The the South Orange Board of Trustees and the South Orange - Maplewood Board of Education (BOE) shared information on important issues -- including budgets, redevelopment and more -- that impact both towns and the school district at a special workshop on Thursday.
Here is a summary of some of what was discussed:
Moving BOE Elections to November
The group discussed the possibility of moving the BOE elections from April to November. In the past, the Maplewood Township Committee (TC) voted in favor of the move; while the South Orange Board of Trustees declined to take any action and the Board of Education voted against.
(BOE President Beth Daugherty explained that SOMSD is unusual in that it is the only school district of its type in the state that has a Board of School Estimate as the ultimate taxing authority on school budgets, rather than having a public vote on budgets.)
A bill currently moving through the state assembly, that would enable the district to vote to change the election date, is likely to pass. If the elections are moved, the BOE would become the taxing authority, with the BSE coming into play for capital budget matters only.
Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca pointed out that the BSE does not actually put together the school budget; the BOE does. Addressing the BOE members, DeLuca quipped, "I want you on the hook" for the school budget.
Daugherty said that by December, the Board of Education will vote on whether they are in favor of moving the election date.
Residency and Reregistration
The district also presented an update on residency issues and the district's reregistration process, and how the district works with the administrations of both towns on the issue.
Superintendent Osborne clarified that all but 3 have since proved their residency.
Maplewood Township Committee member Jerry Ryan asked if there was a way to determine how effective the reregistration had been compared to the district's regular, ongoing efforts -- such as cooperating with both towns -- to determine students' residency. Osborne said he didn't know the answer to that.
DeLuca pointed out that Maplewood Township is currently prosecuting someone who illegally allowed people to use his address as their own. The township's fine for someone found guilty of that crime is $1,000 plus investigation costs.
"That's a big deterrent," said Daugherty. DeLuca said the Board should make the public aware that the combined efforts of both towns and the district are ongoing.
Osborne said the district is currently weighing whether the 10th grade reregistration process was successful enough to warrant continuation.
District Capital Plan and CHS Pool
The current state of the Columbia High School pool was discussed at length, at this meeting and Monday night's Board of Education meeting. Patch will report more fully on this in an upcoming article.
Since early 2011, the district has been working with El Architectural and Engineering to identify critical capital projects throughout the district. Renewing the buildings and grounds of Columbia High School is a big priority, said Daugherty.
The pool is an important part of the changes. Its deteriorating condition means that it will have to be either renovated or repurposed by 2014, which has led the board to consider how to achieve more classroom space and fix the pool at the same time.
Daugherty laid out three possible scenarios:
- build a new pool in a new aquatic center attached to the school (perhaps in the current gym parking lot); renovate the pool into classroom space
- build a new wing for science labs and renovate the pool in its current space
- eliminate the pool entirely by turning the space into classrooms
The architectural firm is currently looking into the options. Daugherty noted that the Board would ask the question: "How much money is the community willing to invest in increasing classroom space and the pool?"
She said an aquatic center that could be used by the community could be "an asset." The BOE is currently in conversations with the South Mountain YMCA and other organizations about potential partnerships.
DeLuca and South Orange Village President also gave updates on redevelopment in their respective towns. Patch will report more on those issues in upcoming articles.