Highland Park School Board Addresses Preschool Expansion, Attendance Initiatives, and Financial Concerns

The Highland Park School Board recently convened to discuss a variety of matters, including the expansion of preschool programs, increased efforts to improve student attendance, and various financial concerns, among them the allocation of pilot money to the district and effects of outstanding lunch funds on the budget. The meeting also included farewell sentiments to retiring board members and highlighted the valuable contributions of the students and staff.

In-depth discussions on the expansion of preschool programs took center stage at the meeting. The board highlighted their ongoing commitment to this initiative, with plans in place to add two additional preschool classrooms next year. Deliberations included exploring options for further expansion in subsequent years. This initiative aligns with the board’s larger commitment to early childhood education, recognizing the critical role it plays in setting the foundation for a child’s academic journey.

Simultaneously, the board lauded a decrease in absences and an increase in punctuality in some schools, attributed to initiatives launched by the administration to encourage attendance. These efforts included Monday morning dancing sessions at Bartles School and the distribution of Dunkin Donuts gift cards at the middle school for punctual students. The family liaison’s role in reaching out to families struggling with attendance issues was also acknowledged. Despite this, some board members and members of the public expressed concerns about the selective celebration of attendance data, urging the board to consider wider factors such as student sleep deprivation and the potential for later start times district-wide.

In a financial discussion, the board finalized a resolution to allocate 60% of the pilot money received from the Walter Street pilot project to the school district. This resolution marks the culmination of prolonged discussions on the matter. Additionally, the board addressed the impact of outstanding lunch funds on the budget, currently in arrears by $36,000. This issue sparked debate over the potential impact of sending letters home to collect these funds.

The meeting also brought attention to the approval of an RFP for a company to monitor compliance for maintenance and food services, and the review of professional contracts set for approval or re-approval in January, considering changes to the start and end dates of these contracts. The board also approved several personnel items, including retirements and new hires, and payments for mental health grants, before and after-school staff, and Title One after-school paper tutoring staff.

In addition to these matters, the meeting featured a public comment section where a resident raised concerns about the proximity of marijuana stores to schools and urged community members to sign an online form addressing these concerns.

The meeting concluded with expressions of gratitude and farewell to outgoing board members for their contributions to the board and the district. In particular, outgoing member Chris was praised for his thoughtful contributions on finance and facilities, while Mark was commended for his extensive knowledge and support. Marilyn Pruce provided additional remarks, highlighting the extensive years of service and various roles held by the retiring board members.

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.

Superintendent:
Dr. Kristina Nicosia
School Board Officials:
Marilyn Pruce, Allison Casal-Dunn, Dan Battey, Dr. Monique Coleman, Anne Gowen, Michelle McFadden-Dinicola, Robert Roslewicz, Ann Vardeman, Jennifer Voorhees, Roy Crosbie (Student Representative), Andrew Dalton (Student Representative)

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