Madison School District Sees Major Savings in Debt Service
Wednesday, September 12, 2012 • 6:57am
MADISON, NJ – The Madison School District could see close to $2 million in bond service costs, Business Administrator Gary Lane announced at the Sept. 11 Board of Education meeting.
“We hoped to realize $700,000 in savings,” he said, “but it actually will be closer to $2million.” Those revised bond costs, attained by refinancing the debt, will be reflected in next year’s budget and for 19 more years, he said. “This will reduce the tax levy, but the savings is strictly in the debt service category, not for operating expenses,” he emphasized.
One resident suggested that, in an effort to support transparency, this would be an opportunity to share the information with parents and the public.
Resident Maureen Burn told the board that her daughter was doing well at Madison High School, after sending her two sons to private school. She praised the caliber of the teachers and the district’s commitment to education.
Her comments prompted Robert Grundfest, President of the Madison Education Association, to address the board. He noted that Madison High School was rated number six in the state in a survey done by New Jersey Monthly. “The students are well prepared in the elementary school and the junior school,” he said. He added that the common lunch period at the high school is working well. “It’s less stressful and provides an impromptu time for students and teachers to interact,” he said.
Grundfest also discussed the new evaluation system and the demands it would place on teachers.
Superintendent of Schools Michael Rossi said a mandate from the state requires that “Every school district must adopt a teacher evaluation model” with various frameworks and types of measures. Our approach will change dramatically with core teachers,” he said. Advisory panels are required in each building, but noted that test scores can be an ineffective variable for student achievement. “It’s a slippery slope,” he said.
Grundfest said that evaluating physical education teachers, guidance counselors and other positions require different criteria and can’t be measured in the same way as science or math. He was concerned, he said, that the state required testing could interfere with the classroom exams usually given.
Rossi also said he received an email from the state Commissioner of Education which was “well intended,” but referred to 474 changes in regulations and asked that those receiving the email review a 239 page document, with links to 20 other areas. “There are so many different forces at play,” he said, referring to reform movements. “We’ve been down this road before” and some of those movements never happen.
Grundfest said the difficulty is that the evaluations will be used to decide tenure and “who keeps a job.”
Board member James Novotny said that Harding Township had invited a state legislator to its Board of Education meeting. “I strongly encourage you to bring them in,” he said. Even though they may have political agendas, he said it was important to let their state representatives know their concerns. Novotny added of the state bureaucracy, “Those who can’t teach pass laws about teaching.”
Board President Lisa Ellis asked for a moment of silence at the beginning of the meeting to reflect on the losses of Sept. 11, 2001. “I’m sure many of us realized it was the same kind of bright, sunny day,” she said. She reminded those present of the marching band competition on Oct. 7 and Bottle Hill Day on Oct. 6.
The next Board of Education meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 2.
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