The first Board Of Education (BOE) meeting of the year had some changes in the organization of the school board and two in-depth discussions – one on what should have been a formal appointment and the other on how taxpayer funds are to be spent.
The first order of business had three board members publicly sworn into office. Newcomers Chad Hemenway and Matthew Leingang, along with returning member Christopher Miller, were given their oaths of office. These three men were the only candidates running for vacant seats last year.
Once a roll call of the new board was taken, former board president Chris Miller nominated Loren Harms as the new president. Sundjata Sekou made a motion to have Troy Gerten be voted in. Mr. Gerten appreciated the nomination but rescinded the position. With that, Mr. Harms was voted in as the BOE President. The office of vice president had Mr. Gerten once again nominated along with Chris Miller. With a 6-3 vote, Mr. Miller became the 2017 BOE Vice President.
Among the by-the-book agenda items, two in-depth discussions were held – both of which will have their own future articles. The first was the appointment of the school district architect. The firm of Di Cara Rubino Architects – which did previous work on the 2016 facility plan and replacement of the athletic field lighting – was appointed instead of the firm that had been appointed for years – the Musial Group. Mr. Gerten had questioned the change. After a discussion with members of the board, the appointment was tabled until the January 16th BOE meeting.
Later in the meeting, Mr. Gerten questioned how a proposal that the board was going to submit to the state for the proposed Science-Technology-Engineering-Arts-Mathematics (STEAM) labs was going to be funded. Mr. Gerten was concerned that the $408,000 that was given to the district last year in additional state aid was being used for a capital project. He recommended that it should be used for improvements and repairs to various areas in the schools and that the lab project should be bonded or approved through a referendum. Other members of the board stated that the one-time extra funding should be used for the project since it will not further impact taxpayers through a bond.
New members Hemenway and Leingang abstained on agenda items regarding the approval of previous meeting minutes, harassment incidents, and second readings and adoption of school policies that had initial readings before they joined the BOE.
After two-and-a-half hours, a meeting which actually showed the transparency of government through open and frank discussion took place in front on the empty auditorium.
The next BOE meeting is scheduled for January 16th at the Roselle Park Middle School.