Second Question Information Page
According to the New Jersey Department of Education, for the past decade, Ridgefield Public Schools have operated at an average state of inadequacy totaling $1.2 million per year. Too many years of zero budget increases and fairly recent 2 percent caps on tax levy revenues have crippled and eroded our system, shrinking our human capacity. Against all odds, we have made significant gains and built a relatively good system. But without restoring our funding and several critical positions, we will never achieve our potential of becoming a great school system that serves each and every student well.
Dear School Community Members:
“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” ~ Jonathan Swift
Unfortunately, we did not succeed in our attempt to get the majority of our community to see the vision. Our community voted down the Second Question for additional staffing, programs, and resources. The results are as follows: 193 YES / 1092 NO / 5 PROVISIONAL
Our plans to hire much needed school counselors, library media specialists, and content teachers in order to develop a broader, more relevant educational program; our hopes to generate appropriate funding for sustained curriculum and technology resources; and our attempts to add back a much-needed maintenance man and adequate budgeting to maintain safer and more conducive facilities have all failed.
Despite this outcome, I am inspired by our honorable journey. I thank all those who took the time to vote and especially those who worked tirelessly in support of this noble effort.
Frank Romano, III, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Please review the following documents (links in red) before casting your vote on January 24, 2017:
Dispelling the Myths: The Truth about Ridgefield Public Schools
- Are Ridgefield Public Schools administratively top heavy? No, they are not.
Since 2010, New Jersey school districts have been operating under a more stringent cap—the two percent tax levy cap enacted by P.L. 2010, c. 44, which has effectively limited the overall growth of school budgets with few cap exemptions. The administrative costs portion of local budgets has been doubly capped to the detriment of implementation efforts in a time of key school reforms and heightened demand for strong instructional leadership in our schools.
Administrative costs in New Jersey are, in fact, among the lowest in the nation (fifth lowest, NCES, 2011 at 9% compared to national average of 10.7%). Further, over the past fifteen years, New Jersey has experienced large increases in the numbers of students (+27%), teachers (+52%) and support staff (+64%) in our schools, while the number of administrators has actually decreased (-25%) in comparison (See, NJDOE Statistics, 1990-2015). Ridgefield Public Schools operate well within the State imposed administrative spending cap.
Prior to the 2014-15 school year, Ridgefield Public Schools did not have a Department of Curriculum and Instruction. The District did not have a stable and sufficient budget for purchasing curriculum and instructional materials. Now our school district has a Curriculum and Instruction Department. Now it has a Director of Curriculum and Instruction and a Supervisor of Instruction. These are the only two additional administrative positions that have been created in the past two years that required additional dollars. All others were simply changes in title that achieved compliance with state statute and code. And although we now have budgeted money in line items related to curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development, the funding is nowhere near sufficient.
- Do students at Ridgefield Public Schools have everything they need? No, they do not.
Despite the work of dedicated professionals, students don’t experience a well-articulated coherent world language program. They don’t have library media centers. They don’t see library media specialists. They don’t benefit from an intact school-counseling program, don’t have any counselors in our two lower elementary schools, and only have one in our upper elementary/middle school. They don’t benefit from relevant elective courses, and they don’t have sustainable core requisites in areas such as science. Their exposures to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math in combination) opportunities are few and far between. Their practical business opportunities are limited to core experiences in requisite courses. Their English language learning program simply satisfies state minimum requirements. Their math programs could be more relevant. Their social studies programs are predominantly limited to history—not providing those experiences that lead to civic-minded citizenry (e.g., civics, economics, geography). They know that despite the fact that we have dedicated professionals who strive to ensure their success, the lack of available resources limit them. They know that their hundred-year-old buildings and aging instructional spaces aren’t getting any newer but maintenance staff and budgets are getting smaller.
Parents understand that there are other opportunities out there, and they exercise their right to choose, sometimes costing the District significant dollars mandatorily spent on county academies. During the past five years, an average of fifteen to twenty percent of students have left the District after Middle School in order to pursue what they perceive to be more comprehensive school experiences. Residents can change all of this in a relatively short period of time with a commitment of merely 75 cents a day. The Borough of Ridgefield is a residential community that has been widely recognized by a variety of sources as exceptionally safe and affordable and as a generally desirable place to live. It’s only natural that its schools should not only reflect but also drive community worth and success. We have an opportunity to make a world of difference.
- If I vote “yes” for the Second Question (Q2), can I be certain that the District will allocate the additional funds as planned and presented? Yes, you certainly can!
Both school and general community members can be as informed as they choose to be. Ridgefield Public Schools are incredibly transparent in their planning and presentation of all work—finance, programming, governance, personnel, and operations. In order to monitor our implementation work, simply tune into our e-blasts, podcasts, and live presentations or visit our website to review our budgets, peruse our PowerPoints, read our policies, delve into our planning documents, and so much more. Access our strategic plan (including Q2 info in red) under Our District—Strategic Planning. View personnel reports and public presentation documents. If you can’t find what you need, you can request existing reports and documentation from our Central Office. We are always happy and proud to share our work.
- Would Ridgefield Public Schools need a second question if the Christie Administration implemented it’s recently publicized Fairness Formula for funding? Yes because the Formula does not provide relief from financial deficits and funding inadequacies that exist in New Jersey’s public education system.
There is no indication that the funding plan will provide funds for educational programming. Instead, the Fairness Formula appears to be a tax reduction plan with the Governor emphasizing its impact on local property tax bills. Ridgefield residents would theoretically see significant tax relief. While one quarter of New Jersey school districts would experience funding reductions, towns like Ridgefield would see relief. That relief would more than offset funding contributions for our November second question for restoring our school budget to a point where we could reinstate those lost positions and build programs that prior state aid cuts and the tax levy cap took. In other words the plan could help to bring Ridgefield Schools to a point where its wealth and resource “matched” the town’s.
Articles Regarding Our Second Question