live.
- Principal Linda Erbe gave an overview of the activities and programs at the Thomas G. Connors School, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Ms. Erbe was Superintendent Raslowsky’s third grade teacher.
- It was a packed house. Among the board hopefuls (aside from Sullivan) former board member Ron Rosenberg attended as usual. Brian Assadourian was also there, though he didn’t sit with running mate Phil Campbell, who made what some believed to be his first appearance at a school board meeting. Still no sign of candidate Phil DeFalco, who is apparently too busy filling out client tax returns. Felicia Rubino-Drasheff continues to attend meetings despite declining to make another run at the board this year.
Next up: The budget hearing, which may or may not be moved to a larger venue after teachers union President Gary Enrico warned the board that there would be a big turnout of employees to fight proposals to cut spending.
Tonight at 7pm. Below is the tentative agenda…
- Approval of minutes.
- Introduction of Policy: Volunteer Coaches.
- Utilization of facilities: outside agencies and community facility requests.
- Personnel: resignations, appointments, transfers and postings; appointment of bus driver.
- Possible closed session discussion on district facilities strategy and funding, bond counsel, current litigation, potential litigation and personnel items, previous Superintendent’s contract, Board Secretary evaluation;discussion of negotiations with HEA and other employees, discussion of employee stipends; raises for non-union staff, clerks.
- Leaves of absence; Family Leave; Maternity Leave.
- Appointment/non appointment of tenured and non tenured staff, including additional Substitute Teachers, Game Supervisors, Spring Coaches, Tutors, Clerks and other staff for Saturday HSPA Program and NJASK, After School Advisors, Mentors, Home Instructors, and Extra-Curricular positions.
- Fiscal reports, school reports, Board Committee reports, Board Secretary/Treasurer Reports, Fire Drill reports.
- Possible discussion and/or action on the future of the school district’s facilities.
- Attendance at workshops.
- Approval of field trips.
- Out of State Travel.
- Claims, regular and Workers Compensation Third party Administrator.
- Special Education Out of District Placement.
- Grants: application for Federal grant funds; acceptance of final report for FY07 IDEA grant.
- Addition to professional service contract.
- Budget transfers; grant appropriation modifications.
- Disposal of old equipment.
- Approval to advertise for Bids, Requests for Proposals and/or Qualifications.
- Joint Transportation Agreement – 2008/2009 School Year.
- Replenishment of Petty Cash Account.
Any matters relating to the above items may come before the Board. Please be advised that the Board may be required to go into closed executive session during this meeting to discuss litigation settlement, current litigation, potential litigation and personnel items. Action may be taken on all agenda items.