December 12, 2016 Board of Education Meeting

Board of Education Meeting Highlights: December 12, 2016

This meeting was held at the earlier time of 6pm in order to allow all present to attend the Harding Municipal Building open house tour showcasing the recent upgrades to the facility which commenced at 7:30, the usual time for the Board of Education meeting. This was Dr Howard Kotkin’s final Board meeting, having served with distinction for the last two years. Accordingly, he was recognized by the Superintendent and the Board President for his outstanding service. A plaque showing the school sign and the citation was presented, along with many eloquent and heartfelt words of appreciation. He will be replaced this January by newly elected Mr. Bruno, who was in the audience. It was reported that the recently held Pancake Breakfast fundraiser was exceptionally well attended.

A grant application submitted at the initiative of the Business Administrator was awarded by the No Child Left Behind program which will fund a new teaching position for the Leveled Learning Intervention Program, a value to the District of about $40,000. The Board also approved “a day of service” whereby the students would participate in various volunteer service opportunities. Although this had always been done on an ad hoc basis in the past, this year the school is implementing a comprehensive, coordinated and school-wide effort, developed by the School’s Principal/Director of Curriculum, Ms. Mary Donohue. The assignments are as follows:

  • Grade 2 – Cora Hartshorn Arboretum, Short Hills
  • Grade 3 – Grow it Green, Morristown
  • Grades 4 & 5 – PG Chambers School, Cedar Knolls
  • Grade 6 – Community Soup Kitchen
  • Grades 7 & 8 – Community Food Bank, Hillside

Meeting Highlights: Meeting November 28,2016

Exemplary Elementary Educator. Jennifer Baldassari, Middle School Language Arts teacher was honored by the New Jersey Department of Education as a 2016 Exemplary Elementary Educator. The Harding Board of Education honored Mrs. Baldassari at its meeting with a unanimous Motion that recognized her “ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn, for her clear vision of quality teaching and learning, and for her strong educational knowledge and skill.” Superintendent Matt Spelker presented her with the State Department of Education Certificate for this significant honor. In attendance at the meeting honoring Mrs. Baldassari were her husband and two children, many Harding faculty, and a number of parents including the President of the Harding PTO Cathleen Lazor.

Facilities and Finance. The school auditor, Mr. Tim Vrabel of TMVrabel Associates (school auditor since 2008), presented, and the Board accepted, the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ending 30 June 2016. There were no Recommendations arising from the audit. Of particular interest to the Board and public was that the capital reserve at $471K remains very solid. Facilities and Finance Committee chair Howard Kotkin reported that preliminary budget work for the 2017-2018 fiscal year was beginning. The Committee is also revising the facilities plan.

Personnel and Management. Committee chair Kim Macaulay reported that preparations are underway for faculty contract negotiations.

Superintendent Report. Superintendent Matt Spelker reported that he was continuing articulation sessions with the Madison Superintendent, with the most recent occurring on 17 November. These will continue with the Madison Interim Superintendent once that person has been selected, following the departure on 30 November of the current superintendent for the Sparta school district. Mr. Spelker also reported that a joint Harding school/Harding Township Health Officer discussion on the opioid problem is scheduled for 5 December. The Township now contracts its Health Officer from the Morris County Health Department.

Executive Session. The Board entered into Executive Session to discuss (a) Madison personnel and (b) Harding faculty contract negotiations.

Board of Education Meeting Highlights: November 14, 2016

Sometimes it just happens that a number of good things about our District come to light at the same time, helping us realize just how excellent our schools and their people really are. And this was the situation at this meeting. First, the Principal presented the Teacher Mentoring Plan whereby each new teacher in our District is assigned a Mentor who interacts to provide insight and guidance of how things are at Harding – a valuable experience of support and encouragement. This program has been well received and contributes to the high spirit and camaraderie of the faculty.

Second, Andrew Novotny, a Harding alumni and now a Senior at Madison High, presented his Eagle Scout Project which was to establish an “Outdoor Learning Pavilion” on the Harding school grounds so that science students can spend more time outdoors in real contact with the actual material of their study. This project was quite involved as building permits, plans, materials, and coordination were needed to really make this happen. Presently, all seems on track for groundbreaking in early January. Andrew developed this project as a way of “giving back” to his school and community – making everyone present feel quite proud.

Next, it was reported that the Harding Township Board of Education was awarded the Carol E. Larson “Master Board” certification by the New Jersey School Boards Association. During the course of the ten years that this award has been in place, only 13 Boards of Education – out of over 580 Boards in the State of New Jersey – have ever received this prized distinction. Then, it was reported that Mrs. Jennifer Baldassari, a third grade teacher at the Elementary School, was recognized as an Exemplary Elementary Educator for 2016 by the New Jersey Department of Education. She is one of only eighty recipients state-wide (out of over 100,00 elementary school teachers) to receive this distinguished award. Board will present this award to her at the November 28th Board of Education meeting.

Now for the report of the PARCC situation. This is the second year of the program and Harding has adjusted quite well as you will note below compared with other schools in New Jersey:

  • Out of 1,344 elementary schools Harding moved up 84 spots from 2015 and is now ranked 29th!
  • Out of 706 middle schools, Harding moved up 262 spots from 2015, and is now ranked 17th!
  • Harding Township School District is now ranked 14th in the State out of 609 districts, moving up 133 spots from 2015.

Well, that was the big news of the night. Looking ahead for those interested in the school budget, the financial audit will be presented at the next meeting, November 28th. (Note: the purpose of this brief report is to help Harding residents connect with the School by highlighting significant items addressed by the Board and are not “meeting minutes.” Those are filed by the Board Secretary and placed on the Harding School website for all to view, generally about a month after the meeting date.)