Board of Education

Board of Education December 2016


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


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


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


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.)

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