Ridgefield Park School Board Addresses Student Resource Concerns

The Ridgefield Park School Board meeting on February 21st, 2024, highlighted concerns regarding student resources, particularly in special education, math instruction, and English as a Second Language (ESL) support. The meeting, which drew active participation from the community, also covered issues such as the New Jersey Graduation Proficiency Assessment (NJ GPA) results, the expansion of the Early Childhood program, and acknowledged the accomplishments of the academic decathlon team and a successful fundraiser.

One notable issue discussed during the public comments section was the adequacy of resources for students with special needs. A resident articulated frustration with the current state of the resource room, citing an overcrowded environment that failed to provide the necessary individual attention. This concern was echoed by another resident who highlighted the challenges faced by students who do not speak English, especially in Rosabell and Lincoln schools. They advocated for a more comprehensive ESL program and the hiring of educators capable of teaching in a second language, to better support the growing number of students with ENL needs.

In response to these concerns, the board acknowledged the issues raised and assured the community that the administration was attentive to their observations and was evaluating facility spaces to meet program needs. The superintendent mentioned the formation of an ad hoc subcommittee to review programs and processes impacting student populations, especially those with ENL needs. Additionally, board members shared their experiences with sheltered English instruction professional development, noting its beneficial impact on students.

The discussion on the district’s math program was also notable, with a resident questioning its effectiveness and a community member – a teacher – sharing the challenges of teaching math. The resident was worried about students’ ability to pass standardized tests due to a method of teaching that focused heavily on procedures. The teacher emphasized the importance of maintaining a consistent math program and providing adequate resources and training for effective instruction.

Regarding the NJ GPA results, it was reported that 28% of grade 12 students met the ELA cutoff score, slightly below the state average. In math, only 4.1% of students met the cutoff, lower than the state average. The district is working on small group instruction and utilizing the acuplacer as an alternative pathway to support students in meeting graduation requirements.

The potential expansion of the Early Childhood program sparked debate among board members. While some expressed concern about the program’s long-term financial sustainability and impact on other district programs, others felt an urgency to proceed. The discussion culminated in a plan to review the lease agreement and other details before scheduling a special meeting dedicated to the prek program.

Additionally, the Buildings and Grounds Committee addressed the need for additional space at Lincoln School due to the growing student population and the possible relocation of the central office. They reviewed the district’s technology infrastructure, capital projects, and potential summer projects. The Finance and Insurance Committee brought up the 2022-23 audit and the possible rescheduling of the April meeting, while the Negotiations Committee mentioned the ongoing work on the RPAA contract set to expire in June.

The meeting also touched on the Faculty and Programs Committee’s initiatives, including before and after care programs, career fairs, high-impact tutoring, professional development, and the need to assist multilingual students.

In the realm of school achievements, the Junior Senior High School’s academic decathlon team was recognized for their accomplishments, and a parent committee’s fundraiser with the Harlem Wizards was highlighted. The Superintendent presented a revised organizational chart and a shared services agreement for technology.

The meeting concluded with the board approving resolutions related to finance, insurance, personnel, and other consent agenda items, while emphasizing the importance of parental involvement in addressing student resource concerns.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Joseph P. Vespignani
School Board Officials:
Dr. Ricardo Martinez, Mrs. Michelle Orth, Mr. Brian Cooney, Mrs. Jodie Craft, Mr. Nick Fytros, Mrs. Diane MacNeill, Mr. John Malool, Ms. Berlinda Rodriguez, Ms. Jennifer Schmitt, Ms. Carolina Velez, Ms. Carmela Triglia (Assistant Superintendent of Schools), Mr. Scott T. Bisig (Interim Business Administrator/Board Secretary)

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