Join S.U.S.

Upcoming 2019-20 Meetings

Sept. 17
Oct. 22
Nov 26
Jan 28*
Feb 28
March 20
April 24
May 15

Regular meetings held 3rd Floor Mondo, 8 :15 a.m.

*Special meeting held at The Hickcok Meeting Room, Summit Public Library,6:30 pm.

BOE February meeting highlights

Yesterday’s meeting was a long one, with 2 presentations and a budget report.

Three things striking me last night:

A dramatic increase of kids struggling with serious mental issues.
Mrs. Doreen Babis, Director of Special Education Services, mentioned in her strategic vision presentation that there has been an alarming increase in the number of kids facing serious mental issues, as well as, an increase in behavioral problems in schools. The cases requiring interventions have more than double and this affects not only the student and their families but has a ripple effect on fellow students, teachers, school counselors, nurses, etc. She has been advocating for widening the services provided in-situ. By having a specialist in the district, not only the costs are reduced but most importantly, intervention and effective risk assessment can occur early, providing more efficiently the help our kids need before issues continue to escalate further. She introduced Sonia Rodrigues-Marto, Director of School Programs of Rutgers University Behavioral Healthcare Care (UBH), who will be working as a Heath Clinician to provide more behavioral and emotional support to aid in students’ mental health issues.

-A call for eliminating the Achievement Gap
A group of concern citizens made a call to the BOE to take a more radical approach to eliminate, not just incrementally reduce, the achievement gap in our schools. It is remarkable how this issue has been on the table for more than 16 years and there is still a sense that not enough has been done to tackle this problem.

-Budget ORAL report
I’ll start by saying that the take-home message was that most likely the budget will not exceed the 2% cap. Although the wild card is how much state aid Summit will receive since there’s no official information yet. The BOE and administration have been working hard to keep the budget under the 2% cap by continuously looking for efficiencies, like continue leasing some equipment or switching to LED lighting as a green way to reduce costs.
Unfortunately, I can’t be more specific with the details, given this was an ORAL report ant NOT a visual presentation of the budget, maybe it’s just me who requires/prefers a more tangible medium to learn about the way the budget is discussed. I was looking for some specific numbers, like how many sections they are projecting to have next year, especially since this was a big issue last year and considering that enrollment seems to be on the rise in my kid’s school.
Again, maybe It’s just personal preference, but by not having information accessible for me to look at and analyze, the possibilities of learning about the decision process and clarify questions to provide feedback, are significantly reduced. They reassured the data would come at a later meeting.

To be clear, after several years of attending the BOE meetings, I have no doubt of the commitment of the BOE and the administration to have a balanced budget with the minimum impact on the tax-levy while providing an excellent education for our kids. I have enough confidence in their decision-making process to be willing to hear attentively – in case they indeed consider going over the 2% cap- why they are taking that unconventional decision before providing any input. They reassured the data would come at a later meeting.

Seeing how the budget discussion has evolved from having very detailed presentations from different departments (Special Education, Tech department, etc.) to having general overviews of different departments in the -now removed- workshop meeting, to seeing a summary presentation of the budget draft by Mr. Louis Pepe at the regular BOE meeting, to just hearing about it, I’m starting to have the feeling that is the BOE and the administration the ones not interested in having that conversation.