Self-Eval Looming

September 26, 2023

September 18th’s Board of Education meeting featured an informal work session designed for board self-evaluation and goal setting, followed by a traditional meeting. Both assemblies were open to the public. However, because the group did not receive the materials necessary to engage in the self-evaluation piece until earlier that same morning, they plan to conduct the exercise at a later date, likely during the next public board forum.

In terms of goal setting, the board identified several district goals and discussed the first at great length – targeted supplemental instruction for 3rd and 4th grades in the aftermath of the pandemic. There was debate between the newer conservative faction and the other board members about expanding this effort to additional grades. Additional board goals include measuring transportation costs, inventory and facilities assessments, and gauging student and staff wellness.

The second part of the meeting kicked off with an upbeat report about goings-on among the student body from Ridge’s new senior class representative to the board, Natalie Ramirez. Superintendent Nick Markarian said the year is off to a strong start after a few transportation challenges. The district has experienced growth at the elementary levels, yet net enrollment is down about 12 students due to declining numbers at William Annin and Ridge.

In giving the Financial Committee report, Kirsten Light cited a tentative $8 million grant reimbursement that the district stands to reap as a result of a $20 million application the board submitted to the state for facilities upgrades (ranging from roofing to HVAC improvements). If the grant comes through, it will be the Sixth-highest award in NJ this year.

Also of note, board member Tim Salmon discussed a new elective class on happiness and the science of wellness that will be offered at Ridge. This class is inspired by a popular elective offered at Yale University.  The course textbook, Happier, will be available for review in the Board of Education office as well as at The Bookworm in Bernardsville.

Public comment closed out the meeting. Topics residents inquired about included when the board would, in fact, conduct its self-evaluation; why students are disciplined for not having their lanyards with them; and what is being done about teacher retention given the great staff the district currently has. The board was also thanked by one resident for working with the township in getting the road between the high school and the municipal complex paved.

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