The Ridgefield Park School Board addressed the increasing number of English as a Second Language (ESL) students, significant facility upgrades, and the introduction of new educational programs at a recent meeting.
The board discussed a notable increase in ESL students, rising from 132 to 155 over a year. The board acknowledged the challenges this presents, particularly in providing adequate staffing and support. Trustee Carolina Velez emphasized the importance of small group settings in ESL instruction and hinted at the necessity of conversations surrounding staffing adequacy as the ESL population continues to grow.
The board also addressed the complexities of providing bilingual education, operating under a bilingual waiver due to staffing constraints and the geographical spread of schools. The waiver, specifically for Spanish, is a workaround for state regulations, as the district struggles with providing bilingual education for every foreign language spoken by more than 20 students. The board expressed hope for hiring more staff to better support bilingual students in the future.
In addition to addressing the needs of ESL students, the board also delved into the progress of various facility repairs and architectural projects. Trustee Brian Cooney detailed the near completion of the Lincoln School HVAC and High School commercial kitchen and science rooms, with an additional project upgrading the High School HVAC slated for June 2024, requiring extra funds of $226,500 from the available budget.
The meeting also highlighted the district’s academic achievements, with the Junior Senior High School ranking in the top 40% of high schools nationwide by U.S. News and World Report. Superintendent Dr. Joseph P. Vespignani expressed satisfaction with the opening of schools and acknowledged the PTAs for their welcoming efforts. He also introduced the new assistant superintendent of schools, Miss Carmilla Triglia, who presented detailed student data, emphasizing the need to address math instruction and focus on foundational skills in K-6 education.
Miss Triglia’s presentation underscored the district’s commitment to utilizing multiple criteria for student assessment, including NJ GPA, NJ SLI, benchmark assessments, unit assessments, discipline data, and attendance data. The board emphasized, “it’s one piece of data that we utilize but…we should be looking at multiple criteria because that really helps paint pictures.”
The meeting also saw discussions on the revised use of facility policy, class D rates, the school’s sick leave law, and the Homeschool Connection. Trustee Berlinda Rodriguez highlighted upcoming events and meetings, while Trustee Jodie Craft reported on faculty and programs, mentioning revamping of job descriptions, revisions to district PDP and mentoring programs, and the evaluation of the GNT program criteria.
Citizens actively participated in the public comment sessions, raising concerns about teacher salaries, privacy, discrepancies in job descriptions, and a contract with Little Ferry. The board addressed these concerns, clarifying misconceptions about transportation agreements and emphasizing the desire for early board involvement in the budget process.