Leonia School Board Addresses Funding Challenges, Celebrates Student Achievements, and Discusses Upcoming Projects

The Leonia School Board recently convened to discuss topics impacting the district, including the challenges of special education funding, frequent changes in the child study team, the transition to Parent Square for announcements, and the commendable achievements of three students on the AP Computer Science exam. The board also detailed upcoming school projects, administrative updates, and committee reports.

The meeting kicked off with a shift in communication strategy, as the board announced the discontinuation of Facebook for announcements, opting to use Parent Square instead. This change sets the stage for improved parent-teacher communication and ensures a more streamlined approach to disseminating important school-related information.

The board then transitioned to a celebratory moment, acknowledging the outstanding achievement of three students who scored perfect results on the AP Computer Science principles exam. This accomplishment earned the students applause, certificates, and a commemorative photo.

However, the gathering wasn’t just about celebrating successes. The board also addressed concerns raised during the public comment session. Lor Molina, a meeting attendee, voiced concerns about frequent changes in the child study team and the resignation of a school psychologist. The board responded by assuring Molina that a replacement psychologist was already being interviewed.

Another attendee, Mr. Reles, raised questions about facilities acquisition, construction services, and the allocation of a significant portion of the budget to special education services. He suggested exploring alternative funding methods. The board acknowledged these concerns, underscoring the need for state and federal support to alleviate the burden on local school districts. They also encouraged residents to advocate for legislative solutions, indicating a push for shared financial responsibility in providing special education services.

The board members also discussed the issue of state aid for students attending private schools. They noted the availability of an application for Extraordinary Aid, though they highlighted that the aid given is not 100%, and is calculated based on the amount paid over a certain threshold. This discussion underscored the ongoing challenges Leonia and other school districts face in dealing with the costs of education.

The meeting also featured administrative reports, including an update from Superintendent Dr. Gon on the upcoming Quality Assurance Continuum (QAC) evaluation by the County Department of Education. He reported 30 incidents throughout the school year, with praise for the students’ overall behavior.

In terms of capital projects, the board discussed the progress of various initiatives, including FEMA mitigation projects at Leonia High School and Leonia Middle School. The district also plans to begin bidding for these projects by the end of January. Other discussions covered the 23-24 projects, particularly a complete roof replacement at Leonia High School.

Student representatives also shared updates on school events, such as a food insecurity night, a tournament in support of gun violence victims, and a career readiness event. They also highlighted the success of the recent spirit week and homecoming events, showcasing an active student community.

The meeting concluded with committee reports from the Education, Finance, and Policy Committees. Topics discussed ranged from plans for a spring break trip in 2025, changes to the physics curriculum, the 24-25 budget, health benefit rates, capital projects, and updates to different policies. The board also addressed a community member’s suggestion regarding budgeting for a long-range strategic plan and agreed to request proposals for consultants.

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School Board Members:
Daniel Lee, Kimberly Melman, Damee Choi, Noreen Courtney-Wilds, Ana De Jesus, Isaac Park, Cristina Rackow, Joe Rzepka, Sid Sehgal, Mariya Thompson

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