April 18, 2024
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Why I’m Running for Teaneck BOE

As a Teaneck resident for 30 years, I am running to become a trustee of the Teaneck Board of Education in the November election. I previously served as a re-elected trustee from 2013-18 and am quite aware of the inner workings and the work commitment to being a member of the BOE. During my tenure, the board became increasingly data-driven and aware of 1) the achievement gap; (2) the high absolute and relative levels of BOE spending; (3) the fiscal constraints facing Teaneck residents.

As my personal responsibilities have changed, I am now ready to fully dedicate my time and efforts and return to the BOE with a focus in two critical areas: academic achievement and fiscal responsibility.

Achievement Gap Recognized As an Opportunity

According to the Department of Education School Performance Reports, Teaneck High School’s SAT scores were slightly below the state average at 1099 (State: 1117). Math scores were 548 (State: 560), whereas reading and writing was 551 (State: 557).

A Teaneck Board of Education workshop meeting was held on November 3, 2021 and reviewed student performance data:

Younger children were evaluated via the NWEA MAP, a computer adaptive test that helps determine what the student knows and what they are ready to learn next. First and second grade students performed well in English and Language Arts (ELA) with 86-96 percent of students meeting or exceeding grade level standard.

Grades 3-8 performed less well with 48-65 meeting or exceeding the grade level standard. Math performance was substandard at 48-61 percent for all grades with exception of Algebra I, taken only by high achieving students at 100 percent.

The START Strong Science Assessment for grades 6, 9 and 12 highlighted strong support (Level 1) in 43 percent, 45 percent and 41 percent of students respectively.

The NWEA data is one piece of critical information incorporated in the development of instructional plans. The Teaneck BOE recognizes that an achievement gap exists and to date steps taken to narrow the gap have not been successful.

Additionally, there may be opportunities to better support high achievement students.

Spending Per Student Among Highest in New Jersey

According to the BOE budget for 2022-23, Teaneck has a total enrollment of 3,878 students: this includes an on-roll subtotal (3,587); private school placements (78); and students sent to contracted preschool/other districts (213). This represents a significant decline of 250 students, or 6.1 percent from the prior year.

The proposed total operating budget of $114,029,767 represents an increase of 3.8% from the prior year, but 13.3% from the 2020-1 actual dollars spent. Spending per pupil is at an all-time high of $29,404 which is amongst the highest in New Jersey. There are numerous contributing factors to the high cost including, but not limited to, comparatively high number of administrative and support staff, special education costs, a favorable salary guide structure and other factors.

According to the Taxpayer’s Guide to Education Spending, 2020 nj.gov/education/guide/2020ind.shtml, in 2018-19, the last year of available comparative data:

Spending per pupil of $29,419 exceeds the state average of $22,816 by 28.9 percent.

The student:teacher ratio of 10.0 is lower than the state average of 11.8 by 18 percent.

The student:support staff ratio of 67.6 is lower than the state average of 74.7 by 9.5 percent.

The student:administration ratio of 135.6 is lower than the state average of 148.3 or 8.6 percent.

The classification rate for special education is 23.8 percent, far higher than the state average of 15.3 percent, which can be partially explained by the population of traditionally non-public school children using special education services.

Teaneck leads the state in another metric for schools with greater than 3,500 pupils: amount budgeted per pupil is $26,096. This figure is 45.3 percent higher than the average of $17,959. Details can be found at https://patch.com/new-jersey/teaneck/s/ic4sc/nj-schools-spend-18k-per-student-on-average-how-much-your-kid-gets?utm_source=alert-breakingnews&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=alert

Teaneck is heavily dependent upon its local taxpayers for spending. Local taxes account for 77.7 percent of the BOE budget as compared to an average statewide figure of 53 percent.

New Superintendent a Critical Hire

The BOE is entering a critical period. Barbara Pinsak, the interim superintendent, will eventually be replaced by a new superintendent. Christopher Irving, PhD, though charismatic, was not qualified to be CEO of an educational system. Dr. Irving never taught in the classroom or served in a school administrative position. He resigned in the second year of a five-year contract, effective July 1. His initial contract term was three years. The Teaneck BOE is targeting mid-October for a replacement.

Focus on Value Creation

In closing, opportunities exist to improve the student achievement scores while being financially responsible, i.e., creating value. My experience as a former elected trustee for more than five years, combined with my professional experience, makes me uniquely qualified to serve, once again. as a Teaneck Board of Education trustee. Email [email protected] with any comments about the BOE or if you wish to assist the campaign.

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