Schools Weigh Options As Security Referendum, Aid Request Both Fail

Brick Township Board of Education. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

BRICK – Brick voters narrowly defeated a $12.5 million referendum held during the general election to fund security upgrades to district schools that included secure entrances, cameras, lockdown systems and much more.

There were 12,846 residents who voted for the referendum and 12,885 who voted against it, which defeated the question by only 39 votes.

This comes at the heels of news that Brick schools would lose state adjustment aid of $25 million over seven years (see The Brick Times July 14, 2018).

During the November Board of Education meeting, School Business Administrator James Edwards said that the commissioner of education had denied the school’s emergency aid request, and that the Brick School District has appealed that denial.

That’s true, said Superintendent of Schools Gerard Dalton.

“In discussion with the Executive County Superintendent it was determined we have the ability to appeal that decision,” he said during the meeting. “Mr. Edwards and his office staff provided detailed information to further appeal the commissioner’s finding and pointed to duplicated information in the finding to challenge what they outlined to us.”

The school district would be moving ahead with litigation against the Department of Education, Dalton said. The central office team, district administrators and others have been working to prepare “volumes of data” for the attorneys representing this case.

“The biggest challenge for our team is determining what would occur if the predictions of loss of funding up to $23 million did occur in the next seven years,” he said.

“The community needs to understand the severity of these potential cuts as administrators have been trying to prepare them,” Dalton said. “The administration and the Board certainly do not support these cuts, but we are charged with considering what may occur should the loss of funding continue.”

The cuts could result in increased class sizes due to the elimination of staff; the elimination of programs both during the school day and extracurricular activities; the elimination of innovative curricular programs for all learners; the possibility to the return to half-day kindergarten; and more.

“This list is exhaustive, and I will tell you it has been an emotional drain for our district administrators to even have to consider these,” Dalton said.

It’s true that enrollment has declined, but while looking at 10 years of data, at one time class sizes were over 30 and the district was crunched for space.

There was no full-day kindergarten, so only the number of kindergarten classrooms were used across the district.

“We will continue to pursue all paths to restore school funding, but it’s important that our community begin to understand the implications of the loss of state aid, should it continue,” Dalton said.

In other news, long-time administrator Dennis Filippone said he would be retiring on February 1, 2019 after 40 years and five months of service.

Dalton thanked Filippone for his leadership and said he would be greatly missed. Filippone was the acting superintendent of schools when Dalton took over this year.

“Dennis is someone I feel I have known for many years. He’s someone who’s so easy to relate to because of his genuine warmth and concern for others,” Dalton said.

“He has been and continues to be a true advocate for each student in this district. I personally congratulate him on his distinguished career,” he said. “He’s touched the lives of many. Dennis, I wish you all the best. He’s been a great support to me in this transition.”

Filippone said he has spent 53 of his 63 years in the school system since he was also a student here.

“The good thing is, I got into the business to work with kids, and I’ll still be able to do that,” he said. “Everything that I have I owe to the district and the community. Thank you all for everything – it really has been awesome working with you. I do appreciate it.”

He said he’s not finished yet and would be at the next two Board of Education meetings.

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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.