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Board of Education Discusses Non-Resident Students in Millburn Schools

Bob Faszczewski

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 • 6:53am

MILLBURN, NJ - Superintendent of Schools James Crisfield presented the official 2013-2014 enrollment update showing a total of 4,937 students in township schools, or 60 students less than the report of last October, at the Board of Education meeting this Monday. Crisfield attributed most of the decline to kindergarten enrollment.

On another enrollment-related matter, Crisfield addressed comments on non-resident enrollment made by Board member Lise Chapman at the last meeting.

Chapman said at the last board meeting that she had spoken to a friend in Greenwich, Conn., who said school officials in that city had re-enrolled children in every grade to determine the number of non-residents illegally attending Greenwich schools.

The Millburn superintendent said, however, he had spoken with the Greenwich superintendent, who told him that Greenwich does not, in fact, enroll students in every grade every year, but did so only once a few years ago in response to a state charge that its schools did not have the proper racial balance.

In fact, Crisfield said, after that re-enrollment no non-resident students were found to be attending Greenwich schools.

The Millburn superintendent did, however, promise to continue to be diligent in routing out non-resident students and would look for new solutions to any influx of non-residents into the schools.

Board president Jeffrey Waters, in response to the superintendent’s comments, said those who make statements at public meetings should verify the accuracy of all such statements before making them in public.

Chapman replied the Greenwich superintendent came to that city in 2012, and it is possible the all-grade enrollment system was in effect before he came to the Connecticut city and he did not know about it.

She added that surrounding districts seem to be finding non-resident students.

Chapman claimed that nearby Summit had spent $13,000 or $14,000 to rout out illegal students in its schools.

Township resident Rodney Shutters said that he has spoken to a number of township employees who are certain that there are a number of non-resident students attending Millburn schools.

He claimed the school district has been too passive in enforcing its ban on non-resident students and it may be partially due to the fact that some non-resident students who do well in the township schools may improve Millburn’s standing and a greater number of students could bring in more state aid.

No matter what the reasoning, according to Shutters, non-resident students were “stealing my money” because township tax dollars are being used to educate them.

Former board member Josh Scharf said residents often call him about non-resident students because they do not feel comfortable talking to current board members about the situation.

Scharf added he has seen non-resident students walking into the township, and there have been more than one or two.

He said these students are making it more difficult for resident students to go through township schools and get into the better colleges.

Board member Michael Birnberg, however, disputed a statement by Shutters that each non-resident student costs Millburn taxpayers more than $15,000. He said that if one such student causes class size to go from 22 to 23 this would not necessarily result in $15,000 in extra costs because a new class would not have to be added.

On another matter, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Christine Burton reported that, overall, in state standardized tests, Millburn students at all levels were doing as well as or better than their peers in the “J” district factor group.

Burton did say there was some lagging in writing skills when township students in the upper grades were asked to do more analysis in their writing based on taking positions opposed to their ideas. She also said that language arts skills are lagging somewhat behind those in mathematics and the sciences.

Part of the “lag” in language arts, Birnberg said, may be due to increased emphasis on science, engineering and mathematics.

Burton replied that more efforts are being made to improve language arts abilities and teachers in those areas are receiving more professional development.

She added the full results of the district test assessments will be available on the schools’ website.

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