Budget Is Passed – But Controversy Continues

May 25, 2023

A divided Bernards Township Board of Ed continues to attract media attention and draw large crowds to its Monday night meetings. After insisting on a budget that drives a 0% increase to taxpayers, the BOE passed its final budget on May 8 in a 7-2 vote, with Nimish Amin and Csilla Csipak dissenting. Nearly 100 community members were in attendance.

Many parents, administrators and teachers remain concerned that the board is not considering the needs of students in this post-pandemic environment, rife with mental health and skyrocketing HIB reports (Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying). While the new budget allows for maintaining four assistant principals at Ridge, three at William Annin and one at each of the district’s four elementary schools, the BOE continues to target and challenge administrative costs and the need for students’ assistant principal support at every grade level.

The Board convened at a BT Connect session on May 22 to invite public input related to saving transportation costs via a three-tiered busing system, and an adjustment to later start time for high school students. This is a common-sense option that may save money and benefit the student body.

Controversy surrounding the BOE’s rejection of two sociology textbooks recommended by Ridge’s history curriculum writing team to replace an outdated 2014 textbook continues to concern stakeholders and cloud the Board’s discourse. News outlets ranging from the Washington Post to the Bernardsville News have covered the group’s two 5-4 votes that occurred earlier this spring, votes that rebuffed our own educators’ recommendations. Commentary from audience members at the May 8 meeting addressed the negative attention garnered by this Board and the effects the publicity might ultimately have on property values.

— Janice Corrado

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