by Kristen Kubilus
A presentation for a new adult school, as well as plans to tackle the proposed state budget and overcrowding in schools, were the main focuses on the agenda at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting.
One of the first items addressed was Bloomfield High School teacher Anthony Todaro’s outline for a new adult school for the township.
“An adult school is a great thing for any community,” said Todaro. “It would provide Bloomfield with a life-long learning experience.”
According to Todaro, the primary advantages to having an adult school would include more cultured, marketable, and educated residents. “It would provide a wide array of classes in the arts, sciences, and foreign languages,” he said.
Todaro continued, “If we bring people into the adult school, even if they are just visitors, they will be able to see what’s going on [(after school extra-curriculars)], and it will provide them with a positive outlook on our school system.”
The teacher noted that Bloomfield High School would be the most suitable location for the adult school, as it is the best equipped, especially in terms of technology.
When questioned by the Board as to the estimated cost of the new school, Todaro said, “I can’t put it in a dollar amount right now.” However, Todaro did announce that he had several ideas to effectively market the program, along with a plan for a sponsorship program for its funding.
“I believe that the school could become a reality if it was priced right,” he said. “I think it would be a win-win situation for all of us.”
When the Board opened up the meeting to matters of public concern, town resident Demetri Rosario expressed his uneasiness involving overcrowding and school of choice students being grandfathered in to their respected schools. Several members of the Board attempted to ease his tension and reassure him that they were making strides in equalizing schools across the district.
Superintendent Jason Bing said, “We’re instituting a comprehensive professional development plan, and we’ve made deep improvements in regards to curriculum, technology, and leadership [at Watsessing and Brookdale]. Training is 85% in-house. Teachers are teaching teachers.”
Board President Mary Shaughnessy added, “We are expecting to see radical improvement. Everyone on this Board is devoted to equalizing our schools.”
Board member Emily Smith said, “Overcrowding in schools is specifically related to the economy. Parents can no longer afford private education, so they are sending their children to public schools. We need to figure out where to put our sixth graders. The re-districting will not be a matter of geography, but grade level.”
The Board announced plans for an upcoming long-term facilities meeting to address the overcrowding issue and possibility for re-districting.
Board members also notified attendees of the meeting that Tuesday marked the first day of the observation of Bloomfield schools by approximately 25 teachers from Shenzhen City, China. Bloomfield teachers and principles are to administer shadow training to the Chinese delegation. This will allow the delegation to take classes with Bloomfield students, participate in Bloomfield school activities, and give lectures to students to introduce Chinese history and culture.
“We’re learning about them, and they’re learning about us,” said Board Vice President Shane Berger.
The stipend for the delegation is a donation made to the Bloomfield Education Foundation.
As the meeting drew to a close, Shaughnessy encouraged residents to attend an education town hall and panel discussion on Tuesday, June 12 at 7 p.m. to examine how the proposed state budget will impact public schools. The panel will feature Senator Ronald Rice, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, Ray Pinney of the New Jersey School Boards Association, and Julia Sass Rubin of Save Our Schools NJ.
“At the end of the meeting, there will be an action plan,” Shaughnessy said. “We all have to be our own best advocates. We want to bring more dollars to educate our children better. We’re already running on fumes. We need you all here.”
Stay tuned for more BOE news: Teachers Awarded at the May 29 BOE meeting.