Leonia Schools Show Progress, but Financial Concerns Loom Large in Latest Board Meeting

The recent Leonia School Board meeting revealed district growth in assessments and introduced new faculty, but financial challenges regarding tuition fees for out-of-district schools and other expenses dominated discussions.

A significant portion of the meeting revolved around the financial implications tied to students attending Bergen Academy. Several board members questioned the necessity of the district shouldering the costs for students attending the technical school. Given Leonia’s history of sending students to prestigious institutions within its own system, the need to fund students choosing Bergen Academy was debated. Additionally, there’s an inherent challenge in the cost dynamics, where Leonia faces the dual burden of losing high-performing students while also financing their education elsewhere.

The school board also discussed the obligated payments to Bergen Technical Schools, noting that while they are bound to make these payments, they do not receive any state aid in return. Other financial concerns raised included expenses related to Burden Protective Systems and their proprietary nature. Discussions suggested reevaluating contracts with them. A clarification on the Starlight Nursing service, which provides specialized nursing to students during school hours, was also addressed.

Switching focus, the board highlighted the positive results from the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment (NJSLA). The district saw growth across various grades, with proficiency rates in English Language Arts nearing their pre-COVID levels. The district also excelled in federally mandated science assessments, notably with female students outperforming state averages.

A self-assessment concerning the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights (ABR) showcased schools exceeding minimum requirements. Plans to train anti-bullying specialists were emphasized, along with a need to achieve 100% staff training, especially crucial in harassment and bullying scenarios.

David Kim’s achievements as “superintendent of the day” for the Leonia public school district was a standout moment. The board lauded her accomplishments, expressing hope she might venture into school administration. Additionally, new faculty members were introduced, including Miss Crystal Alexander Thomas, an ESL teacher with vast experience, and Miss Katarina Luca, specializing in preschool special education.

In terms of communication, the school board is transitioning from Facebook announcements to a new portal, encouraging attendees to register for up-to-date communications. The school’s new primary platform’s analytical capabilities and wide reach were also underscored.

Lastly, public comments covered diverse topics, from district finances to presentation equipment, with suggestions for improved efficiency. The meeting culminated with committee reports, including a new structure for the student council, an upcoming spirit week, and a lifting club introduction. The enriching visit from Korean students from Hongdae High School, fostering cultural interactions, was also a highlight.

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