Last week’s Marlboro School Board meeting was held virtually out of an abundance of caution because of the rise in Covid and omicron cases in the state. The board suspended public comments because of the technical difficulty of accommodating the public virtually.
Superintendent Michael Brooks said the district is, “in the thick of things with Covid with a lot of challenges, but I want to make sure that the public, the students and our staff understand that our focus is on keeping our schools open. Thank you so much to our staff who have gone above and beyond with helping us manage through quarantines, with challenges, with questions and changes in rules. Thank you so much to everyone who is stepping up and those of you who are sick with Covid we want you to get well quickly and without any serious health effects. Come back to us as soon as you possibly can. We have some challenges but we are meeting those challenges.”
Rosanne Mele, Asst. Superintendent for Business & Personnel, said the district has been able to provide home Covid test kits to any student who may have been exposed, “and if need be a second kit for the third test.” She said currently the district has 38 students participating in this program, which is also being utilized by the staff.
“It’s been a very busy week for our nurses but a very productive week for them,” Mele said.
Michael Bakatsias, Asst. Superintendent for Technology & Personnel, said due to responses from a parental survey improvements have been made to the new district website. There is now consistent posting of the student letter day, a monthly lunch menu is listed, the contact sheet has been updated, a short cut has been installed for the school tools portal under the parent section and work is ongoing to help teachers update their site. He noted that a reduction of old content and links from the former website continue to be reduced where applicable.
Robin Hecht, Asst. Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, said the swim program that was approved by the board last year is now up and running. A Health and Wellness website that has been under development for the past two months is also in place.
“Anything anyone would like to contribute to that, we welcome it,” Hecht said.
Coaching hires deferred
The board pushed the vote to approve the coaching staff for the fall 2022-23 school year until their January 20th meeting to allow additional time for members to review the material. The motion passed by a vote of 5-2, with board members Karen Brooks and John Cantone voting against moving it ahead by two weeks.
Board member Michael Connors explained his motion to defer.
“I am not sure how much each one of these positions is paying, not entirely sure how much time is actually involved, whether or not the money is getting to the right places, whether some are over or underfunded. We lack the details to make that decision tonight,” he said. “All I’m asking for is a little additional time to look it up. With all the things that have been going on, I personally just have not had the chance to study this enough to warrant voting to spend my neighbor’s money on these positions tonight.”
Board President John Cantone pointed out that the amount of the stipends was negotiated last year with the teacher’s union and will not change by the board’s review.
“I would like to just caution the board that when you start getting too deep into these details you start to get into the operational aspects of the business, which is not our role,” he said. “We have an oversight role as a board as opposed to managing the details and what we have is a recommendation from the Superintendent and we are voting on that recommendation. I’m not saying it is not a worthy effort but just wanted to point out to folks that when you start to get into those details you may want to remind yourself that you are overstepping.”
James Mullen disagreed, saying that overseeing these hires and how many coaches are assigned to which sports is a fiscal responsibility of the school board.
“It should be discussed at a board level, I do believe that,” he said. “I don’t believe this is an overstep at all.”
Superintendent Brooks elaborated on the stipends.
“The number of positions are based on our budget so we can always add, subtract, delete or change positions; the board has that discretion when it come to creating a budget.” He said these positions are generated at this point in the school year to allow coaches to, “know that they’re approved for technically next year but they do work year round. By approving them now they know they’re committed to the program. It is something that has been done here for a long time.” He said putting this off for a few weeks, “is not a game changer, no pun intended,” however he said that a coaching position can be added just like any other in the current school year.
Vision 2020 change orders
The board unanimously approved a series of change orders for increases in the Vision 2020 construction project: at the Middle school; an additional $8,787 for Tech Room Flooring; $3,875 for plumbing piping modifications; $2,310 for epoxy flooring of second floor bathrooms; $2,743 for glycol line relocation; $1,210 for exhaust relocation. At the High School, the change orders called for an additional $1,794 for steel lintels and structural steel; $265 for the nurse lintel office; $938 for wall hydrant replacement and CW piping for a total of $21,922.