Sunday, December 2, 2012

A New Assistant Superintendent for EPSD

November 29, 2012
Regular Board Meeting: Highlights

Carlisle introduced Dr. Michele James as our new Assistant Superintendent. Regardless of the headlines, we have been requesting an Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction for a long time. Dr. Carlisle also announced the abolishing of the position of Program Director of Mandarin for reasons of improved economy. 

Barry Harris, volunteer paraprofessional football coach was given the 2nd mile Award.

Adrian Lynette Bickham was honored. She just completed her final season as Cheer leading Coach for Dwight Morrow High School. Adrian is a DMHS graduate and has lead the team for many years. We must thank her for years of service.

3 students and their Media Arts Teacher were honored for their work with the Center for Food Action. They organized students and prepared food baskets for the needy in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Dr. Carlisle announced a freeze on spending. He also announced that there is an outside audit being conducted.

B. Ruffle distributed 6A Chapter 14 Special Education manuals to all members of the Board of Education. She carried a large sheet of construction paper on which she had crafted a clever lesson detailing the makeup of the 3 different types of classrooms available to Special Needs Students. It was very effective and informative. Stephen Brown interrupted her before it was over and told her that she was out of order and that the decision had already been made concerning 2 employees needed. Mr. Brown was rude. The public clearly wanted to hear the rest of the presentation. I wanted one of those little blue books.  He assured her that the Board is fully aware of the contents of 6A Chapter 14 and Special Education Law. I seriously doubt that based on the actions of the Board in regard to paraprofessionals in the past year. Has the Child Study Team been disbanded or abolished also? Will the Special needs students be abolished next? We gave B. Ruffle a standing ovation. We understand her frustration. This Board has gutted her department. Where do these actions leave the most vulnerable students in the district? 

Citizens for Public Education are Advocates of Special Education. - Join a group of concerned graduate students at the event below if you would like more of the type of information that Ms. Ruffle was attempting to give on Thursday night.

My fellow graduate school colleagues and I will be hosting a Parent Training on "Navigating the Special Education System." Our purpose is to help you understand the steps involved in getting services for a child with needs, whether you suspect delay or disability, through both Early Intervention and the public school system. We will discuss the basic procedures and available services under the laws and regulations of New Jersey. Our guest speaker, Director of Public Policy at the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) will be providing information about parent rights throughout the process.
Please join us:

On Saturday, December 8, 2012 @9:30 am
Montclair State University
1 Normal Avenue
Montclair, New Jersey 07043

Back to the meeting
One student made a heart wrenching, tearful and sincere plea for another look to be taken at the firing of middle school guidance counselors. 

Dave Matthews wanted to know where the Mandarin Program was going. He was also concerned that EPSD is recruiting people from districts at the bottom in terms of achievement and test scores. He suggested that we should recruit from places like Ridgewood. There it is again. That same identity crisis often demonstrated by the Board. We want people to work in our town who want to be here. Dr. James addressed his concerns. Her answers were satisfactory to me. She deserves a chance, because she wants to be here. There are teachers here who have not demonstrated that desire.  I also watched her during the tearful students speech. She was empathetic. That is important. You may learn a little about her as she testifies before the Joint Committee on Public Schools: Abbott Districts in 2001.  I even like the idea that her office is based at Quarles. This is the beginning. More students must learn to read before leaving Quarles.

There was some banter back and forth about Athletes getting special tutoring in order to make sure they are eligible to play sports. It baffles me why this tutoring must be separated out for the athlete. Have all students deemed in need of academic help been identified? It really does not matter if the student  is playing a sport. Or does it?

Glenn Garrison introduced a controversial resolution at the final hour. He suggested that they hire the same architect that worked on the football stadium, Bennett, as the architect of record. He suggested they hire him at the rate of $125 an hour. He claimed that it was an emergent situation, because they cannot continue to park the buses where they are currently parked. He has asserted before that the City Council has complained about where the buses are parked. No one on the City Council has been able to confirm this. On the way home, I noticed that the buses were parked in the lot at Liberty School. Where is the emergency? Seems the emergent situation would be in making St. Cecilia ADA accessible. It should be noted that Mr. Garrison always manages to shift the focus from student achievement onto buildings and facilities.

Fillerbustering -  I must take this opportunity now to inform our esteemed Board President that we do know what he is doing when someone from the public that is well known to him approaches the microphone and poses a question. We have watched these same "high profile parents" ask questions and get 1/2 hour answers during the public privilege of the floor on several occasions. Mr. Brown then proceeds to answer these  questions in a long drawn out speech that rivals the ones on the Senate floor presently called fillerbusters. We have videotaped footage of Mr. Brown being very cordial and respectful of certain parents and speaking to them for upwards of 20 to 30 minutes making sure that they are comfortable with the answers. The point here is that taken together Mr. Brown's speeches put end to end are sometimes more than an hour per meeting. We have the videotape. It seems very planned and scripted.

This does not stop Mr. Brown from accusing the public of making the meetings run over long. We do not make the Board conduct 3 hour closed sessions. It is not our fault that they meet from 6:30 to 7:30 or 8:00 and then for another 3 hours after some meetings. We are not the ones in control of this. We are hardly ever given more than 40 minutes altogether. During Wednesday's meeting, he reminded us that other boards meet for only 1 hour a month. Well, name that town. Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from them.

There are just too many excuses and far too much eagerness to cast the blame for everything on teachers and principals. It is way past time to call in a New Jersey School Boards Field Representative. It is time to sit down as a team and develop some solid goals for the district. It is very irresponsible to blame administrators, teachers, parents and students when they have not completed the minimum basic requirements expected of a school board. This will give us all a road map. Perhaps we will all stop wasting each other's time once this is done.

By the way, we all know that Glenn Garrison does not take the appointment of Delegate to the New Jersey School Boards Association seriously. Perhaps if any other member of the Board had been selected, we would have accepted it on face value. I look forward to hearing his report on the latest Delegate Assembly. The days are over that we simply take the word of elected officials regarding actions required and responsibilities accepted without confirmation.

Please avoid having winter meetings in this building. We  realize that the show should go on the road,
but more planning would be appreciated. Parking is limited. In the winter months it is very scary to park in the rear of the building above. The lot in the back is not lit at all. It is very scary as the moonlight is reflected off that sludge on the pond. Please think well on that.

"We know that business is booming and facilities are beautiful, 
but how are the children?"

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