New charter school may cost teacher aide jobs


The first-ever charter school in Kearny has yet to open but already it has impacted the town’s public school system.

Because the district only recently learned how many Kearny students will be attending the Hudson Arts and Science Charter School — after the Board of Education had adopted its 2016-2017 budget — district officials are scrambling to adjust.

Since it has to come up with nearly $3 million to pay the cost of educating those students, the district is scrambling to find ways of offsetting that expense by trimming other areas in the budget.

Among the resulting casualties, it turns out, will be teacher aides.

A letter sent by Schools Superintendent Patricia Blood to certain aides reads as follows:

“As I am sure many of you may have heard, the Hudson Arts and Science Charter School was granted final approval by the N.J. Department of Education to open this September in the building once occupied by St. Stephen’s School (aka Mater Dei).

“This approval means that the Kearny School District is required to provide 90% of the tax levy per pupil cost of students enrolled in the Kearny School District for any Kearny resident pupil attending the charter school.

“We are currently budgeted as the 13th-lowest amount for per pupil spending among similar K-12 districts in the state of New Jersey. According to the Taxpayers’ Guide to Education Spending, Kearny’s latest actual cost amount per pupil is $12,478. Therefore, we are required to provide $11,312.65 per student for those who have chosen to attend Hudson Arts and Science.

“As of today’s date [July 28], 252 students from Kearny are enrolled, which totals a required payment of $2,850,787.50.

“Although Hudson Arts and Science is a public school, it is not affiliated with the Kearny School District in any way. Nonetheless, as a public school, the students attending the charter school who are Kearny residents must be financed by the Kearny School District budget.

“As you can imagine, providing nearly $3 million to the charter school has forced the [Kearny School] District’s reappraisal of the 2016-2017 school budget. Regrettably, the District must now make serious cuts in all areas, resulting in the elimination of many positions among the ranks of our administration, faculty and support staff.

“Among the positions being eliminated are all non-mandated paraprofessional positions. Financially, the district is no longer able to continue to employ aides in our kindergarten classrooms or during our lunch periods.

“We will continue to employee classroom aides in our pre-kindergarten and special education self-contained classrooms, as well as one-to-one aides for those students whose Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan include that requirement.

“As we continue to determine the positions that require an aide, it is our intent to notify you prior to school’s opening of your placement should be position be available. … If a position is not available in September, you will be placed on the district’s substitute list.”

Records in the district’s central office indicate that of the 220 aides that were on the KBOE payroll, 35 are to be pared, leaving a total of 185, according to district sources.

Exactly how much the district will save by not reappointing those 35 people could not be readily learned by press time.

The aides work three hours a day at an hourly rate based on a step schedule tied to longevity. They are not represented by the Kearny Education Association.

Meanwhile, district and local police officials have been chatting with the charter school about how they’ll be handling traffic flow along Midland Ave. as related to the busing of children from outside Kearny during morning and afternoon rush hour periods.

And they are also reviewing the issue of scheduling sufficient school crossing guard coverage for the charter school, which will reportedly be starting its instructional day a bit earlier than the public schools.

The KPD may be looking to schedule staggered shifts to cover both the charter school and nearby Lincoln School, one police official said.

Safety issues at the charter school would seem to be in good hands, given that a retired member of the KPD – Sgt. John Manley – is in charge of security there.

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