Tuesday, April 28, 2015


The Board of Education on Monday night approved a $123.5 million budget, but not without disagreement over some elements of it, specifically the decision to keep world languages for some elementary school students.

The board voted, 7-2, for the budget, with board members Donna Smith and Johanna Wright opposing the spending plan. 

The budget will raise taxes for Maplewood residents an average of $177 per year. It is also an increase over the current year's $121 million budget.

The original version had sought to eliminate the weekly language classes for elementary school students in grades three, four and five. But the latest version keeps the language classes for fourth and fifth graders. 

Business Administrator Cheryl Schneider said the board had previously approved an additional $100,500 for the budget at the March meeting and a portion of that along with other changes freed up the world language funds.

"I was excited to see fourth and fifth-grade (language) retained," said Board Member Beth Daugherty. Board President Wayne Eastman agreed, stating, "If push comes to shove, I fully support the efforts of the administration to supply some kind of world language."

But Smith spoke out against its inclusion: "The once a week teaching is not really providing" language instruction.

During discussions, several residents spoke out about the need for more funding at Seth Boyden School, while several board members also urged that other areas be funded more, citing everything from class size to employee health plans.

"We have to be very careful," said Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad. "As we look for those efficiencies, let's also look at the high school (class size)."

Board Member Johanna Wright cited a recent health care plan review, claiming, "we didn't do our due diligence in checking things out." 

The budget now goes to the governing bodies in South Orange and Maplewood for approval before the county must sign off on the tax rate.

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