Teachers and staff welcomed students to the Red Bank Middle School with a clap-in on the first day of the 2022-2023 school year. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank Superintendent Jared Rumage is not a fan of summer.
“I hate empty school buildings,” he said outside the middle school Tuesday, as the two-school district welcomed 1,261 students for a new academic year. “They should be like this, filled with kids.”
In an email exchange with redbankgreen last week, Rumage, now in his 10th year at the district’s helm, provided an overview of some key issues.
Students arriving at school Tuesday morning. Below, Superintendent Jared Rumage, right, outside the school with Chief Darren McConnell, left, and Lieutenant Robert Clayton. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
They included a proposed School Resource Officer, or SRO, program that would put an armed, recently retired, part-time police officer in the primary and middle schools.
The borough council has yet to act on the request, submitted by the board of education. Interim borough Administrator Darren McConnell, who also serves as police chief, said he expects the matter to be on the council’s September 14 meeting agenda.
Rumage also discussed enrollment, staffing, and the consolidation of all preschool students into the primary school for the first time in over a decade.
Here are his statements on each:
At this time, we have not made any other arrangements regarding school security. We are certainly comfortable with the protocols and measures we already have in place; however, the addition of a School Resource Officer would provide an added layer of protection and more importantly, enhance the already strong relationship we have with the RBPD.
While adding an SRO does not solve all problems, in the right scenario it could make a huge difference. Plus, the daily interaction with students is invaluable. RBPD members visit our schools daily and our children love to see them. Our students have enjoyed especially close relationships with the former LEAD facilitator, Retired Officer Dawn Shields. Dawn now serves as an SRO in the Rumson School District. Our children are establishing a similar relationship with the current LEAD facilitator, Officer Cevin Albert.
When we establish SROs in our buildings, I am certain they will be a positive influence on our school culture and serve as a bridge to building a better community. Our Board of Education approved a partnership with the Borough this past June and we are hopeful the Borough Council will do the same at an upcoming meeting.
Our enrollment is down about 75 students from last year. No specific reason and it was something we anticipated to some extent. It is likely attributed to multiple reasons including a decline in birth rates and also the impact of Covid. We also graduated our largest 8th-grade class ever – 152 students – it was a bubble.
For the past few years, we hosted several Preschool classrooms at Monmouth Reform Temple in a partnership with the YMCA of Greater Monmouth. With the reduced enrollment, we were able to house all students in Red Bank for the first time ever.
We are all set with staffing. It was a challenge in this market, but we are 100-percent filled.
As you know, we have been getting better and better each year, and the main reason is the people we hire. Hiring is the most important thing we do. Our teachers and leaders are highly-credentialed and remarkably compassionate resulting in strong culture to support our children, their families, and this community.
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