Last week, the Verona Board of Education devoted most of its meeting to a presentation about its plans for a referendum. That meeting, which you can view here, answered some questions about the project–and left many others unanswered. The vote on the referendum won’t come until next spring, but there’s lots of work that still has to happen, which means lots of opportunities for the voters of Verona to shape a project that will have an impact on their wallets for decades to come. Remember, you no longer have the right to vote on the yearly school budget. So here are some questions to consider:
1. Why are we doing this?
Verona’s schools are old. Five of our six schools date from the late 1920s or early 1930s. Our newest school is Verona High School, which was completed in 1956. Old buildings need maintenance and cuts to school budgets over the years have in many ways hit building maintenance the hardest.
The BOE’s annual budget for buildings and grounds spending is $2.5 million, but much of that is allocated for everything but maintenance. Salaries for custodians total almost $1.4 million and we spend $620,000 on gas and electric bills. The operating budget is now just $350,000, down from $495,000 for the 1998-99 school year, and of that, only $200,000 is available for repairs and improvements. The rest is spent on fixed recurring costs like the fire alarm system and custodial supplies.
The buildings are showing their age: There are spots on the facade at Brookdale where the bricks have pulled away by an inch or more. Masonry repairs are also needed at H.B. Whitehorne and Forest.
And when Verona’s schools were built, they weren’t built with things that are deemed essential in schools now, like computer networks and high security doors and windows. The referendum would add a district-wide computer network so that Wi-Fi could be used in every classroom and so that Verona could administer a new test that the state Department of Education is mandating, but not paying for. Tech upgrades alone amount to about $500,000. We must also improve school security: 61 doors are slated for replacement at all six buildings so that they will close properly and be fitted with surveillance cameras and, possibly, alarms. The referendum would also fund the application of a protective film on ground-floor windows so that they could not easily be shattered by intruders or bad weather.
Question 2: Where will we spend the money?
And teachers are working without a contract for two years.
Why should our tax dollars go to pay for unfunded but mandated testing? The PARCC is just a corporate money grab. It is obscene that parents have to fund unnecessary testing that takes precious time away from actual learning. Is there a specific amount of money dedicated to the implementation of PARCC, and if so, what is this amount? Parents need to be aware of the impact of data mining associated with the PARCC. Is there any way we can start a group opt out movement? Testing will show what we already know about our superior students and terrific teachers. Think of what we could do with the money that is going to be wasted on corporate testing.
Besides the obvious school properties what else does the Board of Education own in Verona??? I can’t seem to find that answer anywhere.I think its worth knowing when considering any plans to go forward.
The district used to own one of the houses on Gould Street opposite HBW, and the superintendent’s office was there. But that was sold many years ago.
At the last BOE meeting in October, the dollar amount was announced as $17 million by John Quattrocchi for the referendum. Makes me wonder how much will it really be up to by the time we have the final plan.
For the amount of money spent on the last referendum and the current proposal, a new school could have built. Consolidating 2 or more schools, making in “green” to cut costs in heating, cooling and upkeep.