102 Lehman Lane,
Neshanic Station NJ 08853
I believe that The Branchburg Township School District is learning that we have great students, excellent administrators and teachers, and engaged parents and community members who were quickly able to adapt to a very challenging set of circumstances. I think that we'll find that for some students the remote or virtual sessions are having a positive impact on their academic performance, while it may have stalled the progress of others. I think that the way in which the schools were forced to build out their technology infrastructure to serve our students during the COVID-19 crisis will allow the administration and the teachers to be very creative when designing plans to ensure that all of our students are being cared for appropriately. We can drastically increase the methods in which we engage with our students in scenarios where they would otherwise be unreachable.
As a district, we are in a unique position where we do not rely as heavily on state aid as some of our neighboring districts. Our Business Administrator and Superintendent have done exceptional work to ensure minimal impact on the head count of our staff and our students and parents should see no impact to the education of our students. I believe that our administration and the Business Committee has done great work to keep all of our buildings and the infrastructure within the builds in great working order, so we should not realize any unexpected financial crises that will throw the budget out of whack. I believe the Board and our Administration has done well to be fiscally responsible and to be out in front on any repairs or concerns while we were in a position to care for them or before they became an emergency.
27 Mary Lynn Lane,
Branchburg NJ 08876
The COVID-19 public health crisis has brought to the forefront issues that have long existed in our schools and in our communities. Fortunately, our district is doing well in keeping up with technology advances and staff professional development which was a help as we pivoted to increased use of remote learning. The health and well being of our students, staff and community will continue to be a focus of school operations. We will need to address learning loss and social and emotional delays that have resulted from the impact of the pandemic. The challenges of dealing with mental health issues and equitable and personalized learning will continue to be drivers of our educational system. We will need to be flexible, creative, understanding and highly motivated as we move forward in reestablishing the exceptional education that Branchburg School District has offered.
Again, thanks to the efficient and thoughtful management of our school district finances and facilities, our district is in a position to weather the storm resulting from the economic impacts to our state from the COVID-19 crisis. As with all other school districts in New Jersey, the cost of providing education to our students has risen due to the greater need for facilities cleaning and other health related supplies, technology upgrades, and the hiring of substitutes to fill in for staff members on leave due to the current health risks. Because our district had been underfunded for many years, we recently began receiving a slight increase in state aid which, coupled with natural attrition of personnel, has enabled us to make the necessary purchases to bring our students and staff safely back to school. Going forward, we will be watching our spending and needs closely as we begin the process of budgeting for the 2021-2022 school year.
11 Shale Hill Road,
Branchburg NJ 08876
First and foremost, we are learning that children are very resilient. While teachers and parents, including myself, stress over the ramifications of COVID19 and the potential long term effects on our children from both an educational and social perspective, most children are able to adapt well. With that in mind, it open up a magnitude of opportunities for schools in the future. While I 100% believe that in-person instruction is essential, the future holds a place for virtual learning. A child who is sick and at home, may be able to stream his or her class. A school day that would otherwise be canceled due to snow or other weather event, may convert into a virtual day. Further, now that teachers are learning how to use this technology, I believe there is a place for the recording of lessons so that children may watch them at any point. Many children thrive on repetition, and the ability to go back and listen to a lesson a second or third time will help them grasp those concepts.
There is no simple solution to this issue. With both state and federal aid reduced, there will have to be concessions across the board. Clearly, the first solution would be a way to alleviate the budgetary concerns through additional funding. Being new to running for the Board of Education, I am unaware of any lobbying efforts undertaken to secure additional monies. In my profession, i belong to an organization called the New Jersey Association for Justice, and we are able to accomplish significant changes to the laws to benefit the people of New Jersey through lobbying, and i believe putting pressure on the government to help our children is very important. If that is unsuccessful, any and all cuts should be made as uniformly as possible. I believe that cutting entire programs, such as the arts, is a last resort. I also believe that raising local property taxes should be a last resort, but if it allows our schools to remain top-notch, it is something that needs to be discussed.
260 Carol Jean Way
Branchburg NJ 08876
I believe we are seeing that the education system, as a whole, is very resilient. Having gone from a full time, in person model in March, to fully remote, to a "hybrid" model now, shows the dedication of the teachers and administration to the education of our children.
Has it been perfect? No. There have been road bumps, but adjustments were made quickly. We listened, learned, adjusted and continued the mission of educating children. This holds great promise for the future, as I believe remote learning will be a valuable tool going forward. Imagine, no more snow days and no more sweltering, late June days to make up for them. Imagine an ill child attending school from home instead of missing days and struggling to make up the missed work. Imagine recorded school lessons available on the internet 24/7 to assist with or re-enforce a topic learned earlier in the day. Remote learning makes that possible.
So while remote learning is new to us all now, what we learn from it today will make the district better going forward. The possibilities are endless and the current technology will continue to improve. The foundation for the future of education is being laid today and the possibilities of where it will lead are endless.
The Branchburg school district has been fortunate to have actually seen our state aid increase over the past few years. Due to the new school funding formula, our aid has increased, although the amounts have not been significant. For this school year, while a slight increase was announced by the governor, we had the foresight to anticipate this may not be the case and adjusted the budget accordingly. As such, the covid-19 impact was minimal at best and any shortfalls were covered by reserves. That was not the case in many other districts.
Branchburg is a well managed district financially. Our business administrator is top notch and as such, there are no financial "surprises".
The "wild card" is always state funding levels. The governor and legislature determine the amount to be funded each fiscal year. If the effects of Covid-19 continue much beyond next spring, it is anybody's guess what could happen. The key to overcome this is to be conservative in your estimates and control expenses as much as possible. With over 75% of the districts expenses related to teacher salaries, benefits and tuition payments to Somerville, the options to reduce costs are limited, yet the district has come in below budget for each of the 3 years I have been on the BOE. External revenue sources are maximized to the greatest extent possible and expenses are reviewed constantly to ensure that the students of Branchburg get the best possible education at the lowest possible cost to our residents. My background in finance will benefit the BOE and help maintain the financial discipline in the district.