Board of Education Questions and Answers 2019-2020
Board of Education Forum – January 26, 2020
Millburn Public Library – 1:30 pm
Pre-meeting – Dr. Burton and Emily Jaffe presented information regarding the referendum (C&MP) and answered questions raised by the public in attendance
Notes from Public Forum 1/26/20 (Bold comments from public; non-bold admin/board responses)
How is this referendum different from 2006 and 2016? Is this in perpetuity? Does public need to vote again in the future?
This is a new mindset based on maintaining flat debt levels. The current referendum would allow for maintaining a level debt service through 2025. If projects/facility needs warrant, then another referendum would take place for 2025 when the next set of bonds retire. The public will always need to approve the issuance of additional bonds.
By selling debt to provide for these projects, the district is eligible for state aid. State assistance isn’t available if the projects were funded through the operating budget.
Who is responsible for the teacher’s pension? The pension system is the responsibility and the liability of the state. The district is required to report the portion of the state’s liability associated with Millburn staff/retirees in the annual audit.
Stress level of students – why is Millburn HS more rigid/strict then other districts? Seems teachers are more rigorous with grading than other schools resulting in lower GPA’s then if students were in other districts. Is it intentional that Millburn has “higher standards”? If take AP Bio in Millburn vs elsewhere, is a B in Millburn equal to a B in another district or would the student get an A for the same work in another district? This adds to student stress.
Our GPA rating system is not vastly different than what others use throughout the country. There is a process that colleges look at transcripts and strip down the GPA system to make similar comparisons across the board. The grading system gets standardized. Colleges also recognize a district’s profile. They look at what a “B” means in Millburn based on Millburn’s profile. Colleges know Millburn HS. Students can get into top colleges with lower GPA’s than elsewhere because the colleges know the rigorous programs at Millburn.
The Board cares about the subject of student wellness and stress. We have supports in place, and have instituted programs and surveys. The issue of stress is one we feel passionately about.
. How students perform on AP tests doesn’t always correlate with the grades they receive in class. Program committee chair says the committee will look into these issues
Referendum – security vestibules this summer but what are the timelines for the other projects? When will the MS cafeteria project be done? Timelines would be helpful in the communications.
Fall 2021 for the opening of the MS Cafeteria.
The timelines have been added to the C&MP Referendum FAQs.
Mental health of students. Have PK student that needs to participate in lockdown drills. This is a very early age. We understand that it is mandated. But students don’t know that this is a drill. Very real and scary to them. Parents are not given any notice before it happens. Urge district to tell students this is only a drill, and especially consider the impact on students with IEP’s and 504’s. Transparency – let parents know how the drills are run. Consult with a child psychologist/behavioral specialist and get their input on how to address/handle. Consider advance notice to parents.
We are working with administration and the policy committee to address inconsistencies in practices, and reviewing the idea of contacting parents to let them know. Superintendent has personally participated in lock-downs with students and had the opportunity to see and talk to them about how they feel. Recommendations that teachers talk about what students feel. And try to alleviate fears, to help students understand what the drills are for. Agree that it is important for parents to understand and be able to have those conversations too.
Policy committee has been talking about this topic. The committee is in the process of reviewing the new Maplewood policy as well as at our own practices and policies.
Cannot underestimate the impact of these drills on students. On discretionary policies, consider bringing in stakeholders and get input. Proactively reach out to residents on a particular topic.
Bring together public/staff on a regular basis on various topics. Created an advisory board, this year focusing on start times. Also meet regularly with PTO presidents to get a handle on what they are hearing and seek community input.
Referendum – how much did it cost for a special election? Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to have referendum on the November ballot and get broader reach on the vote?
Timing on project approval from the state didn’t allow us to include on the November ballot. Special election anticipated to run between $20,000 - $30,000. If we move forward with future votes with this new mindset, will plan the timing to try to include on the November ballots.
Transportation – on a delayed opening day, bus forgot stop. Another time bus got lost, but no communication from administration. Driver has to ask students to use phone for navigation system. Is there a policy that there is no GPS navigation system allowed on buses?
Transportation has come a long way and proud to have a very competent supervisor. Continuously working on improving communications with transportation. GPS navigation isn’t as straight-forward since there isn’t a single destination but multiple stops. Sometimes stops need to be on a certain side of the road, GPS doesn’t take this into account. Working on improving communication with drivers should they need direction assistance so “base” office can direct them.
Enrollment projections – how do you predict? What is the impact of recent development on the district?
Dr. Burton explained process she uses for projections. While not all the students from the new developments will be here on Sept 1, in developing the 20-21 budget, need to prepare for all the students through June that will be here and impact on classes, etc. In addition to anticipating increase enrollments, we have been seeing a change in demographics, increasing diversity, leading to increased needs in various programs. We provide for whoever comes to our doors, we have no control over township decisions.
With recent discussions of the Chatham Rd. project which will bring in additional students, do you have projections for these 62 units?
Haven’t fully analyzed yet since construction hasn’t even started. Using The Enclave as an example – 30 units = 26 students, so almost 1:1. Difference with owning vs. leasing, but with 62 units, would maybe think about 50 students. Millburn hasn’t followed the standard formulas. Need to look at number of bedrooms in a unit, if it is affordable housing,… but first litmus test will be the Mack-Cali project.
Security vestibules – will students be receiving ID’s for school access?
Just staff. Have discussed possibly issuing ID access for students at the High School, maybe the MS, since they have ID cards and lanyards. But initially for staff.
Is security audit info available on the website?
Yes, if you can’t find you can reach out to Nancy Dries at Nancy.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anytime have trouble finding anything, let Nancy know. She can help you but also helps inform the district if navigating the website is an issue.
In addition to the Stonegate security audit, we have a district security director, Mike Palardy, who addresses security practices on a daily basis.
Computer science at the high school – need a mindset change. 9th grade, why offer Visual Basic? Companies (google, uber, etc) aren’t looking for specific language but data structure, coding, etc. Make courses comparable to industry. Nobody has restrictions on what language to code in.
Appreciate comments. Program committee will follow up.
When does the township notify the BOE of new units being built? Should institutionalize in zoning requirements a timeline for notification. Should codify the process.
Wholeheartedly support this idea and should be addressed to the township. Will bring up with township administration. Also will bring up as part of township liaison committee. By the time the Board has found out in the past, it is too late. Hard to react and plan for.
Comment: Mount Laurel – terrific idea to codify, but to a certain extent the township’s hands are tied as well.
Governor just appointed a new state controller, from Mt. Laurel, not just investigating compliance but funding – who is funding these projects?
Philosophical difference of how you teach English in the Middle School vs the High School. Not as structured at the HS. Is it believed that learned how to write in the Middle School and so not need to be taught at the High School (because not the case)?
Will look into the specifics and review with Program Committee. Have heard some explain that writing in the classroom, not for homework, because want to see students writing in class, making sure that tutors are not editing/reviewing writing before it is turned in; looking for true picture of student’s capabilities. Writing in other classes too, not just English. Different types of writing in different classes.
Concern about tutoring – “pay for play” in academics with the amount of tutoring that takes place in town. Look at limiting tutoring, as they do in Livingston. Do not allow Millburn teachers to tutor Millburn students.
Adjourned at 3:40 pm
Policy Committee Chair, Cori Haase, read the Policy Committee minutes that include an explanation of the committee's deliberations and decision to make no changes to the current policy.
Business Administrator, Cheryl Schneider, addressed transportation and the start of school in her report:
- We had a relatively smooth opening in the area of transportation this year for the majority of our bus routes. We did have issues with two buses that serviced the bus routes for High School 3, Middle School 15 and Washington 5 & 6. Hopefully, with the success of Friday’s and today’s operations for these routes, the issues of last week are behind us. But I did want to take a moment to answer some questions about busing company decisions. Like all purchasing done by the School District, we are required to follow the NJ Purchasing laws. Pursuant to these laws, we were required to bid out these routes, which was handled for us through Sussex Cooperative last April. Durham School Services was the low bidder for these routes. The NJ purchasing laws require us to accept the lowest bid.
- The transportation contracts do contain fines for lack of performance of the terms of the agreement. These fines were issued immediately last week and at the same time, Sussex Cooperative began the process of getting a replacement company, should we need it. Hopefully, the past two transportation days are indicative of the service we will be receiving going forward. Thank you to Mr. Lauton and his staff for working so closely with the Durham drivers to help them with the routes and to Mr. Lauton for his continued communication with parents throughout the week.
Also a REMINDER THAT ROCKTOBERFEST IS A COMMUNITY EVENT -- HOPE TO SEE YOU ALL THERE ON SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 28.
Fun for all ages -- all day long! Get more information here: https://www.millburnrocktoberfest.com/