MANCHESTER – Snow days, the school district budget preparation, and state testing were just some of the subjects on the mind of interim Superintendent Diane Pedroza who recently spoke with The Manchester Times about the new year for the school district.
“One good day would be great,” she said concerning students and even staff enjoying a snow day off, something that was experienced last week during a snow storm that area residents hadn’t experienced in at least two to three years.
“We want them to build, have fun and be outside, there is nothing like missing a day of school,” she said with a laugh. She noted that her transition to this position “has been going rather well.”
Pedroza added, “the challenge is that I am currently doing both jobs. The job of director of curriculum and doing the job of interim superintendent. That being said I have the support of my administrative team. The staff has been tremendous and the community very helpful.”
“In curriculum right now, we have two things going on: New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC) is the Department of Education’s monitoring and district self-evaluation system for public school districts, which is our auditing of all of our programs, basically a self-reflection,” she added.
“What we actually work on is not only curriculum but test scores and a section that talks about hiring practices. It is a very big undertaking but I have a very large committee and I work with them,” she said.
“We are also focusing on implementing new standards. In September of 2024 we will have to implement the new English arts standards and the math standards and there are some major revisions there,” Pedroza said.
Pedroza added, “I’ve worked in the district and in education for 24 years and it allows me to bring in a truly extensive professional experience along with having strong roots here. I am deeply dedicated to the community and to the schools. Manchester pride is woven in to who I am and everything that I do so it has been a bit of a balancing act but thank goodness I have a great team and it has been going fairly well.”
Regarding planning for this year’s budget, she noted, “I don’t think people realize how soon it begins. We have already started preparing our budget. We started in the fall. Around that time, we are looking at the next school year,” Pedroza said.
“We will continue to work through the year and typically it is finalized in the spring,” she said. The usual process is that the governor releases information about such things as state aid in March. The district then has to get their budget approved by the county superintendent in May.
She added, “we’ve been keeping very much in line with that. It was due before winter recess with our business administrator. We will have meetings about it and we will present it sometime in the spring to the public.”
She noted that many school districts have been struggling with state aid funding cuts, “some moreso than we are but there is always rising costs. We are extremely innovative and we are always looking for ways to get funding from grants that will offset some of the things we have going on here.”
“As far as our focus and our priorities we are always looking at every way that programming can remain untouched. That is a priority for us. The priority is always what is best for our students but we are struggling like everybody else with rising costs.”
She said, “our title II money has pretty much stayed the same, our title I money went down a little bit but where we had an increase was our title III money that supports our multi-language learners and so that has been very helpful for us.”