Franklin School Board Plans Expansion of Preschool Program

The Franklin School Board recently convened to discuss a variety of topics, with the primary focus on the expansion of the district’s preschool program. The board proposed a multi-year lease for the Middle Bush School building with the goal of creating a dedicated preschool center to serve more three- and four-year-old children. The plan, which aims to open by fall of 2026, was supported by the board members who emphasized the significant benefits of early childhood education and the potential positive impact on student retention.

The board discussed financing the lease through preschool expansion aid from the state and noted that the lease agreement would exceed five years, necessitating a public hearing. The expansion would potentially offer a full-day pre-kindergarten program that could facilitate smoother transitions for students entering elementary school. During the public comments section no comments were made, and the board proceeded to vote on the resolution for the multi-year lease.

Another highlight of the meeting was the presentation on the Operation Great Expectations (OG) program, an academic and behavioral intervention strategy designed to prepare students for success in both academic and personal spheres. The principal of Franklin High School, Dr. Nicholas Solomon, provided positive feedback on the program. Marco Colazo, a member of the OG team, detailed the program’s enrollment process and its positive outcomes, including a reduction in behavioral infractions and the development of key social skills among participants. The board heard testimonials from students who have benefitted from the OG program, including their involvement in activities such as after-school workshops and podcasts.

The discussion also touched upon the expansion of podcasting opportunities for students, aligning with the district’s efforts to promote critical thinking and self-expression. The superintendent updated the board on a visit by the New Jersey network of superintendents, who provided positive feedback on the district’s initiatives to elevate student voice and support new teachers.

On the financial front, auditors presented the results of the fiscal year 2023 audit, which gave an unmodified opinion on the district’s financial statements. They discussed the district’s fund balances, reserves, and corrective action plans. Additionally, the finance committee reported on the district’s charter school payments, noting a slight uptick in costs but overall stability due to stabilized enrollment in charter schools and better budget forecasting from the state.

The board also acknowledged several donations and recognitions during the meeting. Robert Wood Johnson Somerset donated 15 bicycles, helmets, baskets, and locks to promote positive behavior in schools. School counselors were celebrated during National School Counseling Week, and special education teacher Stephen Bennett was recognized for being selected as a member of the radio station Magic 98.3’s class of 2024 teachers who make magic. Alumni achievements in the entertainment industry were highlighted, and students were commended for their participation in the Garden State Film Festival and a bridge-building competition.

A letter from the Franklin Township Chamber of Commerce was read during the public comments section, congratulating Superintendent John Ravally on being selected as the educational leader of the year. Ravally expressed gratitude for the recognition and the collaborative efforts of the community.

The board’s committee and liaison reports covered various topics, including personnel appointments, revised policies on corporal punishment and conservation, building projects such as the occupancy of a new building, and progress on the Zu Fall Health Center. The facilities committee addressed questions about the timeline and construction phases for the health center, emphasizing the need for coordination with the township.

The potential use of the Pine Grove property for a food bank was also discussed, with the board initiating a feasibility study. However, no report from the food bank had been received at the time of the meeting.

In new business, the board approved monthly reports, travel reimbursements, harassment and bullying decisions, and other items related to finance, contracts, and personnel. A concern was raised about a new law affecting the class of 2025, which requires all graduating students to fill out a form. The board vowed to provide more information and ensure the waiver process is not burdensome, especially for non-college-bound students.

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.
John Ravally
School Board Officials:
William “Bill” Grippo, Dr. Dennis Hopkins, Jr., Erika Inocencio, Walter Jackson, Nancy LaCorte, Laurie Merris, Jimmie Parker, Sami Shaban (Vice President), Ardaman Singh (President)

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