East Rutherford School Board Highlights: Student Initiatives, New IEP Platform, and Controversial Policy Discussions

In a recent meeting of the East Rutherford School Board, student initiatives took center stage, a new IEP platform was lauded, and the contentious Policy 5756 was at the heart of discussions. The board also addressed administrative matters, upcoming trainings, personnel matters, and policy-related items, while also responding to citizen concerns.

The meeting began with Superintendent Giovanni A. Giancaspro introducing student representatives from the National Junior Honor Society who delivered reports on activities and events at their respective schools. They highlighted initiatives like school spirit week, Veterans Day celebrations, and anti-bullying efforts. The students also presented a project on Veterans Day and monuments, demonstrating the importance of art as a form of self-expression and the role of animals in comforting veterans with PTSD. The board, led by President Antonio Segalini, expressed appreciation for these efforts, fostering a spirit of involvement and creativity within the student body.

Business Administrator and Board Secretary Alessandro Verace commended the administrative team and Mr. Valard for their work on the new IEP platform, Frontline, designed to provide a seamless experience for teachers and students. The development of a teacher-supportive framework by Dr. King Dobson, along with math, science, and ELA coaches, was also recognized, offering a non-evaluative support system for staff.

Superintendent Giancaspro provided updates on a range of school-related matters, from student enrollment and facility projects to educational policies for multilingual learners. He mentioned ongoing work in technology integration and the challenges of finding behaviorists in special education. Giancaspro also shared updates on phonic first training, the gifted and talented annual report, and kindergarten screening.

Board discussions took a contentious turn when Policy 5756, which requires districts to accept and confirm students’ gender identity without parental consent, was discussed. Some parents voiced their concerns, arguing that this policy violates parental rights and citing other districts that had abolished the policy. The board members, including Gina Lorusso, the Board Vice-President, acknowledged these concerns and assured that they were researching and consulting legal counsel to understand the policy’s nuances and associated lawsuits.

In addition to policy concerns, the board addressed personnel matters, announcing the addition of a special education teacher, Miss Nicole Nioria. The board expressed gratitude to the Linhurst superintendent for their assistance in transitioning Miss Nioria into her new role.

This meeting also marked the introduction of a policy related to staff members leaving the district. This policy would allow for voluntary surveys to be filled out upon departure, with the first reading scheduled for December. The board also discussed the impact of chronic absenteeism on test scores, emphasizing the importance of keeping children healthy and present in school.

Citizen interaction was a significant part of the meeting. A parent voiced frustration about a lack of follow-up regarding their concerns, which led the board to acknowledge the need for better communication. In another instance, a parent argued against Policy 5756, pushing the board to reconsider its stance. Board members assured they were actively working to understand the legal and community implications of the policy.

The meeting concluded with the approval of several administrative and financial items, including the facilities calendar for December 2023, bills and payroll for November 2023, and the midyear budget review. The board also approved travel expenditures and the use of district facilities. The meeting closed with the announcement of upcoming events and a motion to adjourn to an executive session.

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Giovanni A. Giancaspro
School Board Officials:
Alessandro Verace (Business Administrator / Board Secretary), Thomas Kobin (Board Attorney), Thomas Banca, Erin Shemeley, Maria Caruso, Richard Vartan, Jillian Cawley, Antonio Segalini (Board President), Gina Lorusso (Board Vice-President)

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