UPDATE: Lisa Freschi is not the first woman to serve as BOE president. Barbara Mamchur became president in 1980 when the then president died before his term was up. Hilda Jaffe was president in the late 1960s and led the board through a tumultuous period after Verona opened its schools to Newark students in the wake of the 1967 riot in that city. MyVeronaNJ regrets the error.
The Verona Board of Education seated its two new members, Timothy Alworth and Pam Priscoe, on Tuesday night and chose Lisa Freschi to be its president, the first woman to hold that title on the BOE. Glenn Elliott will be vice president. Freschi, who narrowly won election to a second term in November 2017, had previously served as the Board’s vice president.
The BOE also made the assignments for each of its five standing committees. Buildings & Grounds will be Jim Day and Freschi, Finance will be Priscoe and Elliott, Education/Special Education is Alworth and Elliott, Community Resources is Alworth and Lisa Freschi, and Athletics & Co-Curricular is Priscoe and Day.
There was a light agenda for the meeting. Verona C.H.I.L.D. (Children Having Individual Learning Differences) presented grants for books, Chromebooks and an iPad; Athletic Director Robert Merkler reported on the fall sports season; and the Board accepted an anonymous donation of $25,000 given for Brookdale Elementary School.
In his presentation for the Education Committee, Elliott gave updates on the two special questions that voters approved in November. Effective School Solutions, the private company that will implement the district’s new mental health services, has hired the three clinicians who will work in Verona and the district has reached out to families who could benefit from the services. The first day of full-day kindergarten will be January 28. Each of Verona’s four elementary school principals will be having meetings with current kindergarten parents to explain procedures for the expanded school day.
Superintendent Dr. Rui Dionisio said that the district will be implementing two homework-free weekends in the second half of the 2019-2019 school year, the weekends of February 1-3 and May 17-19. He said the district has begun to quantify what needs to be in the next referendum and expects to have an estimate for it in the next few weeks.
Dionisio also said that Verona, like many of the surrounding districts, is having a “tremendous” problem finding substitutes. “It’s a supply and demand issue that everybody is facing,” he said. He noted that while Verona is in the top 50% of districts in terms of substitute pay, even district that pay more are facing shortages. Dionisio said Verona has reached to some of the local colleges to alert students to the possibility of being a substitute. In Essex County, substitutes have to have 60 college credits, a substitute credential certificate, and a background check. “If anybody knows anybody, have them reach out to us,” Dionisio said.
You can watch the full meeting in the video below: