Story: Ben Wolverton
CHESTERFIELD, NJ -
At Wednesday's Chesterfield Elementary School Board of Education meeting, officials voted to overturn an earlier ruling which eliminated the Instrumental Music Program and Library instruction.
On April 26th of this year, the board voted to remove the instrumental music program and library instruction. During that meeting, Board Vice-President Peggy Hallion responded to a public comment, saying "The thought of laying off a teacher or a paraprofessional had me awake many a night. Okay? Yes, this budget is terrible. We've got a beautiful school, we've got fantastic staff... and we're going to get some money, somewhere. My main thing right this minute is to open these doors next September with the money that our kids deserve."
Related: Lawmakers Agree on School Funding, Chesterfield Could Benefit
With last month's agreement between lawmakers at the state level regarding school funding, Chesterfield is set to receive an additional $401,205 towards the 2017-2018 school year, bringing the total funding to $821,188. This supplemental aid is a far cry from the millions our school district is allotted based on the 2008 School Funding Formula, but it has nearly doubled our state aid, and greatly reduced the $500,000 deficit the school board faced at the end of the last school year.
The meeting began with public comments from parents strongly suggesting that the board use the supplemental aid from the state to bring back the 5 paraprofessionals that were let go. In total, 5 people spoke during the first public comments portion and every one of them wanted to "throw in their support for the paras".
Chesterfield School Superintendent Scott Heino began his budget presentation by thanking members of the community (right) for their support for the school by calling legislators and participating in public hearings.
On the topic of fighting for fair school funding, Shamita Kumar, a parent said that she "hope[s] the board sees that when this community wants to do something, they do it." Kumar said the Board has to ask themself "How do we engage this community more transparently?"
At around 9:30pm, the board began their public discussion regarding what programs to reinstate. The Board voted unanimously to fund "Immediate Needs". Those are as follows
School Board President Jignesh Shah stated that the board seemed to all be in agreement to bring back the music program and library instruction. Board Member John Probasco pushed back, saying he feels the library is important, but he "sees other uses for that money." He continues, "We're not barring the doors on the library," referencing that students would still be able to check out books from the library, but only the younger grades would possibly have library instruction. "Should we get more money in the future, we can bring the program back."
The Board voted to bring back the Music Program and Library Instruction:
No public decision was made last night regarding paraprofessionals. 5 paras were let go last year, and during the board discussion, Probasco asked if bringing them back was an "all-or-nothing", meaning bring back all 5 or have them all employed from an outside source like Insight. Superintendent Heino said "It doesn't have to be."
At 10pm, the board went into a non-public Executive Session. No public announcements were made following the meeting.
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