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Board Meeting Questions & Answers » Board of Education Questions & Answers 2012-2013

Board of Education Questions & Answers 2012-2013

Board of Education Questions & Answers 2012-2013

Answers to questions asked during Public Comments sessions at recent Board of Education meetings. These are questions that required further research for a response. These types of Q & A's will be posted here after each Board of Education meeting.

BOE Q & A – 6/10/13

Q1. What is "a timely manner" when Dr. Crisfield mentions that teachers return tests "in a timely manner" at the high school level? And who defines that?

A1. There is no precise definition, because much depends on circumstance. Does the test involve the grading of writing? What intervening events may get in the way, such as whether all students have taken the assessment and scheduling all of the make-ups. The general direction is all tests are to be returned, graded, in a reasonable amount of time, given the circumstances, and nobody is compelled to allow the tests to leave the building.

Q2. What happens if a student causes a district-owned piece of technology, such as a computer, to be damaged and what are we doing to prevent such damage before it happens?"

A2. We do our best to promote the responsible use of technology in the district. When and if a piece of equipment is accidentally damaged, the technology department effects repair or replacement. If equipment is intentionally damaged by a student, disciplinary action is taken by school administration and parents may be held responsible for the repair or replacement of the damaged equipment.

We prevent damage by:

1) Promoting and educating about responsible use of the equipment. Careful handling, no liquids near the computers, placement on solid surfaces, holding with 2 hands, etc.

2) Where appropriate and cost effective, protective covers are employed (iPads for example) to protect against screen damage or accidental drops. Laptop screens are protected when the units are closed. Our loss experience does not warrant the expense for laptop cases. Instead, they are stored in locking cabinets or mobile carts for protection from loss or accidental damage.

Q3. Does the district contemplate any corrective action for the 2012-13 school year, during which time the district's HIB policy did not call for the results of all investigations (including ones found to be not HIB) to be reported to the Board of Education?

A3. We are researching how much work it would require now, after the fact, to compile that information so that it can be reported to the Board. It may be the case that we have to start that new approach to reporting in the coming (2013-14) school year, as the costs of compiling that data may outweigh any benefits.

Q4. Does the district contemplate taking any action against the policy service and/or attorney involved with preparing and reviewing the district HIB policy (since it now has an incorrect approach to reporting results of HIB investigations to the BOE)?

A4. No, not at this time. The HIB law is still relatively new and districts across the state have been grappling with how to implement it and how to incorporate it into local policies. This one relatively minor aspect of a 24-page policy will be corrected moving forward, and the rest of the policy and district practices are aligned with this very complex, ground-breaking statute.

BOE Q & A -- 3/11/13

Q1. Why/how did we qualify for Title I funds this year and how are they going to be used?

A1. The district receives Title II and Title III federal grant funds on an annual basis. We have used these funds for professional development and programs for our Limited English Proficient students. This year as a result of our district's population increasing over the 20,000 residents threshold, the federal government uses family income data based on the census rather than free and reduced lunch counts. Using a 2% threshold of students, the federal government determined that the district had 5.28% of our students ages 5-17 years of age who were entitled to additional supports using Title I funds. These funds are being used to supplement the Strategies Intervention programs at the Middle School as well as Wyoming and South Mountain Elementary Schools.

Q2. What is the gender composition of the district's K-5 teaching staff?

A2. There are approximately 14 males and 185 females in the K-5 schools, including the social worker and PE teachers. As far as applicants for open elementary school positions, from 2010 to present, of the 2304 applicants, there were approximately 117 males that applied for elementary jobs.

Q3. What specific training opportunities have been provided to staff with regard to ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) at the preschool level?

A3. The ABA staff receive extensive, detailed training on an ongoing basis. The following is an overview of how training occurs.

Daily Training:

- The BCBA supporting the program provides daily "In vivo" training in the classroom. The behaviorist observes staff as they are providing instruction as well as reviewing individual program (data) books for each student. During these observations the behaviorist will model teaching procedures that may need to be corrected or modified in some way as well as provide verbal feedback to instructors while in the act of instructing (coaching model)

- Daily from 2:15 to 3:30 staff meet with the BCBA to trouble shoot, answer questions regarding student progress, graph and analyze student data. Follow-up to the In vivo training is also provided at this time.

Monthly Training:

- Monthly training is provided formally on topics relating to ABA principals of instruction.

BOE Q & A -- 2/11/13

Q1. Do one or more of our K-5 schools perform significantly differently on standardized tests than the other K-5 schools in district?

A1. In our recent review of our district grades 3-5 performance on the NJASK, we looked at the five K-5 schools and no significant trends existed regarding the under performance of any one school. When looking at percentages it is important to note that the sample sizes vary depending on the number of students tested.

When we do notice student performance scores that may identify students who benefit from additional support, we provide that as needed, and continue to monitor the progress those students over time.

Q2. What is reported to the BOE in response to Policy #5512, Section H--all reported incidents that could possibly be HIB or only those incidents found to be HIB in nature after the investigation is concluded?

A2. Only those found to be HIB in nature. Policy #5512 was never updated (it should have been) to include the words ""the results of each investigation of incidents found to be HIB" in place of the words "the results of each investigation" in the fourth paragraph under Section H. The implementing regulation for this policy was updated, but the policy update was inadvertently missed and that will be corrected soon.

Q3. Will a copy of the mid-year HIB Report from the 2/11/13 BOE meeting be posted on the district website?

A3. Yes that report is posted on the HIB webpage.

Q4. Do the data included in the HIB Report from the 2/11/13 BOE meeting include instances of HIB that only involve students or do they also include instances of HIB that involve adults as well?

A4. The report includes all instances of HIB, including students and/or adults.

Q5. Do we break out report data by who is the alleged perpetrator (e.g., student or adult)?

A5. No, the data are not separated in this manner--all incidents of HIB, regardless of the age of the perpetrator, are included but they are not broken out by student/adult (if applicable).

BOE Q & A – 1/28/13

Q1. What was the "legal reserve" stated in the 2012-13 budget and why is that not included in the 2013-14 budget?

A1. We are still researching this question and will post the answer asap.

Q2. Why are the amounts for professional development in the pie chart from the 1/14/13 PowerPoint not the same as amounts for professional development in the detailed budget from the 1/28/13 BOE meeting?

A2. The amounts in the 1/14/13 presentation included the budgets for the Curriculum and Instruction Office that also include the Music Dept (does not include salaries). In the consolidated report Curriculum and Instruction was reported out separately as Curriculum (which includes salaries) and another as Staff Training. These are two different views of Curriculum and Instruction; one used as an overview for the presentation and one with greater detail for reporting purposes, therefore the percentages would be different.

Q3. Is it possible to break down the budget by school so that we can see how much money is spent on each school, and for what?

A3. We brainstormed for ways to do this that would yield useful information and that would not require an inordinate amount of time to accomplish. As of now, our accounting system (like that of most K-12 school districts) is just not set up to provide a traditional "cost center" report such as this, but if the purpose of this question is to assess whether or not the schools are being treated equally from a resources perspective, the answer is yes. Budget amounts for things like equipment and supplies are allocated on a "per pupil" basis (so that equity is ensured) and staffing allocations are made based on full-time equivalent (or "FTE") calculations. As a result, the level of staffing is equitable (e.g., class sizes are equal on average), but the cost for a particular school's staff may vary widely from another school's, even if they have the exact same number of FTEs, due to things like experience level, choice of health benefit level, etc. There is no managerial discretion available when determining individual teacher salaries, in that the collective bargaining agreement has a salary guide with specific dollar amounts for specific variables like years of service, graduate degrees, etc. Similarly, even if we wanted to (which we do not), it is impossible to hire only less experienced (lower paid) teachers due to tenure laws. Also, what health benefit level an employee has is his or her choice (they now pay a higher contribution for higher costing plans, which creates a great degree of variability with regard to who chooses which plan).

Q4. How much would taxes have to go up in order to not have to make any of the cuts on the "Budget Cut Sheet" distributed at the 1/28/13 BOE meeting?

A4. Approximately 4.5%.

Q5. Will the recent federal government decision concerning access to sports teams for students with disabilities have any effect on the district's 2013-14 budget?

A5. No. This decision could (will probably) result in a large policy adjustment for all school districts, but we need to wait for implementing guidance from the NJ Dept. of Education before taking any steps here. Also, we need to wait for our policy service to digest what the state directs and incorporate that into their model policy or policies on this subject, which we will then incorporate into our policy manual via the normal process. As a result of this time lag, there may be a minor financial effect here or there in 2013-14, but any large-scale financial effect probably won't be felt until the 2014-15 school year.

Q6. Is it possible to bring back to the district some of the students with disabilities who we currently send to out-of-district schools ("OOD" or "tuition-out" students--32 students as of 10/15/12) to save money while also meeting their educational needs?

A6. How a district meets the educational needs of a student with disabilities is determined through the IEP process, which has many facets to it. Whenever possible, it is desirable to keep the student in-district with his or her local peers and friends, but sometimes the district cannot meet the student's needs with existing programs. In those cases, the student must be sent to a private (or public) out-of-district school. The percentage of students we send out of district is very low compared to neighboring districts, which is a good thing because it indicates we can often meet our students' needs with existing, in-district special education programs that have been recognized by the state as being exemplary.

Q7. Can we use the leftover monies from the most recent referendum to fund the proposed MHS fire and sprinkler alarm project that will be possibly be deferred (in order to balance this year's budget)?

A7. We are in the process of checking on this question with the district's auditor and bond counsel. Leftover (unspent) referenda monies are typically used to offset the debt service tax levy in out years, so using them for this project would in effect eliminate a degree of future tax relief, but if the professionals indicate it is within the spirit and intent of the original bond issue, then we can and will discuss the possibility at an upcoming BOE meeting.

BOE Q & A – 1/14/13

Q1: What is the difference between the various categories of "surplus" noted in the budget documents?

A1: There are four main categories of "surplus" the Millburn Schools have from year to year. These funds are "retained" in that they stay on the books after the fiscal year ends on June 30 each year and are carried into the next fiscal year.

A. "Allowed surplus" (a.k.a. "Rainy Day Fund") is the amount of funds a district is allowed by state law to keep in the bank in case of an emergency. It is basically capped at 2% of the district's prior year budget. As of 6/30/12, the balance in Millburn for this category was $1,669,564.

B. "Excess surplus" is the amount of money a district has in the bank, at the end of a fiscal year, that exceeds the "allowed" amount above. This excess surplus must be returned to the taxpayers in the next year's budget and must be reflected as a revenue in that budget to help balance the budget in that year. As of 6/30/12, the balance in Millburn for this category was $1,932,567.

C. The "Emergency Reserve Fund" was created as an option for districts when the state changed the rules and lowered the percentage of "allowed surplus" a district can keep on hand in any given year from 6% of the previous budget to 4% of the budget (and now to 2% of the budget). This optional fund is intended to be used (as its name suggests) for emergencies and it has some fairly restrictive strings attached as to what constitutes an "emergency" (and therefore an allowable use of monies a district may have in this fund). As of 6/30/12, the balance in Millburn for this category was $700,000.

D. The Capital Reserve Fund is an option districts have to earmark funds specifically for large capital projects such roof repairs or bathroom renovations that are difficult to fund in the annual budget. If a district wants to use monies in the Capital Reserve Fund for a project, there are explicit approval procedures that must be followed (the project must be listed in the annual budget as being funded via the Capital Reserve Fund or the county office must issue emergency approval of a project funded in this manner). As of 12/1/12, the balance in Millburn for this category was approximately $3,347,000.

Q2: What happens to the list of ideas that was generated from the various "budget listening sessions" at all seven schools in the fall?

A2: Depending on the nature of the item, they will be considered in BOE committees. Those that are budgetary in nature and that were identified for possible inclusion in the 2013-14 budget will be part of the budget deliberations in the coming 2.5 months.

Q3: Is online payment an option when parents have various checks to write to the schools?

A3: All of the Parent Teacher Organizations are now using Community Pass, an online payment system, for all of their programs and fundraising efforts. The school district currently uses the same program for Transportation payments, while our Food Service department uses “My School Bucks” for cafeteria online prepayments. We will be adding the use of Community Pass for parents paying PreSchool tuition, and will eventually roll it out at all of the school offices for fees paid directly to the schools.

Q4: How was the recent "Millburn Gives Back" initiative that raised over $30K worth of gift cards for families in Sayreville who were displaced by Hurricane Sandy handled in terms of accounting and handling of the gift cards during the process?

A4: The generosity of the Millburn community was amazing and the process was carefully monitored from start to finish, as follows:

A. The main driver of this initiative was the "Community Outreach" arm of PTO Conference ("PTOC"). The Education Foundation and individual schools were involved as well. The Millburn Superintendent (Dr. Crisfield) facilitated the process.

B. All record keeping was handled by Community Outreach with the support of the PTOC Executive Board and the Hartshorn School PTO Executive Board.

C. A process was followed every step of the way to ensure accountability. For example, the gift cards were counted by multiple people in the same place at once. They were stored in the BOE safe during the December recess, where multiple people witnessed the process. They were delivered to Sayreville on 1/4/13 by the Millburn Superintendent and the Millburn School Business Administrator, and received by the Sayreville Superintendent, Business Administrator and Eisenhower School Principal. Delivery to individual families in Sayreville was carried out by individual principals in Sayreville, with multiple volunteers involved at every step of the way.

D. Exact accounting was made difficult by the fact that a small number of cards did not have a denomination on them, but in the end, each Sayreville family received a little over $300 of gift cards, along with some hand-made cards from Millburn students wishing them well.

Q5: How much was the difference between the amount of expenditures budgeted for the 2011-12 school year and what was actually spent in that school year?

A5: The amount available to spend for the 2011-2012 school year was $77,383,218. The amount actually spent in that school year was $74,477,154 leaving a difference of $2,906,064.

Answer Updates

BOE MEETING -- October 8, 2012

Q1: There is a new position “Title I Building Coordinator” on the Personnel Report from the 10/8/12 meeting, Is that a new position and was it budgeted for in the 2012-2013 budget?

A1: The Title I grant was not known to us at the time of 2012-13 budget preparation. Once its availability became known to us, we realized we need a coordinator stipend. The cost of the stipend will be taken out of the grant--no impact on local funds.

Class Size Guidelines:

Q2A: What are the class size guidelines?

A2A: The class size guidelines, approved in January 2011, are posted on the school district website in the Q&A folder. You may find them here:

Q2B –Is the physical class size considered?

A2B: We do try, when possible, to land the relatively larger classes in the relatively larger classrooms, but that is not always possible for a variety of reasons.

Q2C: Is the presence of special education students considered?

A2C: Students with special needs may at times have aides that assist with the inclusion process into the mainstream, or they may sometimes be pulled out for separate instruction in certain subjects. If they get pulled out for most or all of the core academic subjects (which happens, but is rare), then that does get considered in the total class number. But, usually, these students remain in the mainstream and as such are considered in the class size figures just like all other students.

Q2D: What about classroom aides?

This is an option for those situations that present extenuating circumstances where the class size guidelines are exceeded. It is not optimal, but it does help with the relatively large class size.

Q3: Can the public see a copy of the BOE self-evaluation document?

A3: This document is considered to be an internal planning document and as such is not a public document.

Q4: How does the BOE evaluate the effectiveness of anti-HIB training provided to staff?

A4: This will be addressed at the 10/29/12 BOE meeting in the biannual district report on HIB.

Q5: Is there a district org chart? Where is it and are the positions listed therein still current?

The organization chart dated 2/27/12 is the most current and the positions reflected thereon are filled.