Board will face a full slate of issues in 2016

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By PETER ELACQUA
Staff Writer

COLTS NECK – Building repairs, a new contract for teachers and continuing the district’s excellence in education are among the issues the Colts Neck K-8 School District Board of Education will address when 2016 begins, according to three board members who were recently elected to three-year terms on the panel.

Dr. Kimberly Raymond, who is currently serving as the board’s president, and board members Kevin O’Connor and Heather Tormey ran unopposed in the Nov. 3 election. All three were asked what they believe the board’s priorities will be in the new year.

O’Connor, who was appointed to the board in June and has now won a full term, said, “First is the communication and transparency of the board with our community. I will be an advocate to ensure the community has available to it as much information as we are legally able to share as quickly as possible. Second is ensuring that our teachers and administration have the buildings, facilities and overall environment that can let the best education be delivered to our students.”

Raymond, who has served on the board since 2011, said, “One of the biggest issues facing the district is the maintenance and upkeep of our facilities, especially in light of our recent long-range facilities plan that identified many areas that require attention.

“Our facilities are aging and some systems such as electrical, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning, are original equipment in need of full replacement and updating to 2015 standards. As a result, I have tasked our buildings and grounds committee members to review and discuss options for prioritization of facilities usage and maintenance,” Raymond said.

She added, “This will be an ongoing issue that will need to align with our discussions regarding the most prudent use of our facilities, in light of our overall decline in enrollment compared to several years ago. The committees will develop recommendations to the board regarding facilities usage and maintenance based upon the financial, curricular and staffing impacts.

“As a public school district, we need to continue to strive for academic excellence and to follow the action plans set forth in our district strategic plan, while still adhering to the often-evolving requirements placed on districts such as the Common Core State Standards, the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

“Over the past few years, our district has worked hard to develop and use internal assessments as measures of achievement that do not rely upon onerous benchmarks or standardized tests. Our internal assessments give us a clearer picture of how our students are achieving and growing and what our district can do to best meet their needs. We will continue to look for ways to maximize the educational opportunities and successes of our students,” Raymond said.

Tormey, who was appointed to the board in August and has now won a full term, said, “We have made great advancements in attending to the individual needs of our students on all ends of the spectrum. We are excited to offer our new preschool program at our primary school, as well as the Colts Club aftercare program.

“Cedar Drive Middle School students are experiencing a new way of learning through Project Lead the Way STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) courses; the Conover Road Elementary School is now offering extended learning opportunities for students in grades three through five; and students in kindergarten through fifth grade are engaging in a pilot program called Engineering is Elementary which is designed to foster critical thinking skills, creativity and problem solving,” Tormey said.

“This generation of learners will never know life without technology and Colts Neck students have been given district-issued devices to use throughout the school year. But all is not seen through rose-colored glasses. Attention will need to be given to the state of our facilities. There are infrastructures that are in need of replacement as they have lived past their life expectancy throughout our district. We will continue to work with our facilities manager, architects and board secretary to find the most economical way to address those needs.

“We are currently negotiating a new contract with the Colts Neck Township Education Association and are optimistic we will come to an agreement that is best for both our teachers and our district.

“Finally, I hope to continue to be a part of the open dialogue with our community. Board members are here to serve the stakeholders of Colts Neck. It is important that we are transparent in our actions and that they feel any concerns can be brought to our open forum. In spite of any ‘issues’ our district is facing, our teachers, administrators and our board members are excited about where Colts Neck is headed and I am humbled that our townspeople have entrusted me to be a part of it,” Tormey said.

— Contact Peter Elacqua at [email protected]

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