Board of Education Questions and Answers 2019-2020

Board of Education Virtual Meeting - Board Retreat - June 25, 2020

Q: The presentation at the last meeting suggested there might need to be smaller class sizes due to the pandemic. But Hartshorn is expanding without creating additional sections.  Why are you not adding sections at Hartshorn?

A.:  As we do every summer, we are monitoring enrollment at all of our schools.  We look at both students leaving the district, and new students arriving, and make decisions by mid-summer on the need for additional sections at any school.  Additional sections have already been added, as needed, based on enrollments received over the past few months. Since we began monitoring the sections in January, there have been 4 sections added. 

We know that Hartshorn may be further impacted by the new Upton development, and while this has been taken into account in our staffing decisions, we are working with their leasing agent to have their most current numbers of families with students.  At this time they do not anticipate beginning leasing until January 2021, gradually releasing a small number of units each month. We will be kept informed by them, as well as our registrar, as to the impact on class sizes at Hartshorn.

Q:  A request for enrollment figures for 2020-2021 sorted by grade and elementary school.

A:  As explained above, we are monitoring registrations and pending enrollments, as we do every summer.  The numbers are always in flux as we get withdrawals and new registrations all summer long. As a result, we do not have current enrollment figures for each school at this time. Once the school district begins, we will have the official count as part of our October 15th enrollment report

In the annual school budget presentation on January 27, 2020, Dr. Burton presented the projections for the district for the 2020-2021 school year:

2020-21 Budget Overview

We report school enrollment annually to the state, as required, on October 15 of each year. Here is the enrollment chart as of 10/15/19:

Enrollment as of October 15, 2019: State Reported Figures

Q:  Does the resolution regarding paraprofessionals mean they will get prorated salaries like it says in the resolution about coaches if they only work a partial year?  (Also, a commendation for the “amazing work they do with special education students.”)

A: Both the resolutions for the paraprofessionals and the coaches that were appointed on June 25, 2020, indicate that if the contract is modified, the salary will be prorated commensurate with the percentage of the work, services or duties that are required and provided.

Q: Can you provide the number of instructional classrooms at each school?

A:  In terms of space in our buildings there are a variety of rooms that can be used as instructional space, and may be divided as needed, so it is difficult to provide these numbers. As it relates to the opening school in the Fall, we are reviewing all available spaces to determine capacity to follow social distancing guidelines and the health and safety for all of our students and staff. 

Board of Education Virtual Meeting - June 15, 2020

Comments regarding planning for 2020-21 school year:

Please take into consideration that virtual learning is not one size fits all.  It can work better for Middle and High school students than for elementary.  

Please add more focus on social and emotional effects of this school year, and if necessary, hire more counselors to help students deal with trauma.

Comments regarding equity in the school district

Hire more people of color, invest in anti-bias training, hire more mental health counselors...

A:  Please refer to Ms. Diskin's presentation from tonight's meeting as to the efforts the district has made and continues to make. 

Thank you for listening to our students' voices during the rally and recent protests. Please know it is coming from a place of love and understanding.

A number of questions were asked about plans for hiring coaches for fall sports, and the importance of athletics for our students.

A. As school districts await guidance from the state DOE and NJSIAA regarding athletes and athletics, the district has not yet appointed coaches for the coming school year.  They will be appointed by the Board once we have the guidelines from these organizations.

Board of Education Virtual Meeting - June 1, 2020

Public Comments addressed the national and local responses to the nationwide protests and issues of race, equity and justice, as well as how to talk to children about it.

Question: How is the school district preparing for an influx of students from the Upton apartment complex on Kennedy Parkway?

Answer:  Dr. Burton responded that she has been in touch with the leasing agent there, and at this point they do not believe they will begin preleasing until the fall, with move-ins expected in January and later.  We are prepared for new students to begin entering our schools over a period of months beginning in 2021. We have been budgeting and watching enrollment in the 5 schools that could be impacted.  

Board of Education Virtual Meeting - May 18, 2020

Comment: There seems to be a discrepancy among the ways different schools are teaching remotely -- some are doing more small groups vs. full class lessons, etc.

A: As we have been teaching and learning remotely, we are evolving through the different experiences our teachers have seen and are learning what works best for their students and/or individual classes. By providing teachers flexibility, as they have in the classroom, they can provide the best experience for their students.

Q: Do you have any updates on how the enrollment of the residents of the Mack-Cali apartments (The Upton) will impact the district?

A:  Dr. Burton has been in touch with the leasing agent to get a status update on the leasing of units. They told her they have not begun the leasing effort at The Upton Short Hills. At best, the current schedule projects first move-ins will be October 2020.

 They said, "With the current Pandemic and the State of NJ shut down, we have had an impact to the construction and leasing schedule. My best guess is there is a 50% chance of still delivering our first turn of apartments come late Fall 2020. The soonest we would likely start leasing at this point is July / August 2020."

Q:  Are there going to be elementary parent-teacher conferences this year?

A:   in lieu of parent-teacher conferences this year, teachers will be conducting one on one meets with their students to provide academic and emotional closure to the school year.  These meets will take place June 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th.  During this time period, only asynchronous learning will take place.  Parents who wish to “meet” with their teachers may continue to do so via email.

Q: Are the Board of Education Student Liaison committees continuing to meet during virtual learning?

A: The only Board of Ed committees meeting on a regular basis right now are those that are necessary to conduct the business of the district (e.g. Finance, Program, Property).  The principals at the Middle and High School are meeting with student organizations and getting feedback from their students with any concerns or issues.  At the High School, in addition to meeting with student class officers, Dr. Miron has offered open chats called “Ask Dr. Miron” for all students to ask questions, share concerns, information and ideas.

Board of Education Virtual Meeting - May 4, 2020

Comment:  I applaud the BOE, Superintendent and teachers and staff. Impressed with your nimbleness and resiliency.  As a parent of a 2nd grader, I feel the packets were easier, especially to be flexible with time. 

Comment:  I agree with the first comment.  With 3 elementary school students it is much more difficult to juggle their classes and work. Packets were easier for the younger children.

Comment:  Additional meetings and interactions have been fantastic for us, but I understand why it does work for everyone.

A: This blended virtual learning model is designed to allow flexibility for students and families. Parents are encouraged to reach out to the teacher and or principal to discuss any concerns.

Q:  It seems like there is less online learning at the high school. Can you update us on that?

A:   High school teachers are also increasing their live interactions and meetings.  Please reach out to the teacher to coordinate meeting opportunities.

Q:  Thanks to the Program Committee and Dr. Burton for discussing the importance of celebrating our 2020 graduates. Do you have guidelines from the state? We are looking to come up with a creative solution that also respects the safety and health of everyone involved.

A:   Now that Governor Murphy has announced that schools are closed through the end of this school year, we are looking at a variety of options to celebrate the Class of 2020.   Dr. Miron has already announced a virtual commencement on June 24th, and we continue to look at other opportunities to give students a chance to celebrate their accomplishments.

Board of Education Virtual Meeting - April 27, 2020

Comment: Thank you for adding more interaction with our teachers. I would suggest that we keep things as they are now.  Don’t keep adding and changing.  Students and parents need consistency.  It is not realistic to create a live school experience at home. 

Comment:  We appreciate your efforts to increase the live check-ins and interaction.  We understand this will continue evolving as we all find the right balance in these challenging times.

Q: Can we revert to the regular attendance model instead of having to log in every day?  Just report absences?

A:  One of the requirements from the state is for schools to be able to demonstrate that students are “attending” school on a regular basis.  We must be able to provide them with a record of attendance, so the daily check-ins are the best way for us to maintain those records.  

Comment:  Some suggestions for more efficiencies:

More morning meetings

Use expertise from the community where possible -- for support or for presentations etc.

Comment: Please don’t begin construction on the fields or stadium before a graduation can be planned, if possible.  Hope there will be imagination, flexibility, and creativity to make sure seniors can be celebrated.

Board of Education Virtual Meeting - April 13, 2020

Q: Many of the comments/questions revolved around requests for an increase in online learning and more teacher interaction. 

A:  Dr. Burton and Assistant Superintendent Kate Diskin gave a presentation about the district’s plans for implementing more online opportunities for both teachers and students.  These enhancements began after Spring Break during the week of April 13 and increasing during the following weeks.

You can see the presentation here.

Q: There has been confusion about how second-semester grades are being handled at the high school. Can this be clarified?

A:  Dr. Miron has since clarified the questions about grading for the high school.

Watch his slide show here.

Q: Dr. Burton, can you share the information from Nancy Siegel that you presented at the beginning of the meeting?

A: Nancy Siegel, our Head of Guidance at the HS, addressed concerns with the college placement process, grading and next steps for students.  As you know, Mrs. Siegel has an extensive knowledge base with the college admission process as well as the admissions officers across colleges and universities around the country.  She shared the following:    

With concerns about how colleges were going to regard the second half of the year, and what the implications could be for the underclassmen as well, she reached out to admissions officers and has received feedback from hundreds of colleges and universities.    

  • They are unanimous in stating that they are not concerned with grades for the second half of the year.  They are anticipating that virtually all schools will move to a P/F, NG (no grade) or Cr (Credit) for coursework.  

  • All of them stated that it is impossible to know what circumstances might exist in every home or to tell what the emotional strains might be on each family and that these options were fair and logical. 

  • In effect, it is what most of the colleges and universities are doing with their own students who are learning remotely from home.

  • They added that they would treat all future applicants (current freshmen, sophomores and juniors) in exactly the same way and would completely ignore the second semester of 2020.

  • A very significant percentage of the colleges and universities – from the Ivies to the large state universities and the smaller private schools – have changed their testing policies.  So many more are going test-optional for the next one to three years (most for three), giving students the right to make the decision as to whether to send test scores at all.  And most of those who have required subject tests (i.e. SAT 2) in the past are making them totally optional.

  • In addition, many schools are changing the traditional commitment day of May 1 (the date a senior must make a deposit to a school and confirm his intention to attend) to June 1 and those who have not, are offering all students permission to request an extension. 

  • An important note that Mrs. Siegel mentioned was that there have been more students wait-listed than ever before, including our HS students. Realistically, they will probably not hear from these schools until later than usual.

Q: Are the Student Liaison Committees continuing to meet virtually?

A:  Right now we the Board is focusing on those committees that are necessary in order for the school district to continue functioning.  Principals are in contact with their students, and they are sharing the input they get from them with the administration and the Board.

Q: According to the Program Committee minutes, one recommendation was to shorten Spring Break to 3 days of classes and 2 days off.  Why was it decided to have a full week of break.

A:  There were a number of considerations that came into the decision-making process -- contractual requirements, celebration of religious holidays, etc.  It was decided that the best decision for the majority was to keep the full week of break.

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 via email.

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

October 7, 2019

Public comments this week largely centered around a Policy Committee review of Policies 2431 and 9270 regarding Athletics and Homeschooling, and whether current policy should be revised to allow homeschooled children to participate in athletics and extra-curricular activities.

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.

September 9, 2019

Comments this week included transportation, some noting concern about the issues with the few routes, while also thanking Transportation Supervisor, Mr. Tom Lauton, for his communication and commitment to improving the situation.

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.


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