Military Vet Beats Out Educator for Empty School Board Seat

In a session addressing everything from board vacancies to the emotional well-being of students, the River Edge School Board recently convened to grapple with issues impacting the district. Of significance, the board appointed Al Jing Solomon, an experienced military veteran and fintech product manager, to a vacant seat.

Solomon’s appointment, effective until the end of December 2023, comes after deliberation between two candidates: Solomon and Tammy Lennyhan, an 18-year business veteran and educator. During his interview, Solomon emphasized the importance of serving the children in the community and stressed the need for teamwork and communication. He cited rising costs and space deficits as significant challenges facing the district.

The board didn’t just focus on the vacant seat. A presentation on New Jersey ACCESS tests, assessing English language proficiency, brought encouraging news: 23% of students had scored high enough to exit the English as a Second Language (ESL) program. The board highlighted a more inclusive nomenclature, referring to English language learners as “multilingual learners” to emphasize their skills rather than deficits.

Similarly, Region 5, of which River Edge is a part, is being rebranded for enhanced coordination in special education. This includes the implementation of a tiered system of support and services for students and increasing the number of Board Certified Behavior Analysts.

Furthering the theme of educational inclusivity, the board discussed a new pilot program aiming to reduce diagnosis waiting times for conditions like autism and ADHD. By allowing local pediatricians to diagnose these conditions, the board aims to expedite intervention services for affected students. In a related area, discussions included the collaboration with Ramapo College for a Teacher Education Archway Residency Program. With seven student teachers joining the district, the move is likely to address staffing needs, particularly in specialized services.

In terms of operational management, a report from Bernardo of Region 5 highlighted the cost-saving benefits of shared transportation services, which serve over 500 students among member districts. A newly implemented internet-based system for real-time tracking of student routes aims to streamline this further. Additionally, the board announced fines for non-performance issues like lateness, totaling $28,000 last year but also noted a decrease in transportation-related complaints.

A public comment section featured resident Margaret Burns questioning the board’s recent decision to reconfigure schools without a public referendum. Burns raised concerns about the potential rise in insurance and other costs.

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