As a past elected trustee and president of the Ringwood Board of Education, I
can express my personal opinions on education here but nothing expressed
should be considered Ringwood Board of Education opinion or policy.
These opinions are mine and mine alone and are expressed to keep Ringwood
taxpayers informed about how their tax dollars are being used to educate
our children. My discourse is designed to maintain a high level of
education in Ringwood, not to make friends.
In October, 2011, I was close to completing
my 4th consecutive
term for the Ringwood Board of Education when I left the board for personal
reasons. With 12 years of experience in Ringwood education,
I hope that Ringwood taxpayers realize the extent of my dedication to
the educational system in Ringwood. I consistently fought for the
highest quality education for the lowest possible cost.
Over the last few years we've experienced some increase in class
size which is not good. When I went to elementary school, I had 31 or 32 students in
each of my
classes. I daydreamed and stared out the windows all day. I eventually quit high school after many summers of going to
summer school to make up for failed classes. In my mid 20's I had an
awakening of some sort and I went
back to school and earned my GED. I followed that up with
Bachelor's (3.85 GPA) and Master's Degrees (4.0 GPA) earning Summa Cum Laude honors for both
degrees. I also became a member of Mensa, the High IQ Society. I
guess my teachers with the large class sizes failed me or at least could not
devote the time to me that I undoubtedly needed. Years later, if it was not
for my own innate strength and capabilities, I may never have made anything
of myself and I definitely would not have gone to college. I drifted
through school with undiagnosed AD/HD. Although my education was in
Experimental Psychology, I undertook a very satisfactory career in hi-tech
engineering management. I was
fortunate; I only lost a handful of years of my life. This is a prime
example of why
I see small class size as so important today. We need to give our students the best chance they can have
at succeeding in school, college and life.
The most difficult
situation that Ringwood education faces is trying to provide a high-quality
education at a reasonable cost to taxpayers. The state is constantly
interfering with the district’s right to self-rule via new legislation that
it is passing. A few years back, during the 2010-2011 school year, the governor proposed a cut in state aid that
in excess of $1,000,000 for Ringwood. In
addition, the Ringwood Board of Education was confronted with an increase in
health benefits greater than $500,000. After these hardships,
Ringwood Borough cut our failed budget by an astonishing $417,000 for the
2010-2011 fiscal year.
Ringwood started the school year with $2,000,000 less than we would
have expected. These cuts left Ringwood
Education in a sorry state. The New Jersey Governor is funneling
resources and personnel into his vendetta with teachers and education. What these poor
fools don't understand is that all of these cuts negatively impact education
for Ringwood students, but have no impact on teacher's salaries. Since
the 2010-2011 school year, most of the state aid was restored, but the costs
in health benefits continues to rise and we will never make up for the $417K
cut by then mayor Ted Taukus. Today, in 2017, this is the seventh year since the Taukus
cut which amounts to over 3.0M that the Ringwood school district has lost
on that cut thus far. That cut will never be given back to the
district and will continue to deplete the school budget for years to come. We've managed to hold class size relatively steady, but
that won't last indefinitely.
A more recent budgetary fiasco was the
implementation of full-day kindergarten in Ringwood. This project was
never effectively evaluated and the financial source for the funding was not
adequately studied or planned. Today, the 2016-2017 budget is severely
underfunded with drastic cuts expected in the very near future. Back
around the mid to late 2000s the Superintendent of the Ringwood school
system performed a study on the effectiveness of full-day kindergarten
versus half day classes. The study showed a small advantage for the
full day classes in grades 1 and 2, however, any advantage for the full-day
classes disappeared by grade 4. The full-day kindergarten program
should be dismantled in Ringwood and the savings used to maintain
competent, full time staff. The alternative may be outsourcing for
secretaries, paraprofessionals, and maintenance workers. This
alternative would send the Ringwood district spiraling downward into an
abyss of increasing inefficiency and ineffectiveness. Do you want the
security of your school relying on the skills of a $10.00 per hour short
term out-of-district, out-sourced employee with no community involvement nor commitment?
By the time an out-sourced individual learns the responsibilities of a
position in a school, they will be moving on to another position or school.
Let's look at a teacher's salary.
Ringwood, in the recent past, had quite a few senior teachers retire due to Governor
Christie's scare tactics. These teachers had more than 30 years of experience and a couple had as much as 40 years. Many retirees with 30 to
40 years of service had a Master's degree plus 45 credits. That's the
equivalent of two Master's degrees or virtually equivalent to a Ph.D.
I don't see any problem with a teacher with 35 years of experience and a
Master's Degree plus 45 credits making over $100K. These teachers
are not overpaid. An engineer with a Master's or even a Bachelor's
Degree can make well in excess of $100K with 30 years of experience. Why
shouldn't teachers? Over the last 10 to 12 years Ringwood has changed
from a district that was top heavy with highly paid senior experienced
teachers into a young district with many lower salaried minimally
experienced teachers. While these newer teachers are effectively
teaching our children, I can't help but wonder if the loss of all that
experience has impacted the district.
The state may try to force
Ringwood, Wanaque, and Lakeland Regional High School to
(consolidate) into a
single school district. Historically, this concept has also been
pushed for by the Passaic County Superintendent of Schools and the Lakeland
Board of Education. The push from the state is dramatically
reduced over the past few years, but it may heat up again and I remain firmly
committed against regionalization and I will
support the Ringwood district in its fight against regionalizing. When all the
aspects of regionalization are examined, it is likely that the costs
after regionalization will exceed current costs.
We might consolidate the superintendent positions with regionalization, but
each of the sending districts would want their own Assistant Superintendent
adding to the head count. Ringwood residents are
proud of our school system and our teachers and we do not want to see any
changes in an efficiently working system.
Finally, we get to the Ringwood assistant
superintendent. Our current assistant
superintendent is a highly competent, highly qualified individual. She
would probably be successful as a superintendent in her own right, but her
skills are being wasted as an assistant superintendent in Ringwood.
We've had this competent individual for quite a few years with no really
effective position for her. It appears that the assistant
superintendent position was created for her because she is so qualified and
there was no place else to effectively put her. The assistant
superintendent position should be eliminated and the person in the job
should be put into an educational position where she can be most effectively
utilized. Her skills, at this time, are being wasted in a small
district like Ringwood where there is no need for both a superintendent and
an assistant superintendent. I personally would like to see her
running our gifted and talented program which she once did in the past.
I'm sure there are a number of educational positions that could use her