Brick Benefits From Preschool Expansion Grant

Dennis Filippone, the retiring director of planning, research and evaluation, and Superintendent Gerard Dalton (L to R) handed out certificates to each board member for School Board Recognition Month. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)
Dennis Filippone, the retiring director of planning, research and evaluation, and Superintendent Gerard Dalton (L to R) handed out certificates to each board member for School Board Recognition Month. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

BRICK – The school district currently has six full-day preschool classrooms that began in September and will run until the last day of school in June.

A $690,965 Preschool Expansion Grant from the NJ Department of Education is being used for the expanded program, which includes integrated classrooms where 10 general education students are in the same classroom as five special education students.

During the most recent Board of Education meeting, Director of Special Services Kristen Hanson said there are plans for a total of 18 full-day preschool classes for the 2020-21 school year. Three of those classes would be self-contained for special education students and 15 would be integrated classrooms.

After the meeting, School Business Administrator James Edwards said the state pays $12,500 per general education student in expanded preschool program.

“If there are 140 general education students [in September 2019] the state should pay $1,750,000,” he said. “The preschool grant application comes out at the end of January, and we’ll submit that for approval before we can move ahead, but I have a good feeling we will get [the full amount].”

The Brick School District was one of only 31 in the state to receive funding from the NJ Department of Education to expand the preschool program for four-year-olds.

The Board of Education meeting was the last for Dennis Filippone, who had a 41-year-long career in the school district, and might be best remembered for his 14 years as the principal of Brick High School (See The Brick Times Jan. 12, 2019 “Filippone Retires After 4 Decades In Brick”).

Director of Curriculum Susan McNamara, who came up through the ranks with Filippone and was principal at Lake Riviera Middle School while he served at Brick High School, remarked that Filippone had been an inspirational leader to students, staff and administrators.

“He would always go the extra mile, he cared deeply and listened to his heart,” McNamara said. “He touched the lives of thousands…Dennis is Brick; he bleeds green like no other.”

McNamara said that Filippone created “an extraordinary climate” at Brick High School and had an unwavering commitment to students and staff.

She said Filippone taught her the credo, “People Before Paper.”   

Long-time principal and member of the administration Dennis Filippone spoke about his retirement. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)
Long-time principal and member of the administration Dennis Filippone spoke about his retirement. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

During the Board meeting, there was a video tribute to Filippone, created by Assistant Principal at Brick Memorial High School Meredith Hudson.

  A visibly moved Filippone thanked his wife, two daughters and granddaughter, who attended the meeting. While speaking about his time in school district, he said “I got more in return than I gave. I’m forever in its debt and always in its service.” Filippone said he hopes to come back during his retirement as a volunteer football coach.

In other news, Edwards said that the district would be hiring a demographer, who would map out the next seven years and would make recommendations on how to reconfigure the district in the wake of the loss of state funding and declining enrollment.

“They could recommend multiple things, but it’s up to the superintendent to make recommendations and the Board of Ed to approve them,” Edwards said.

And finally, Board of Education President Stephanie Wohlrab said she is hopeful that an impasse with the teachers union would soon be resolved since the committee would be meeting with a mediator on Feb. 28. Teachers have been working without a contract since June.

“We’re close to working out a teacher’s contract. We should have a resolution shortly,” Wohlrab said.

The next Board of Education meeting will be on Feb. 14 at the Professional Development Center at the Veterans Complex.

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Judy moved to Ocean County from New York City in 1988, and began her second career as a feature and news reporter in the mid-1990's. She has worked for Micromedia Publications since 2008, primarily reporting for The Toms River Times and The Brick Times. Judy has also worked for The Leader Review in Point Pleasant Beach, The Brick Communicator and The Asbury Park Press. Reach Judy by e-mail at Judysmestadnunn@gmail.com.