Bridgewater-Raritan School Board Addresses Auditorium Updates, Flooding, and Potential Training for Members

The Bridgewater-Raritan School Board convened to address several issues, including the recent completion of updates to the school’s auditorium, challenges posed by flooding that led to school closures, and discussion about the necessity of hiring a consultant for board member training. The meeting also touched upon the support for families during the delayed FAFSA application process, the planning for the 2024-25 budget, and the upcoming strategic planning process.

Superintendent Robert Beers commenced the meeting with an update on the school’s auditorium, which is now fully operational following the installation of new sound and lighting systems. Beers expressed appreciation for the fine arts department’s patience during the renovations. The board transitioned to discussing the planning for the 2024-25 school year’s budget and the review of the program of studies, as well as the strategic planning process set to involve community members. These strategic planning sessions are slated to take place at the middle school, a location chosen for its appropriateness for large gatherings.

The recent issues of flooding and a power outage were highlighted by Beers, outlining the unexpected school closures due to early morning checks that revealed transportation and staff availability difficulties. With safety concerns heightened due to the lack of heating and essential systems, the board emphasized the need for robust communication and comprehensive contingency planning to mitigate the impact of such emergencies on students and families.

During the meeting, the student representative reported on current student activities, including a “period project” organized by the National Honor Society to collect donations for feminine hygiene products. Upcoming events like the junior college night and eighth-grade orientation were also mentioned. The board acknowledged challenges such as the delayed opening of the FAFSA application due to technical issues and discussed available support for families needing assistance in filling out the form.

The President’s report covered committee assignments and commemorated School Board member recognition month, alongside a review of the planning calendar for January, which featured meetings and training requirements. Reports from board members on their respective committee meetings—including academic, community relations, finance, facilities, transportation, and personnel committees—were given, in addition to updates from liaisons to Bridgewater Township, the Borough of Raritan, and the Somerset County School Boards Association.

A point of contention arose during the public comment period regarding a change in the meeting minutes related to the nomination process. A motion was proposed to amend the minutes from a previous meeting to reflect the correct nomination procedure, which, according to the bylaws, does not require a second for officer elections. This motion sparked a discussion on the adherence to bylaws and the accuracy of meeting records.

The business portion of the meeting included the approval of personnel agreements. A clerical error was identified concerning the hourly wages of two listed substitute teachers, which was promptly addressed by the District Anti-Bullying Coordinator, Alan Iachini, who confirmed the correct rate of $155. Queries were also resolved regarding payment to a yoga instructor for a middle school intramural activity and the scope of a bridge project.

Contentious debate ensued over a proposal to hire Taylor Boncor Consulting for board training. While some members recognized the potential benefits of team-building and professional guidance, others questioned the necessity, cost, and time commitment of additional training. Despite previous extensive training for members, the discussion revealed a division among board members on the urgency and value of the proposed training, with suggestions to defer it until other issues were addressed. The debate also ventured into the overall performance of the board and the need for improvement.

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.

Robert Beers
School Board Officials:
Emily Calistri, Stacey Friedlander, Rebecca Hassouna, A. J. Joshi, Lanfang “Lucy” Li, Michael Pepe, Steven Singer, Barry Walker, Jennifer Loughran, Alan Iachini (District Anti-Bullying Coordinator), Michelle Munley (Affirmative Action Officer), Dr. Dan Fonder (Affirmative Action Officer)

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