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Westfield Board of Education Hears Financial Report and Department of Special Services Presentations

Alexandria Addesso

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 • 6:30am

WESTFIELD, NJ -- The summary of the 2012-2013 Annual Financial Report of the Westfield School District and updates on the Department of Special Services were widely discussed at the last Board of Education Meeting of the year on Tuesday.

Robert Morrison of Hodulik & Morrison, P.A. Certified Public Accountants, the firm that audited the school district, gave a synopsis of their findings. Morrison attributed the lack of need for adjustments in the audit to the Finance Committee's attention to detail.

“Three reports, three unmodified opinions, batting 1.000,” said Morrison. “We didn’t have any audit adjustments that had to be put through.”

Although Morrison did not go into great detail about the audit, he did discuss it fully for two hours with the Finance Committee prior to the BOE meeting. He stated that it was very positive that $5 million was put away for “patch work” throughout the year in accordance with the State’s mandated two percent cap on funds that could be set aside.

Dr. Mike Weissman, Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Personnel Services, gave a presentation on the up-to-date programs in the Department of Special Services. Weissman reported that there are currently 1,165 students eligible for special education and related services in the district, with 91 of those students in out-of-district placements.

“We are exactly where we should be for out-of-district placements,” said Weissman.

Weissman emphasised the need to utilize the least restrictive environments. Rather than keep special education students in self-contained classrooms, he focused on keeping students in general education classrooms with the support of a paraprofessional or other trained specialist, or resource room programs that pull students out of their regular classes periodically for small-group instruction.

“The goal is to educate special education students with general education students as much as humanly possible," said Weissman.

Of the 24 policies up for approval for a second reading, only one was withdrawn. The 2330 Homework policy that was withdrawn was the only policy  discussed. Two sections of the policy brought about differing opinions among board members and the audience alike.

Board member Lucy Biegler did not agree that the number, frequency and degree of difficulty of homework assignments for students should be based on factors such as extracurricular activities and that it should be changed so that no homework should be given to students the night of their chorus concerts, band concerts or plays.

Board member Ginny Leiz also had objections to the wording of a section of the policy that had to do with limiting homework over long breaks.

“We cannot make a document that satisfies every family in the community,”  said Paul Pineiro, assistant superintendent of curriculum, who was sitting in the audience. “One student’s stress is another student’s vigor.”

During the portion of the meeting for recognition of public’s questions and comments Laurie Woog, a former member of the Westfield High School balance committee, also added to the discussion of the homework policy.

“Sometimes the exact language doesn’t matter that much,” said Woog, “as long as there is a goal.”

The next Board of Education Meeting will be held on Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. at 302 Elm St. At that meeting, board members Brendan Galligan, Ginny Leiz and Mitch Slater will be sworn in as returning members.

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