BOE Votes Tonight on Final School Budget
Vote on 2013-14 South Orange - Maplewood school budget will follow public hearing.
The South Orange - Maplewood Board of Education will hold a special public session tonight at 7:30 p.m. to conduct a public hearing on the budget, after which it will vote on the final budget.
On March 4, the BOE passed a $104,473,642 preliminary budget for 2013-14 with an operating budget with a 2.47% tax impact and an "all-in" total tax impact of 2.93%.
At Monday's regular Board of Ed meeting, Columbia High School senior Ellie Williams gave an impassioned plea to the board to save the position of Student Assistant Counselor, one of which which will be cut if the budget passes.
Williams, who told Patch after the meeting she was planning to bring "a small army" of people to tonight's meeting, has started a petition that has so far received over 300 signatures.
Philip Lester, one of the SAC counselors, told board members that eliminating one of the positions would be a "reckless" decision. He said students with substance abuse and other issues would be left with no recourse.
"Serving kids in an emotional crisis allows the district to thrive. They're not recognizing that," he said at the meeting.
Lester, who has been a district SAC (along with Judi Cohen), for 12 years, told Patch today the cut would be disastrous and that the counselors were needed for troubled youth.
"...it is precisely a troubled few that can (wreak) havoc on the many," Lester said in an email. He cited the 1999 murders at Columbine High School as an example of 'what can happen when no one (is) addressing the behaviors of a few.'"
He continued, "we are naive to think our community and district is immune to the psych-socio and emotional problems among our diverse population. This is especially true today in our culture of young people with the technology available for them. The target population for kids needing crisis intervention may not be large but if their needs are not addressed their troubling behavior can and often spills out to the larger population unleashing a wave of violence, pain, and heartache for many."
Lester said investing in student assistant services was the most compassionate and cost effective way to address early warning signs in students.
"Crisis intervention is not just another superfluous program that can be funded by private donors," Lester said. "It’s an essential resource, a safety net for addressing issues that left unaddressed in a timely fashion, can escalate into even larger more costly problems that will drain our valuable district resources even more."