2012 has brought some new and exciting changes to HTS. In January, state legislators proposed and Governor Christie signed into law (A-4394/S3148), which provided municipalities and boards of education an opportunity to move the April Board of Education elections to November, where they would coincide with the general election. Last month, the Harding Township Board of Education voted to move the April election to November, effective immediately.
Under this new law, school budgets that fall within the 2% property tax cap would not have to be voted on by the community. School districts would still be required to submit its budget to the Executive County Superintendent in March and hold an annual public hearing later that month. Lastly, the public would vote for individual board of education members at the November election.
The 2012-2013 HTS budget is both student-centered and sustainable. It embodies, in spirit and in fiscal reality, the budget guidelines previously developed and approved by the Board of Education. The increase to the tax levy is only 1.78%, below the state mandated cap of 2%. Moreover, this budget protects all educational and co-curricular programs and staffing - one of our stated goals.
Since our budget is less than the cap, our school budget will not be submitted to the voters. We will, however, continue to hold our annual hearing (this year on Monday, March 26th at 7:30p.m. in the Library/Media Center) and send home our Budget Notes newsletter to the entire community.
We look forward to a fantastic finish to the 2011-2012 school year and an even better 2012-2013.
BOARD OF EDUCATION News. Township voters passed the K-8 school district's proposed $9.2 million budget Tuesday, by a vote of 361 in favor versus 185 against. Three incumbent members were also returned to the Board of Education for three years each. Board President James Novotny received 411 votes, John Flynn received 394 votes and Kim Macaulay received 394 votes. The budget represents a 1.9 percent increase over the current year's spending plan. Voter turnout was about 18 percent.
Board of Education Meeting 3/7/2011
The meeting began with a student presentation. Harding Township School’s Quest students under the supervision of teacher Amy O’Brien had participated in a competition through the NJ Consortium of Gifted and Talented Programs entitled “World of Free Enterprise” sponsored by Toys R Us.
Lisa Werner presented the District Writing Assessment report. The school’s faculty had taken part in an in-service on January 17 on the school’s new program for writing entitled “The Six Traits of Writing”. The six traits of writing consist of Sentence Fluency, Voice, Idea Development, Word Choice, Organization and Convention. The school’s new program takes a holistic approach to student writing through writing portfolio maintenance throughout the student’s career at Harding School. Writing assessments are standardized; the same writing prompt given at the beginning of the year will be re-administered at the end of the year in order to assess student progress more comprehensively. The Six Traits of Writing program aligns with both State and National Writing Standards. The District Curriculum Council identified the need for a new writing program, and developed this program in response. Dr. Purnell stated that the writing portfolios and assessments will provide more information on student ability than the snapshot glimpse provided by NJ ASK (standardized test). In addition to teacher assessments, students will self –assess their writing using post-it notes to identify, for instance, the number of words they use in a sentence. Mr. Novotny asked how the teachers keep their assessments objective. Ms. Werner’s response was that two teachers will grade essays without knowing students’ names, and discuss their assessment. Online writing experts are also available to aid in assessment.
The Board of Education then presented their tentative budget for next year. Editor’s note: the comprehensive report on the budget presentation appeared in February Thumbnail, and is available on line at www.hardingcivic.org. The Board of Education will present a public budget hearing on March 28, 2011.
Vision Council. The Vision Council is an organization designed to operate as a tool for communication between the public of Harding Township and the Board of Education. Former Mayor Lanzerotti of the general public present questioned the existence of the Vision Council. The council does not seem to be well-advertised and many citizens in Harding are not aware of the Council’s mission.
Progress Towards District Goals. The district’s goals are available at the Harding Township School’s website and include a five-year strategic plan. One can find the school’s website via our own Civic Association website: www.hardingcivic.org. The district would like to hold a technology showcase and is investigating how best to accomplish this. Springfield Public Schools has a model program, on which the board will view a presentation on March 7. The new district goal of improving student writing included a teacher-created Wiki page for the new writing curriculum. Dr. Purnell commended Lisa Werner for “the terrific job” she has done implementing this new program at the Harding Township School. Dr. Purnell also discussed the STEM course implemented at the school, which incorporates Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Michael Gervis is currently spearheading a program in hydroponics. Former Mayor Lanzerotti stated his belief that the science program at HTS was too heavily weighted to biology; when, he asked, was the school “coming back to the physical sciences?” Dr. Purnell explained that the STEM program is provided in addition to the regular science classes taught at HTS, and that physical science is still part of the school’s curriculum. Another STEM project the students are working on is the analysis of the most dangerous intersection in Harding, which involves physics.
Hearing of the Public Regarding Agenda Items: The people present were most concerned with communicating the school’s budget to the public effectively. One vehicle suggested was the Civic Association’s website. Dr. Purnell noted that the Honeywell Alert System is open to the public, and that any citizen can sign up for school alerts. One can limit the alerts to exclude the early-morning school closing notices, and simply be alerted of upcoming Board meetings. Marianne Feledy noted that the school actually gave money BACK to the town last year, noting that this measure of the school’s fiscal responsibility was not common knowledge in Harding Township. Dick Bruno commented that a group of volunteers could build a mailing list and send out information about the school’s budget plan via the mail rather than electronically. Another member of the public suggested a “Mom’s Outreach” via telephone to interested mothers of students attending HTS.
Reports: Superintendent’s Report: Dr. Purnell thanked the school community for their professionalism during his tenure as superintendent. He briefly discussed a new state bill that would require Board members to submit to a criminal background check.
Madison Board of Education: Mr. Novotny noted that the search for superintendent is down to two candidates. One of the questions being posed to the candidates is “What is your opinion of a shared superintendent between Madison and Harding?” Mr. Novotny stated that the candidates’ responses gave him new perspective on the issue.
Morris County SBA: Mr. Modi stated that the MCSBA met with local legislators, whose general consensus was that no money was coming back to Morris County anytime soon. Assemblymen Bucco did state that he was available to discuss issues. Discussion also included merit pay for teachers and adjustments to the period of time it takes for teachers to achieve tenure.
President’s Comments: Jim Minkewicz will be the temporary Superintendent of Harding Township’s School District. The Board acknowledged its need to be more proactive in getting this year’s budget passed. The Board expressed its appreciation of the dialogue and discussion held tonight. He invited the public to continue to attend Board meetings, noting that discussion is preferable to holding Board meetings to an empty room.