The Demarest Board of Education moved decisively on several critical actions in their regular session meeting held on April 25, 2023, presided over by President Holzberg. The key highlights of the meeting included the unanimous approval of a $7 million capital improvement project for the Demarest Middle School, the adoption of the 2023/2024 budget, various staffing changes, and an impressive range of policies and regulations.
The ambitious capital improvement project, a hot topic in the district, was presented by Ms. Kelly, the Business Administrator/Board Secretary, in a public hearing. The project involves the construction of a gymnasium and wellness center addition to the Demarest Middle School, financed through a mix of capital reserve funds and lease purchase financing, capped at $3 million and $4 million respectively. The public hearing did not generate any public inquiries.
The Board also unanimously approved the budget for the 2023/2024 academic year. The budgetary outline was presented by Superintendent Mr. Fox, showcasing notable accomplishments from the previous budget and highlighting substantial appropriations for the proposed budget. A significant adjustment of $702,221 is expected to fund the addition of five new staff members to accommodate the district’s increased enrollment and the initiation of a new special education program. Furthermore, there are provisions for managing rising health benefits costs and much-needed maintenance expenditures.
The staffing changes brought forth in the meeting were numerous. Key among them was the appointment of substitute teachers, a guidance counselor, and a Special Education teacher for the 2022/2023 and 2023/2024 academic years. Furthermore, lunchroom coordinator Andrew Lefer resigned, with Victoria Zimmerman set to replace him. Other staff-related decisions involved granting paid sick leaves and unpaid leave for teachers, and awarding a longevity stipend for a nurse.
The board took a thoughtful and thorough approach to policy-making, adopting a slew of new regulations and abolishing some outdated ones. They ranged from issues concerning student surveys, testing, prevention and treatment of sports-related concussions, special education services, and student assessment, to policies on political activities in schools, anti-hazing, and addressing bias crimes and bias-related acts. Notably, they abolished a policy regarding school employee vaccination requirements and a safety plan for healthcare settings in school buildings due to COVID-19.
In addition to these critical decisions, the board also approved several requests for facility use, including for an International Heritage Day and a Mamanet (Catchball) event. They endorsed the attendance of several key staff at various workshops, affirmed Superintendent’s decisions on several HIB cases, and confirmed payrolls and bills. They also approved student participation in the Work Place Learning Program for the 2022/2023 school year and set the eighth-grade graduation date for June 19, 2023.