Middletown Board of Education Blindsided By Additional Cuts

In yet another example of how arrogance and political posturing has overtaken sound judgment and honesty, Mayor Scharfenberger and his crew blindsided the Middletown Board of Education last night with Resolution NO. 10-151, which details the further budget cuts that the Township Committee expects the Board of Education to make to its 2010/2011 school year budget.

I say blindsided because until I posted details of Resolution NO. 10-151 on this blog, members of the Board of Education had not been given the courtesy a head of time of knowing that most of the cuts outlined were going to be included.

From what I have been told, the members of the Board of Education that sat down with Gerry Scharfenberger and Pam Brightbill for their two meeting on May 3rd and May 6th presented ~ $1.5 million worth of cuts on their own to the Township representatives that were in attendance. They had thought that there was agreement between them and that no additional cuts would be needed. These cuts came from savings in the employee health insurance plan ($803,878), the refinancing of a bond ($465,829), modifications to the nursing services contract ($150,000) and a change to the summer guidance program ($70,000).

Boy, were they wrong!

Stating that the Committee relied on the hundreds of suggestions that they had received through the Township website, the mayor said that he felt obligated to seek out more on his own. So without further correspondences with the BoE and little knowledge as to how further cuts would affect the school system, he stated last night that he feverishly scoured the budget over the last days to find additional cuts. What he came up with was another ~ $600K, all of which seemed politically motivated and consisted of the elimination of Classroom supplies ($58,000),1 Night Foreman position ($50,117),1 Public Relations position ($16,000),1 Assistant Business Administrator ($91,000),1 Assistant Principal HS South ($130,000),1 Assistant Principal HS North ($130,000) and1 Director Position ($126,000).

What’s funny about this is that after mayor Scharfenberger’s open and public sparing match with the MTEA, which contributed nothing to the process other than to further alienate anger and poison resident’s opinion of the teachers union, he seemed to have given up on that fight. Instead the focused turned to comments left on the website over the past few days, sparing the teachers from additional cuts.

The question remains though, were these addition cuts really necessary? According to those with knowledge of the school budget the answer is No. They said that these additional cuts will have devastating effects on the school system regardless of the spin that Gerry Scharfenberger or his deputy mayor, Tony Fiore place on them. Fiore made the following comment after the resolution was introduced “My hope is that this is a meaningful cut… these cuts, they do not cut one teacher, they do not cut one program.”

While that may be the intent, the reality is something far different. I was informed that members of the school board told Scharfenberger just that during their meetings. Cutting more administrators from the school budget would have crippling effects on the quality of education that children receive in the classroom he was told.

The Assistant Principals at the high schools main functions are supervisory; they oversee the curriculum, evaluate teacher performance and act as disciplinarians to maintain order in schools that have close to 2000 students each. After already eliminating seven positions district wide previously in the failed budget, equalivent to 14% of the administrative staff, the loss of two more cannot be tolerated without having a direct, long term effect in the classroom.

And what about the $58K further reduction in the budget for classroom supplies? I was told that that line item was already trimmed previously by 10%, did more really need to be cut? I guess so if you don’t expect to need new text books or expect parents to purchase more supplies for their kids than they already do now.

Even though the school board is now bound and obligated to reduce the school budget by an additional $2.09M by the Township Committee, I would be surprised if they implemented their recommendations fully.

In my opinion, I think that the district will be looking into the possible layoff of a handful of more teachers, the possible elimination of non varsity sports programs or a sports program that will be based on a pay-to-play fee system and the possible closure of a district school, which I was told could not be fully implemented this year but could happen next year.

I also would not be surprised if the Board of Education appealed this budget to the Monmouth County schools superintendent in the hope to overturn the addition $600K worth of cuts that the Township Committee imposed on them without their previous knowledge or input.

If that happened then there would be little need for further layoffs of any kind, the possible elimination of any extracurricular programs or the possible closure of a school. Let’s hope that the County Superintendent agrees.

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Filed under budget cuts, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown Board of Education, Middletown Township Committee, school budgets, School cuts, Tony"the fibber"Fiore

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