Board of Education

Board of Education January 2017


Board of Education Meeting – 7:00pm, Monday January 9, 2017

Board Budget.   Superintendent Matt Spelker presented the preliminary 2017/2018 Harding Township school operating budget.   The Superintendent stated three guidelines for the budget

1) With the exception of union contractual obligations, the budget process is zero-based

2) Current 2016-2017 spending patterns are analyzed for trends

3) Budget projections are made for up to 18 months in the future


Stated as major factors in the budget process, and that introduce uncertainties in both revenue and expenses, include enrollment (a net increase of 11 students occurred in enrollment in 2016-2017), health care costs (preliminary health premium increase of 10%-12% estimated), costs for out-of-district placement for special education students (preliminary estimated 4%-6% increase), maintenance needs (HVAC needs for the elementary building delayed from last year due to high bids received), curriculum enhancements, tuition students (current income from tuition-paying students is about $80K), and state aid ($238K in 2016-2017).     Another large uncertainty is the faculty union contract, which is under current negotiation. 


In response to a question from the Thumbnail reporter, the Superintended and board president, Davor Gjivoje, noted that the Board Facilities and Finance Committee would be discussing the several school finance state aid proposals that have been made by the Governor and legislators.   The Board would discuss the implications of these for Harding at a future Board meeting.


The Superintendent summarized the preliminary budget by stating that the 2016-2017 budget might increase by about 2% over the 2016-2017 budget of $11.4M.   For reference, there was a 2.9% increase for the 2016-2017 budget over that for 2015-2016.


Budget schedule: (a) Preliminary budget II on March 13; (b) Tentative budget approved by Board and submitted to County Superintendent in March (date not specified); (c) Public hearing on budget on April 24.


The Superintendent’s slide presentation is posted on the school web site:

Superintendent Report. Superintendent Spelker reported that he continued with his contacts with the Madison school administration, meeting with interim Superintendent Noonan on January 3.


Harding students placed 5th out of 85 NJ schools participating in the Future Cities competition (“The Power of Public Space”) on January 14 at the Livingston campus of Rutgers University (   The 8 participating students will present their work at the February 27 Board meeting.


Superintendent Spelker announced that the annual Harding science fair would be held on February 7.   The school play will be held on March 18-19.


Facilities and Finance.   The Board approved a contract for nursing services for a special education out of district placement with Bayada Home Health Care for $300/day for a six-hour day through June 30, 2017, with a termination clause of thirty days notice.


Madison Report.   Abi Singh, Board representative to the Madison Board of Education, reported that the Madison superintendent search was on-going.    He also reported that the Madison STEM enhancements were on track for completion in August.   There are upgrades for the Madison junior school and a new STEM addition for the high school.   The funding comes from the sale of the Madison Board property on Green Village Road.


Executive Session.  The Board entered into executive session to discuss the status of negotiations with the Harding Township Education Association union. No actions were to be taken.


Board of Education Meeting Highlights: February 6, 2017

Board Business.   Board president and chair of the Policy Committee Davor Gjivoje guided the Board and the public in attendance in an extensive and lengthy first reading of 45 Board Bylaws, Policies, and Regulations that require changes, modifications, and/or introduction for 2017.  A large majority of these are required by state legislative mandates.   Others are Board responsibilities in the context of effective school oversight and administration.  More than 15 mandated policies are in categories related to health, affirmative action, and student assessment.   A new mandated policy controls the use of drones over public school property.   Another mandated policy relates to professional development for teachers and school leaders, aligning the development to mandated professional standards.   A Bylaw on recording of Board meetings was revised.  The Board also proposes to change slightly its policy on public participation at meetings by giving the presiding officer (usually the president) the option at the president’s discretion to extend an individual public comment beyond the current 5-minute limit.   This policy change will provide for the Board to engage in even more constructive discussion with the public. 


The Bylaws, Policies, and Regulations are posted on the Board website:  

The second reading and passage will occur at the February 27th meeting.


The Board also heard and engaged in a lengthy discussion of school board ethics, led by the Board’s legal counsel Marc Zitomer.   The New Jersey Code requires a Board to discuss annually school ethics, but does not specify how such discussion should occur.   The Harding Board opts for transparency purposes to have such a yearly discussion in public and in depth.   Mr. Zitomer led the discussion of both sections of the School Ethics Act: Section 1 – Conflicts of Interest, and Section 2 – Code of Ethics (which relates to Board conduct and leadership of the school).   Copies of Mr. Zitomer’s slides are available from the Board office. 


Superintendent Report. Superintendent Matt Spelker reported that he continued with his articulation sessions with the Madison school administration, meeting again with interim Madison Superintendent Noonan on January 31st.   Among other items discussed was the synchronization of the calendars of the two schools.    Superintendent Spelker also reported that the Madison High School Principal and the Junior High School Principal met on January 20 in Harding with Harding school Principal Mary Donohue.


Superintendent Spelker proudly announced that the Harding girls’ basketball team had finished in second place in the championship tournament held in Whippany on February 4th.   He reported that the stands were filled with cheering Harding students, parents, and teachers.


The school play will be held on March 17-19 in the Sellitto gymnasium.

The next tentative school budget will be presented to the public at the March 13th Board meeting.  


Curriculum and Instruction.   Committee member Richard Bruno reported that work was in progress for the roll out in September of the elementary school NextGen science standards. and accompanying links

These standards are hands-on and laboratory-based.   Currently, the Harding elementary school devotes three 40-minute periods a week to science instruction.


Facilities and Finance.   The Board approved unanimously the January 2017 bill list in the amount of $946,774.13.


Science Fair.   The Harding Science Fair was held the evening following the Board meeting, February 7.   Some 130 students K-8 were involved, more than one third of the student body.   The students participated individually or as two-person teams.   All of the student participants appeared to be enthusiastic about their intellectual and hands-on opportunities to develop hypotheses, experimental procedures, and understanding of the world of biology, physical sciences, and engineering.     Non-Harding science teachers and researchers judged the projects of participants in grades 5-6 and 7-8.   


Grades 5-6

1st Place:       Sophia Nguyen         Training a guinea pig through a maze

2nd Place       Vedran Gjivoje         Comparing liquids for evaporation rate

3rd Place        Erin Barisonek         How music can impact memory


Grades 7-8

1st Place        Olivia and Grace

                   DiRienzo                 Corrosiveness of types of soda on coins

2nd Place       Maya Tahl               Hydraulic lift model

3rd Place        Lily Barisonek Effects of various beverages on teeth


(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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