Leonia School Board Focuses on Student Mental Health

In a recent Leonia School Board meeting, a series of noteworthy discussions took place, with the allocation of surplus funds and the introduction of a Student Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator role taking center stage.

The meeting opened with concerns from attendees about the board’s surplus funds, currently standing at a healthy $3.5 million. Members of the public challenged the board to clarify the intended use of these funds. Responding to these queries, the board explained that they historically returned approximately $600,000 to $575,000 from the surplus as tax relief. Funds could also be allocated to maintenance or tuition reserves. Yet, the attendee clarified that these reserves, if unneeded, must be returned to taxpayers, with an anticipated $400,000 reserved for future capital projects.

Furthermore, Eric, presumably a board member, highlighted the importance of maintaining a reserve fund for unforeseen major events. Based on a previously held finance committee meeting’s recommendations, Eric suggested a reserve amounting to 10% of the district’s operating budget, around $3-4 million. The School District’s current plan includes $40 million in future projects. However, a fellow board member expressed concerns over potential misuse of reserves based on past experiences.

Significant discourse also centered around the creation of a new position, the Student Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator. This role was proposed in response to the concerns of a parent whose child, diagnosed with anxiety, was reportedly not receiving adequate special services. The board clarified that the position, to be implemented in September, would serve all three district buildings. This aligns with the Board’s agreement with Stages Learning to roll out a Multiple Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), offering behavioral and social-emotional interventions for students.

In addition to the budgetary and mental health concerns, the board discussed a variety of other topics. The state of ongoing construction projects, measures to improve the school district’s green initiatives, and potential improvements in vegan lunch options were among these. The integration of the lunch balance feature into the Genesis Parent Portal was highlighted as a helpful resource for parents to monitor and replenish lunch account balances.

Commendations were also shared for the outgoing Acting Superintendent, Sandy, and the incoming Dr. Newton. The board celebrated the achievements of the graduating class of 2023 and recognized a student, Hannah, elected to represent the students on the board. The efforts of student representative Amelia Morello were acknowledged, with a resolution passed in her honor.

A surprising revelation was made that the district had three school psychologists, in addition to the new role of Student Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator. Discussions also covered air quality in school buildings and insurance coverage gaps.

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