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Old Bridge superintendent donates contractual salary increase to the school district

Rebecca Nowalski
Superintendent of Schools David Cittadino presented Student President Joseph Chiusano and two lucky graduates in the audience with frisbees, each one with a $20 bill attached, encouraging students to use the money wisely in ways to “give back” during the commencement ceremony held at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel on June 21.

OLD BRIDGE – As the 2019-20 school year begins on Sept. 5, the reality of the reduction in state aid will set in – Cheesequake Elementary School is closed and there will be more than 85 fewer positions throughout the district.

However, the priority of the district stays the same, according to Schools Superintendent David Cittadino.

“At the end of the day, providing safe and experience-rich learning environments for our students is always a priority,” he said.

That is why Cittadino said he felt compelled to donate his contractual salary increase for the 2019-20 school year – $4,074 – back to the district. The Old Bridge Board of Education has recognized his donation.

“This is the first time I have given my negotiated salary increase back to the district and our students,” he said. “Although my five-year contract was negotiated two years ago, the district fell on hard times last year with a loss of millions of dollars in state aid. I felt compelled to give back to a community that has been a supportive home to me and my family. It was my goal to assist these student programs that hold a special place in my heart and that might otherwise struggle with a reduction in overall funds.”

Cittadino’s donation will be allocated for educating the whole child through social and emotional learning. The funds will be used in programs dealing with mental health issues, addiction, and the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) community.

As for Cheesequake Elementary, Cittadino said the district is continuing to explore options on what to do with the property on Route 34.

The Old Bridge Township School District received state approval at the end of May to close Cheesequake, one of its 12 elementary schools, saving the district $750,000 in operation costs.

Some 230 students from kindergarten through fourth grade who would have attended Cheesequake have relocated to four schools in the district – Madison Park, McDivitt, Memorial and Shepard.

In May, the Board of Education adopted the $150.72 million operating budget, a decrease of $3.72 million, or 2.4%, from the 2018-19 budget.

Cittadino has said based on the amended formula, the state says the Old Bridge Township School District is overfunded.

According to Gov. Phil Murphy’s revamp of the School Funding Formula, which was approved by the New Jersey Senate and the House of Representatives on July 21, 2018, Old Bridge Township Public Schools will receive an approximate $12 million reduction in state aid over the next seven years, from approximately $45 million to $33 million.

The district is receiving $42,209,527 in state aid for the 2019-20 school year, a $3 million, or 6.67%, decrease in state aid from last year.

Since 2008, enrollment in Old Bridge schools has decreased about 1,000 students. The school district has just under 9,000 students, 1,388 employees and 17 educational facilities.

School officials said they had been using state aid to cover recurring expenses including salary costs, collective bargaining contracts, a custodial contract, and health and medical benefits in the district’s $150 million budget.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.

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