Aid will allow for new seats at Franklin auditorium, other projects

KEARNY —

Improvements to athletic facilities, school facility infrastructure, personnel and pay hikes will all be beneficiaries from $2,190,909 in supplemental state aid awarded the Kearny public schools for 2017-18.

H. Ronald Smith, the district’s interim school business administrator/board secretary, submitted a breakdown of how the funds would be used at the Sept. 18 Kearny Board of Education meeting.

The BOE voted to approve a general fund budget increase reflecting the additional aid and to increase the corresponding general fund accounts accordingly.

Smith told The Observer that the state Department of Education expects such an accounting from each district that received the special aid which, he said, Kearny anticipates it will continue to get each year.

Since the infrastructure projects will be one-time, non-recurring costs, Smith said the district would hope to apply a comparable amount next school year for other needed capital projects.

“Getting new windows for Garfield School, for example, would be high on the list,” he said.

For this school year, here’s how the district plans to allocate the cash:

$502,755 to re-turf the high school athletic field, which is used for scholastic football, soccer, track and field, gym classes and summer rec play.

The BOE agreed to contract with FieldTurf USA to replace the decade-old turf.

That’s the same company facing lawsuits by several local school districts and municipalities in New Jersey, including Newark, and elsewhere, following publication by last year’s Star-Ledger series alleging the company sold defective artificial playing surfaces between 2006 and 2010.

And it was FieldTurf that installed the original artificial surface at Kearny High.

After the Ledger’s stories appeared, The Observer asked Kearny school officials if they had any issues with the turf vendor but neither district operations director Mark Bruscino nor former KHS athletic director John Millar had any reservations about the product.

Millar had said that because the field had taken a beating from its constant use over the years, it would need a replacement at a cost he projected at between $500,000 and $700,000.

Smith said his understanding was that the company had disassociated itself with its former fiber supplier reportedly the source of the alleged deficiency. “That was old stuff and they’ve corrected that,” he added.

It’s the same company, Smith said, that installed the field at the new Atlanta Falcons (football) stadium. And, he said, “they just did two new fields in Fort Lee and Parsippany.”

“They’re solid guys,” Smith asserted. “I have full confidence in them.”

Smith said he anticipated work would begin “after the last [home football] game of the season, probably sometime in December. The job can be done during the winter.”

$200,980 to resurface the high school track.

This job will also be done by FieldTurf USA, in conjunction with Copeland Coating Co. of Nassau, N.Y.

Smith said portions of the track surface have been damaged over time so rather than patching it, the district will be having it done over.

For both the field and track, the district has arranged for the work to be contracted through the Keystone Purchasing Network Purchasing Program, a national purchasing cooperativeadministered by the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit, an educational service agency and political subdivision of Pennsylvania, based in Milton, Pa.

Work on the track will be weather-driven, Smith said. In order to spray a rubberized mat coating, the temperature “must be above 55 [degrees]. It will be done before the spring.”

$111,426 to purchase new auditorium seats for Franklin School.

The BOE awarded the installation contract to Nickerson Corp. of Union Beach and Bayshore, N.Y., through Educational Data Services, a turnkey cooperative procurement-management program based in Saddle Brook.

Many of the approximately 250 wooden-slat seats, which date from circa 1960, are showing signs of serious wear. There are gaps in some rows where seats too far gone to repair have been removed and not replaced.

Franklin School Principal Yvonne Cali said the new seating will be hard plastic. She said she’s requested a green coloring to match the school color pattern along with a tan floor.

“We’ll be delighted to get them,” she said.

Depending on the availability of the product and the vendor’s schedule, Smith hopes the seats can be put in “during the Christmas break” to avoid disruption of school assemblies and other activities held in the auditorium.

$100,000 for a new custodian assigned to the high school plus “overtime due to construction in high school.”

No specific breakout was readily available but a custodian’s salary and benefits will likely total about $50,000 and the overtime is related to cleanup and maintenance work triggered by the private contractor finishing new classrooms and cafetorium in the high school.

$332,747 for four new instructional coaches.

$220,000 for health insurance for additional staff.

$162,935 for three teachers at the high school: math, English and special education.

$107,564 for two teachers at Franklin School: second-grade and pre-K.

$51,783 for a resource teacher at Roosevelt School.

$51,783 for a third-grade teacher at Washington School.

$150,000 for raises for the district’s 203 teacher aides.

A new salary guide that took effect Sept. 1, 2017, sets these hourly rates: $11.25 for up to 4 years of service; $11.75 for 5-9 years; $13 for 10-14 years; $14.50 for 15-20 years; $15 for 21-25 years; and $15.50 for 26 or more years.

$122,999 for special education tuition for out-of-district placements.

$75,936 for maintenance, custodial and building equipment district-wide.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.