Berkeley Heights School Board Addresses Audit Findings and Superintendent Search

In a recent meeting, the Berkeley Heights School Board grappled with multiple issues, including the scrutiny of the annual audit findings that raised concerns over financial management and the initiation of a superintendent search that is critical for the district’s leadership transition. The board also engaged in lengthy discussions about hazardous busing, safety on school routes, and the potential increase in bus driver hourly rates to prevent losing staff to neighboring districts.

The annual comprehensive financial report was a focal point of the meeting, presented by the auditor from Supply and Cloney and Company. Nevertheless, two findings were identified: a food service fund deficit and discrepancies in the application for state school aid. The late submission of the audit report and the district’s adherence to regulations were hotly debated, with a focus on the reasons for the delay and the handling of data by the district office. The auditor cited challenges in obtaining information from the state of New Jersey and stressed the need for financial reports to be ready by August 15 to expedite the process.

Board members scrutinized the substantial increase in business-type activities for food services and the low interest rate earned. They also examined the discrepancy between the miscellaneous revenues budgeted and the actual amount received, as well as the apparent zero actual withdrawal from the budget despite approval.

Another issue that emerged was the selection process for a new superintendent. The board outlined the criteria for the search, with an emphasis on community input and the use of surveys and forums to collect feedback. The comprehensive nature of the search process was underscored, with the board stressing the importance of a legally defensible search, continuity, and commitment during the leadership transition. The New Jersey School Boards Association representative detailed the superintendent search service options, from full assistance to board-assisted searches, and discussed timelines, with an ideal timeline spanning from September to July. The importance of community engagement was highlighted, with plans for online surveys and sessions to understand public expectations.

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Transportation safety was another major topic, with a presentation by Mr. Coer and his team on their transportation study for the district. The study evaluated the bus management system, hiring, training, and identified hazardous routes. The board debated the safety of certain roads, the need for improved signage, and a more sophisticated bus routing system. The definition of hazardous roads and the importance of the board’s role in determining safety were discussed extensively. The issue of courtesy busing and the discrepancies in providing it to different areas were also brought to the table.

The meeting touched on the potential increase in bus driver pay rates in response to competitive rates from other districts. This raised concerns over retention and the financial implications of the agreement. The board also considered the transition to hazardous busing.

Furthermore, the meeting included a segment on safe routes to school grants and the possibility of re-evaluating hazardous routes if the town received the grant. The board’s attorney guided the members through school board ethics, covering the School Ethics Act, mandatory training, and the definition of “relative” in relation to conflicts of interest. The discussion also covered the use of social media by board members, emphasizing the need for discretion and the potential perception of posts as official board positions.

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Finally, the board addressed the approval of meeting minutes, an administrative process that led to debate and confusion. The motion to approve the minutes for the regular session from January 18th failed, and it was decided to revisit the matter in the next meeting. The board navigated through resolutions concerning budget development, facility maintenance, and technology updates. Public comments raised questions about the transparency of the audit report and the qualities sought in a new superintendent.

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.

Dr.:
Melissa Varley
School Board Officials:
Sai Bhargavi Akiri, Gale Bradford, Thomas Foregger, Jordan Hyman, Natasha Joly, Dipti Khanna, Angela Penna, Pamela Stanley, Anthony Juskiewicz (Board Secretary)

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