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Madison School Board Gears Up for Next Budget Meeting

Liz Keill

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 • 7:29am

MADISON, NJ – Although the Board of Education met on Tuesday, March 12, next week’s meeting on the school budget will be even more significant, Board President Lisa Ellis said. She urged the public to attend the 7:30 p.m., March 19, budget hearing at Madison High School.
 
Ellis said she is concerned about the state’s two percent cap, as well as the lack of state aid. “We won’t be able to sustain what we do here,” she said, adding it’s a difference of, “what we want to deliver and what our kids deserve.” In addition, she said, state mandates are “piled on” with no means of funding. “It’s not a sustainable model,” she said of the demands for evaluating faculty and principals, additional testing and other requirements.
 
Woodland Road resident Steve Wells spoke of the layers of bureaucracy at the state level and how much government employees are paid to issue memos and “justify their existence. There’s so much waste, it’s mind boggling.” He was amazed, he said, that people weren’t up in arms over the loss of school aid and that the board should “be forceful, be strident. The more fury you show, the better chance there is.”
 
“We need to raise hell,” Ellis agreed.
 
The discussion then led to issues of anonymous comments on various news media websites. Ellis said those comments are often ignorant and she had stopped reading them. Valley Road resident Tom Pescula said the quality of comments varies, and cited a Maplewood on-line forum, with high quality input on law and research.
 
Ellis said she was writing a letter to the State Commissioner on Education, Lawrence Feinsold, who was formerly Superintendent of Schools in Madison. She was also contacting Lynn Strickland of the Garden State Coalition, which has advocated for suburban schools for the last 20 years.
 
In other board news, member Shade Grahling said the final site visit for the math program was made to Millburn/Short Hills. She thanked “all the districts that welcomed us. We talked to teachers who had used both programs and we will decide soon.”
 
Superintendent of Schools Michael Rossi said there are budget implications, but both programs are similar in cost.  Rossi also addressed the emergency response plan, noting the Torey J. Sabatini School on Woodland Road no longer had the Green Village Road area available. The plan may be to cut through the Drew University campus.
 
Board member Kevin Blair recalled a fire at Kings Road School in the mid-1990’s when there were no designated emergency locations.  “People in the neighborhood opened their houses, but with no designated place, there was no way to keep track of the kids,” he said and that a coordinated response plan was a positive step.
 
The President of the Madison Education Association said that, as a result of Dr. Rossi’s letter, the Morris County Education Commission had recognized the district. “It was a wonderful thing, with teachers and principals working together. Often the rules are confusing or silent.” He noted that one blogger addressed the student growth percentiles, which can be abused and can be “tremendously incompatible.”

One parent asked about repair to the retaining wall at Kings Road School. Business Administrator Gary Lane said it would be taken care of this summer. Another parent asked about repairing the playground equipment at Torey J. Elementary School. Lane said that would be done when the weather improves in the spring.

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