The recent Park Ridge Board of Education meeting was marked by significant decisions related to staffing, student welfare, and financial matters. The meeting, which saw the participation of Board members J. Bucco, J. Pierotti, N. Agoos, L. Sum, D. Bradler, R. Gamper, R. Wright, and C. Vitale, unveiled new measures to ensure the safety of students and awarded the district’s top educators.
The most prominent development was the introduction of School Law Enforcement Officers (SLEOs) at the district’s elementary schools. The move, which was announced by Superintendent Dr. Gamper, includes a planned meet-and-greet session to familiarize parents with the officers. The high school is also set to receive its SLEO officer in September.
Left unadressed was the criticism that the presence of police in schools can potentially create an intimidating environment for students, potentially exacerbating the school-to-prison pipeline, and may disproportionately affect minority students, contributing to an atmosphere of fear and distrust instead of fostering a nurturing educational environment.
Seapately, a highlight of the meeting was the announcement of the Teachers of the Year by Dr. Gamper. Karen Finnerty from West Ridge Elementary, Leslie Litke from East Brook Elementary, and Tara Kane from Park Ridge High School were each acknowledged for their dedication, creativity, and positive impact on students.
Student activities were presented, including upcoming tests, the prom, field day activities, and student council elections. Updates on the locker room bid, theater safety issues, and the upcoming Senior awards were also given.
During the Hearing of Citizens segment, students and parents raised several concerns. Students asked the Board to reconsider the district’s stance on cap decoration for graduation, emphasizing its importance for self-expression and inclusivity. A parent also shed light on the need for more mental health awareness in sports, citing favoritism in coaching and a lack of female coaches.
Among the financial decisions made, the Board approved the 37th Summer Music School, with tuition rates set for the 2023/24 school year. Approvals were also given for two students attending a summer program at Camp Lee Mar and for adding ACES to the Special Education Consultant List.
The Board made various staffing decisions for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 academic years. Appointments included substitute teachers and a substitute nurse, with new hires including Marie Farzad and Sarah Schneider as Full-Time Writing-Reading Paraprofessionals. Extensions and adjustments were also made for several staff members.
As part of the meeting, the Board accepted donations from several sources, including a scholarship from The Anzilotti Group and a contribution to the 6th Grade Student Activity Fund from East Brook PTO. They also appointed The Vozza Agency as the district’s insurance advisor for the 2023/24 school year and confirmed the purchase of technical support and equipment.