Board Celebrates Staff Achievements; Tackles DEI and Infrastructure Concerns in Recent Meeting

In a meeting that swung between commendations and crucial community concerns, the Ridgewood School Board navigated a vast array of topics. Front and center were the Tradition of Excellence and Ashby Award recognitions, celebrating the dedicated service of staff members like Nadine Macalino, Dana Higgins, and Linda DiOrio. Amid commendations, serious discussions unfolded on pressing matters including diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, structural upgrades supported by Regular Operating District (ROD) grants, and potential enhancements to the school’s arts and athletics programs.

DEI efforts commandeered substantial focus, as members debated the necessity for a structured plan of action before assigning a dedicated DEI administrator. Community members reiterated the call for the appointment of a DEI expert to counter recent unsettling events, including racist graffiti and vandalism in schools. One parent shared a personal account of being told to “get rid of my accent” during an official parental function at Ridgewood High School. The board acknowledged the concerns, promising a detailed discussion on the current DEI teams’ status in a future session.

Supervisor Chris McCulloch provided an enthusiastic appraisal of the K-12 arts program, based on encouraging feedback from parent and guardian surveys. While celebrating the rich tradition of arts education in the district, there were discussions on potential curriculum expansion, particularly in middle schools, and initiating efforts to construct a robust space for school performances.

Superintendent Mark Schwarz steered the discussion toward the recent Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) review, lauding the team for their performance and encouraging a community-wide participation in the forthcoming Superintendent Coffee sessions, aimed at fostering lively discussions and addressing the community’s concerns.

The deliberations then shifted to the anxiously awaited infrastructure projects under ROD grants, which hold promise for significant improvements including ventilation upgrades and the establishment of a STEM lab. A slip-up in initiating the bidding process prematurely for a roof project elicited concerns over potential loss of grant funds. Schwarz emphasized the critical need to adhere to School Development Authority (SDA) regulations to ensure funding for these projects.

Discussion on the maintenance of school fields highlighted the lingering dissatisfaction with Orchard Field’s condition. The board considered various remediation methods, albeit acknowledging the substantial costs and time commitments involved. The potential for revenue generation through updated rental and facility fees was mooted, given that they remained unaltered since 2017-2018.

A substantial portion of the discourse involved potential operational improvements, including adopting new software for managing documents and revisiting the committee structures to avoid conflicts of interest, in a bid to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in educational delivery.

New student representative Sarah Bronstein painted a positive picture of the changing school environment, acknowledging the warm reception of the new school start time and reduced class periods. The discussions highlighted the girls’ flag football team’s recognition and the encouraging endeavors in mental health support through Morgan’s message.

As the meeting drew to a close, debates ensued over the minutes of a previous gathering, with board member Hyunju Kwak seeking an accurate reflection of an incident involving her. The board president acknowledged the ongoing deliberations on potential restructuring of all committees to enhance efficiency and representation.

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