Belleville School Board Honors Students and Staff, Reviews Budget

In a recent Belleville School Board meeting, the community celebrated students’ achievements and staff recognitions, and the board scrutinized the district’s budget and financial health. The meeting commenced with a moment of silence for the late councilwoman Marie Burke. The assembly’s primary focus was on the presentations by Belleville students on women’s history and social justice, the recognition of distinguished educators and staff members, and a detailed review of the district’s financial status, including an audit report and budget discussions.

Among the highlights was the recognition of Belleville Middle School student Judah Cook, who secured first place in the Sister Rose Thering literary arts and video competition with a video about Helen Keller. Judah’s work was celebrated for its insightful portrayal of Keller’s advocacy for the rights of individuals with disabilities and women’s rights.

Students from Belleville Middle School and School Number Four delivered presentations on various historical figures. Their work shone a spotlight on women’s history and included influential personalities like Michelle Obama, Queen Liliuokalani, and Harriet Tubman. These presentations not only highlighted the students’ research skills but also their understanding of the broader social justice issues associated with these figures.

The meeting also served as a platform to honor the educators and professionals who have made contributions to the district. Marilyn Kuchi was acknowledged as the Essex County school counselor of the year, and the meeting proceeded to recognize outstanding educators from each school. Among the noted were Judy Porter, honored as the High School Governor Educator of the Year, and Jenny Rosell, celebrated as the Educational Services Professional of the Year. Each recognition was accompanied by commendations from colleagues and administrators, who expressed deep appreciation and respect for the work these individuals do for Belleville’s students.

The Belleville School Board meeting was not solely about accolades. It also delved into the district’s financial affairs, with Mr. Bliss from the accounting firm presenting a detailed audit report. The audit revealed unmodified opinions. The district boasted a fund balance of approximately $9,969,000, earmarked for capital expenditures, maintenance, and unemployment compensation. The sound financial standing of the district was lauded, with no material weaknesses or deficiencies found in internal controls.

However, the auditor also recommended improvements in several areas, including the approval and submission of financial reports, purchasing procedures, food service sales record reconciliation, and formal procedures for managing donations at sporting events. Updates were provided on various projects, such as air conditioning installations and a middle school expansion.

The technical review of the budget was a focal point of discussion. The superintendent stressed the district’s efforts to provide free meals for all students and to manage cost increases effectively. Despite the positive audit outcome and the board’s proactive financial management, it was noted that the district was still under adequacy by approximately $4 million, a shortfall that the board aimed to address through careful budget planning.

Public comments brought attention to community concerns, with citizen Michael Sheldon questioning the allocation of funds for a shared services parking garage and the justification for a tax increase. He also sought clarity on the district’s financial management and the state monitor’s role. Another notable moment came from Maria Rodriguez, who spoke about her dissatisfaction with the school’s handling of an incident involving her son, seeking a resolution from the board.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Richard D. Tomko
School Board Officials:
Gabrielle Bennett-Meany, Brenda Pacheco, Dr. Lissa Missaggia, Nicole Daddis, Luis Muniz, Michael Derro, Tracy Williams, Matthew J. Paladino (Business Administrator/Board Secretary)

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