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Regional BOE Rejects Academic Coaches Along Town Lines

The Regional Board of Education voted down hiring an academic coach to tutor students after school along town lines Monday night

With gaps in test scores between River Dell students and their District Factor Group (DFG) counterparts and results from the most recent survey showing that parents would want their students to have mathematics tutoring once a week, the River Dell Board of Education voted along town lines, 5-3, with Paul Barnes (Oradell) crossing the border to decline investigating the creation of an academic coach position.

The academic coach position, proposed by Board member Michael Chakansky, would have called for the district to hire a teacher that would be available for high school students for several hours after the school day who needed extra assistance in mathematics.

"This was brought out by my personal experience of looking at tutors," Chakansky said. "My proposal is for an academic coach to provide an enviroment for a particular core subject to be available for a period of time after school so as to not conflict with athletics or other post school activities. I think we owe it to our students to try it and see what happens."

But the proposal faced a major setback when Superintendent Patrick Fletcher outlines several reasons why he would not support the measure. Among his chief concerns was the possible contractual issue with the River Dell Education Association (RDEA) in regards to hiring a staff member outside of the existing contract that was not vetted or reviewed.

"Second, I don't think this is an activity the school board should become involved in," Fletcher. "The board has opportunities to enhance the extra help programs that already occur and am very encouraged by the number of students that are already taking advantage of the extra help offered now. And finally the way this process has gone about has left a lot to be desired. To come out of nowhere at a board meeting without the involvement of the superintendent or other board members created an environment where this could not be vetted fully. For those reasons, I am not supportive of this measure."

While several board members all expressed interest in doing more to help student achievement, a general consensus could not be reached that an academic coach is the best option.

Board member Patti Almberg suggested giving the middle school Plus program the full year and then looking to implement a similar model at the high school. The Plus program offers additional help to seventh and eighth grade students following the regular school day.

"The best way to increase learning is to make our class sizes smaller," Barnes argued. "Rather than hire academic coaches, we would be better to spend our money on hiring additional teachers which would allow our teacher to student ration to go down."

Board member Roger Tashjian suggested giving Fletcher until Oct. 29 to vet out the details of creating an academic coach position but his motion failed 5-3. Along with Tashjian and Chakansky, Dorothea Durand supported moving ahead in researching the creation. Barnes, Stephanie Hartman, Almberg, Claudia O'Neil and Vito Acquafredda rejected the proposal.

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GGT October 17, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Tom W; At least Oradell's members of the BOE understand that there is a problem, and it needs to be addressed. River Edge members of the BOE choose to bury their heads in the sand and ignore it. Which is typical in general. As far as Teachers being available before and after school for help, talk to some Parents and Students and they will tell you that more than a few of these Teachers do not even bother to show up after telling the Students they would be there. It appears some resent having to do it. In the end however it shows that some River Dell Teachers are unable to get the results we need, based on those low test scores. And that says it all. And once again Oradell residents get the short end of the stick out voted again!
TomW October 17, 2012 at 01:33 PM
The proposal was voted down. The three members that voted to move forward with the investigation of hiring an Academic Coach were Tashjian, Chakansky and Durand. All Oradell residence. How did Oradell residents get the short end of the stick out voted? Barnes (Oradell) crossed town lines to join River Edge.
lucky October 22, 2012 at 01:11 PM
@TomW - not sure where or when you went to school, but study hall at RDHS is a free period - there are no teachers available for tutoring. Study hall is used by the students to either study, do homework or goof around. And I agree with GGT, at least some of the Oradell members recognize the problem and tried to address it. Maybe this was worth trying, not much to lose and better than doing nothing. Didn't hear any better ideas from the RE members. And Mr. Barnes, no surprise, voted just the way his NJEA would tell him to with the comment to decrease class size (ie. hire more teachers) - when the data for this level of education suggests that class size has no impact.
GGT October 22, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Tom W: You are right. I stand corrected.
GGT October 22, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Tom W: But as lucky said, three out of the four Oradell memebers of the RD BOE, saw a problem, ans attempted to deal with it. All of the River Edge members as appears to be so typical in River Edge now choose to ignore or deny the problem.

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