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President's Report

President Robins' Report   email

President's Report For March 23, 2021

Members of the Leonia Community, 

 

Preliminary Budget Meeting

The Board of Educations passed our preliminary budget, which has a 1.9% tax increase. The preliminary budget will now go to the county for approval. Once approved, the Board will have an additional opportunity to review before passing our official budget in April. The following goals guided our budget development process.

Budget Goals:

  • To minimize the financial impact to taxpayers while maintaining the quality of the Leonia StudentExperience.
  • To provide equitable programs for all students attending the Leonia Public Schools.
  • To invest in the maintenance and upgrade of district-owned facilities.
  • To invest in technology tools that will help improve district operations and support new tech learning standards.
The district has generated eligible Banked Cap (Unused Tax Authority) totaling $354,369 which expires in the fiscal year 2021-22. However,  the Board has voted to allow our banked cap to expire and provide additional relief to taxpayers. 

For more information on the preliminary budget, please watch our preliminary budget meeting by clicking the link here:

 

Resolution to Support our Asian and Pacific Islander Community

The Board of education members has worked together to present 0323-14a-21 Resolution to Support our Asian and Pacific Islander Community. The following resolution is on the March 23rd agenda. The text of the resolution is as follows: 

WHEREAS, the Leonia Board of Education recognizes that all students deserve a respectful learning environment in which their racial and ethnic difference are valued and celebrated; and

WHEREAS, the Leonia Board of Education asserts that the most powerful antidote to ignorance and intolerance and non-acceptance is education; and

WHEREAS, although Asian and Pacific Islander (API) students, staff, and families, vary in countries of origin, citizenship status, political identity, languages, religions, nationalities, ethnicities, cultures, we are all Americans; and

WHEREAS, members of our American community are experiencing a surge of harassment, racial discrimination, and violent attacks,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Leonia Board of Education condemns actions targeting API students, staff, and families of Leonia, Edgewater, and all members of the API community across the country; and be it                                

FURTHER RESOLVED, the Leonia Public School District commits to holding perpetrators of such actions accountable; and be it

 FURTHER RESOLVED, the Leonia Public School District will continue to provide accurate and unbiased messaging related to the COVID-19 virus; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, the Leonia Public School District will continue to commit resources to educate its employees and identify resources to ensure curriculum and professional development training are inclusive of API communities; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, the Leonia Public School District will seek opportunities to partner with public and private institutions/organizations working to address xenophobia and racism targeted against members of the API community in New Jersey; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, the Leonia Public School District's guidance offices and administrators will always make themselves available to listen and offer assistance to all students; and be it

FINALLY RESOLVED, the Leonia Board of Education will continue to engage members of the public, including but not limited to parents, students, and graduates, regarding how our school district can better educate, serve and protect our students regarding acts of hate or violence towards others.

 

Teacher and Staff Vaccine Update and Re-entry Plan

Some great news! Many of our teachers and staff have already received their first dose of the vaccine. This past week we connected with Riverside Medical Group and matched several staff members with vaccine sign-up slots. This is among other vaccine sign-up endeavors, including the Angels (local Leonia volunteers) and County. We thank all for their hard work to ensure the rapid vaccination of our school staff. 

Our re-entry plan hinges on two factors - (1) accessibility to the vaccine for school staff, and (2) the infection rate must move to the low yellow range for our area on the CALI Report. 

 

Board Goal Setting Meeting - March 16 - Link to Full Meeting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCXUu-NgIJk&ab_channel=LeoniaSchoolDistrict

At the meeting, we reviewed the district and board goals over the past year and discussed what may need to be continued and held as goals for the coming year. Below are the district goals and board goals collaboratively developed for 2021-22.

1. Devise and implement a plan for a safe, full school day re-entry in 2021-2022.

2. Assess the pandemic-related learning loss and formulate and carry out plans for remediation.

3. Implement the Investing in New Technology & Expanding Resources Necessary to Enhance

(INTERNET) Teaching Plan

4. Advance equity and social-emotional learning to improve district climate.

5. Develop the facilities plan to accommodate increasing enrollment and ensure optimal use of

district assets.

6. Complete the establishment of the AVT - Trade and Vocation Academy. 

Student Achievement Focus Areas:

  1. Social-emotional learning
  2. Learning loss remediation
  3. New academy preparation and launch

The Board discussed the nature and scope of proper board goals. The Board then developed the following goals for the coming year:

1. Review committee structure, purpose, and goals.

2. Set annual Committee Calendar as appropriate for each committee

3. Forward notes from Committee meetings to the board president for distribution to the public.

4. Provide additional opportunities for the public to engage with the board committees.

The Board also reviewed our 2020-21 District Goals

1. School SAT Course at the high school (achieved)

2. AVT - Trade and vocation Academy (progress made, a multi-year goal with additional emphasis

needed)

3. Moving the 5th grade to LMS (planning complete, facilities work to be finished summer 2021)

4. Finish the Turf Field Project (substantially complete)

2020-21 Board Goals Review

1. Adhere more closely to Robert's Rules of Order (achieved)

2. Transition to a consent agenda (we have done this at the past two meetings) (progress made)

3. Increase the frequency of committee meetings (progress made)

 

Community Relations Committee

Discussed the following items:

  • Increasing updates on Alumni 
  • Social media use by Board members and as a means to share information with the public
  • Home and School meeting attendance by our committee members
  • Booth/table for Leonia Day (if there will be an in-person event this year)
  • Providing translations for the agenda and other Board information
  • A decision to include committee reports in the President's Report to provide the public with a behind-the-scenes look at committee topics and discussions.

 

Kind regards,

Bryce Robins - bryce.robins@boe.leoniaschool.org

President

Leonia Board of Education

3/22/21

 

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President's Report For March 9, 2021

Members of the Leonia Community, 

Re-entry Plan

The following is a summary of the plan Dr. Bertolini and I discussed at our February 28 town hall. However, on March 1, Governor Murphy announced that school staff could begin to receive vaccines starting March 15. Does this change the timeline? We shall see, the two key elements are (1) accessibility to the vaccine for school staff, and (2) the infection rate must move to the low yellow range for our area on the CALI Report. 

Current Plan for Re-entry: 

  • Grades Prek, K, and 1: Start five days a week in-person school option on or around March 22. We have purchased hot spots as a stop-gap solution for the tech problems facing ACS that will be solved this summer if the district-wide tech plan is implemented.
  • Grade 2: If all goes well with the k-1 pilot, we may do the same for grade 2 later in the year.
  • Grades 3-5: These grades depend more on the infection rate dropping as spacing is a significant issue at ACS hence the move of the 5th grade in September.
  • Grades 6-12: As the infection rate drops (Green to mid yellow), we may add an additional in-person morning class. Meaning they will meet two classes in-person in the morning and two classes digitally in the afternoon. This will allow these grades to complete all eight classes over two days.
  • Return to normal: We will aim to return to a regular full day of school in September as long as the infection rate is mid-yellow or lower and teachers can access vaccines.
  • NOTE: The above are not definite and are all subject to change due to the infection rate, DOH guidelines, and vaccine availability. 

 

Corrective Action Plan 

On March 9, our Business Administrator Rashon Hasan will update the public and the Board on his progress with the previous audit's corrective action plan. The update will include the following: 

  • More time is needed for completing the standard operating procedure document, but the Board can anticipate a lengthy document soon. 
  • The goal is to create a standard operating procedure that is QSAC Ready - If NJDOE reviewed it, they would be able to say this is Leonia's
  • Rashon feels good about all other areas in the corrective actions completed to date and has conducted needed meetings with administration and corrected issues with tuition contracts.

 

State Aid 

  • Total $4,670,000 (2021) vs $3,400,000 (2020) - Increase of approximately 30%
  • However, it is unclear how much will benefit Leonia as it appears the previous certified tuition rate overcharged Edgewater. Edgewater's Tuition Calculation was previously calculated by adding 2% annually to the State's certified rate. This has led to unpredictable costs for both districts.

 

Leonia Edgewater Tuition Stability

Because of how the NJDOE calculates Edgewater's annual tuition, the Edgewater school district can be overcharged or undercharged for their annual tuition. When Edgewater is overcharged, this can significantly impact Leonia's budget as it currently requires the school district to add an unbudgeted line for that school year's budget. Therefore, the Leonia BOE finance committee has started to discuss the following methods to offset the potential impact of future instances of Edgewater being overcharged. 

The Leonia BOE Finance Committee has discussed taking the following steps to ensure stability for our future budgets: 

  • Step 1: To maximize accuracy, the Board has started using the NJDOE budget software. 
  • Step 2: To ensure that we are not getting caught off guard, the Finance & Planning Committee will review creating a reserve account for tuition. While this does add another budget line for Leonia, it may reduce the budget gaps caused by inaccurate CTR results.

 

CARES Act - $577,000

CARES Act money may go to the following (still under review): 

  • Improving air quality
  • Learning loss programs (extended school year programs for special education), 
  • Mental health programs for students, teachers, and parents
  • Most funds will be used for new Chromebooks for the 3, 7, and 10 cycle
  • The federal guidelines determine what can be purchased
  • Here is a guidance document for the ESSER II Funds

https://www.nj.gov/education/covid19/boardops/esserfund.shtml

 

Technology Upgrade Plan

  • The bid was advertised last week and posted in paper, education service commission of NJ, and to Provident Bank
  • The bid opening is set for March 24 (virtually). 
  • Bid packets will then be mailed to the Board office 
  • Results will go to the F&P committee and then to the Board for a vote in April 

 

LMS Updates 

  • The plumbing part of the plan requires minor changes, and LAN must provide updated documents, but this does not impact the state approval process. 

 

Budget

  • Rashon will be sending the F&P committee a draft in advance of the meeting on March 16
  • Committee will review the advertized budget, and it will move to the Board for approval on March 23 to be sent off to the County
  • This is just the advertised budget; we will still have until May to make revisions. 

The estimated tax bill you have all received is not what you will end up paying. When our Business Administrator (BA) presents the preliminary budget, they have a particular deadline to receive County approval.

Once the County approves the preliminary budget, the Finance & Planning Committee and the Board of Education will again review the budget and work with Superintendent Dr. Ed Bertolini and our business office to prioritize our District needs for the upcoming school year.

Because of our streak of being under 2 percent, the School District is eligible to use "Bank Cap" and appeal to the State to increase taxes based on the amount we were below two percent for the previous five years. Although most school districts never even have the opportunity to use the bank cap because they frequently go above 2 percent, our Board will again NOT use bank cap and intends to stay under 2 percent.

As there is always room for debate and discussion, I welcome anyone to reach out with questions and concerns on all things, Board of Education. Please feel free to email me, and we can schedule a zoom, phone call, socially distant coffee, whatever it is; I am always happy to talk.

Please stay safe and have a wonderful day.

 

Kind regards,

Bryce Robins - bryce.robins@boe.leoniaschool.org

President

Leonia Board of Education

3/5/21

 

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President's Report For February 19, 2021

Members of the Leonia Community, 

 

Below is my update on notable items coming before the Board of Education. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel welcome to email me: bryce.robins@boe.leoniaschools.org.

 

Notable Upcoming Items

COVID-19 Resolution and Town Hall

  • I have drafted a resolution for our next meeting calling on our State Government to, among other things, act immediately to make eligible all public school personnel for the COVID-19 vaccine. The goal is to send this to all other Board Presidents in Bergen County. The sooner vaccines are made available to public school personnel, the sooner we have a full day in-person school. 
  • We will have a town hall event on February 28 to discuss our road back to 5 days a week schooling at ACS and to a regular school day in the district. We will discuss the district's benchmarks when phasing back into more in-person instruction. 

The two primary criteria established by our medical subcommittee for the Leonia Schools to return to a full day of in-person instruction are:

  • 1) Lower Risk Color- The Northeast Region and Bergen County must either be in the Low Yellow level of risk. 
  • 2) Vaccination Availability- Educators need to have easy access to vaccinations. Currently, 28 states and the District of Columbia are allowing teachers to receive the Covid-19 Vaccine. New Jersey is NOT one of those states. This is frustrating as it inevitably slows our re-entry. While "Teachers are next," the State has yet to provide an approximate date for when teachers (Group 1b) will be eligible for the vaccination. 

 

TOWN HALL - COVID-19 RE-ENTRY

Register for the Covid-19 School Re-entry Town Hall - February 28 at 7:00 pm using the link below:

https://leoniaschools-org.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_-zH_sAC6TO6eR7dUCZnBvA

 

Update on Technology Plan

On February 9, our Director of Technology, Tafari Anderson, and Director of Education and Curriculum instruction Dr. Xanthy Karamanos presented this plan to the Board of education and the public. A tentative timetable for the technology plan is as follows: 

  • March 2 -  Receiving proposals for review and vendor recommendations. 
  • March 9-15th - the Finance & Planning Committee will meet and vote on the project. If approved, a detailed plan from the selected company and their specifications will then move to full Board and be made public. 
  • March 17-20th -  we will hold a Town Hall to receive public feedback.
  • March 23 - Final technology plan before the Board of Education for a final vote. 

Green Team is BACK!

  • Our Green Team met again for the first time since the pandemic started, and I want to thank our wonderful parent volunteers as we work to make our school district a more sustainable place! 

 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me: bryce.robins@boe.leoniaschools.org

 

Best regards,

 

Bryce Robins

President

Leonia Board of Education

2/19/21

 

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President's Report For February 9, 2021

 

Members of the Leonia Community, 

 

Notable Upcoming Items - February 9, 2021

  • Technology Upgrade Presentation: The I.N.T.E.R.N.E.T. Plan - Our District desperately needs to upgrade our technology infrastructure, and in September, I asked our administration to develop an actionable plan to accomplish that goal that would be presented before the Board of Education. On February 9, our Director of Technology, Tafari Anderson, and Director of Education and Curriculum instruction Dr. Xanthy Karamanos will be presenting to the Board of education that plan. Our Finance & Planning committee met on February 2 to review and discuss the proposal, and we unanimously voted in approval to move this item to the full Board of Education. This plan will bring Leonia School's technology infrastructure into 2021, it will prepare our students for the future job market, and it will have a net-zero impact on the taxpayers. 

The presentation of the proposal can be viewed by clicking the link below: 

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1YYjP0cs-vTISe87BiC5wyp15dvUuRnTLN4rl7dyFYs4/edit?usp=sharing

 

Upon the recommendation of the Superintendent of Schools, move to approve 2nd reading and adoption of the following policies and regulations 

2270 Religion in Schools

2422 Health and Physical Education

5330 Administration of Medication

R5330 Administration of Medication (Regulation)

5320 Immunization

R5320 Immunization (Regulation)

5330.04 Administering an Opioid Antidote

R5330.04 Administering an Opioid Antidote (Regulation)

 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me: bryce.robins@boe.leoniaschools.org

 

Best regards,

 

Bryce Robins

President

Leonia Board of Education

2/5/21

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President's Report For January 19

 

Members of the Leonia Community, 

 

I am pleased to submit the first-ever President's report. I will use this space to discuss upcoming agenda items, future projects, and other matters relevant to the Board of Education. Consider it a running blog on all things Leonia Board of Education, and below is the first entry.

 

Notable Upcoming Items - Jan. 19

  • Committees I have drafted and will ask for ratification of the committees for 2021. The proposed committee list will be announced at the meeting. By default, the Board President has the full authority to issue committee assignments; however, two years ago, I proposed an addition to our by-laws that requires a majority vote to approve of the President's committee assignments. This year is the second time our Board has voted to ratify committee assignments. Our committees include Finance & Planning, Education, Community Relations, Policy, Safety & Security, Green Team, Diversity & Inclusion, Leonia-Edgewater Joint Committee, and Negotiations. 

 

  • Presentation of 2019-2020 Audit Results – Lerch, Vinci, Higgins. Per State law, all public school districts have an annual audit. The audit presentation is a public look back at our previous years' financials. For the audit, our financial books close on June 30. However, I must note that in July, we welcomed our current business administrator, Rashon Hasan, who has brought numerous positive changes to the district's business office. Mr. Hasan will provide both the Board and the public with a presentation on the actions he has taken since July and what he plans to do to further improve the district's financial health. 

 

  • Review the Comprehensive Maintenance Plan for 2021-22 – This item will help our district budget for needed repairs and updates to our buildings' facilities. We are currently conducting a facility audit to assist our Finance & Planning committee in developing our Long-Range Facilities Plan. Our objective is to provide the public with a detailed document that lists when critical facility items need to be replaced, how much they will cost, and the replacement year. We have currently completed this for our transportation department and will shortly conclude our district's buildings and technology plan.

 

  • 2422 Health and Physical Education – In December, this policy came before the Board regarding our health curriculum. I asked for the policy to be pulled so that we may have an opportunity to improve its language and create a more comprehensive policy. The amended language is below, and so is the link to the full policy to put the following amendments in context:
  1. Sexual Assault Prevention (N.J.S.A. 18A:35-4.3) requires the development of a sexual assault prevention program by the Commissioner of Education for the utilization by school districts, and the Leonia School District will establish additional curriculum guidelines and educational programming on sexual assault and harassment prevention for grades five (5) to twelve (12) with an emphasis on recognizing, and preventing sexual assault and harassment and age-appropriate lessons on consent for grades two (2) to twelve (12)
  1. In addition to the Sexually Explicit Images through Electronic Means (N.J.S.A. 18A:35-4.32 and 4.33), Leonia Board of Education policy requires the development of curriculum guidelines and educational programming for grades five (5) to twelve (12) on the social-emotional, physical and mental health, and legal consequences of smartphone, computer, and internet use, with an emphasis on the distribution of sexually explicit images, unhealthy messages through electronic means, and addiction to social media, and internet pornography.  

Here is a link to the full policy for context: 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/16z3TkWw7I5v06BcOoCyCvW7eod2kSyfW/view 

 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me: bryce.robins@boe.leoniaschools.org

 

Best regards,

 

Bryce Robins

President

Leonia Board of Education

1/14/21