RED BANK: SCHOOL AID TO RISE 13 PERCENT

Red Bank Primary School. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

Red Bank schools will see a $339,000 increase in budgetary help from Trenton next year, the Christie Administration announced Thursday.

As part of what the state Department of Education called “the largest appropriation of K-12 education dollars in the state’s history,” the two-school Red Bank district will see an increase in state aid of 13 percent, to a total $2.7 million, in the 2013-2014 year, the agency said in a press release.

The entirety of the increase reflects “under-adequacy” funding, a new DOE category of aid designed “to benefit districts that are currently 10 percent or more below” what the state figures it costs to provide students an adequate education.

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SCHOOL ARTS TO GET INSTRUCTOR BOOST

Count Basie CEO Adam Philipson and director of education Yvonne Lamb Scudiery meet the press on Tuesday. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Red Bank’s youngest students can expect an extra-dose of performance-art based teaching in their upcoming curriculum, thanks in part to the hometown Count Basie Theatre and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C.

Borough schools Superintendent Laura Morana was joined by new Basie CEO Adam Philipson and director of education Yvonne Lamb Scudiery during her monthly press meeting at middle school Tuesday to help detail the Kennedy Center’s upcoming workshops for teachers, designed to help them understand the importance of performing arts as a part of overall education.

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RED BANK PRE-K: ALL IN, IF NOT ALL IN TOWN

Teacher Kelly Hogan greets a returning four-year-old in her new classroom at RBR Thursday. Below, students gets ready to draw their own portraits.  (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank crossed an educational milestone Thursday when, for the first time, it opened its doors to 345 three- and four-year-olds, leaving out no children eligible for its pre-K program, officials said.

The fact that only 11 of the  23 classrooms to house the newly-expanded program are actually in Red Bank appears not to be much of an issue to parents, a “really excited” district Superintendent Laura Morana told reporters on a tour of four classes at Red Bank Regional High, in Little Silver, on opening day.

“Parents are simply delighted” that the program, funded with $4.1 million from the state Department of Education, is available to all kids in the three-and-four-year-old cohort, Morana said. “If any are upset, I haven’t heard it.”

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PRE-K BEGINS YEAR WITH 60 STAYING HOME

head-start-090611The lights were on Tuesday morning as the staff awaited the arrival of pre-k students for the first day of the school year at the Head Start school on Drs. James Parker Boulevard. (Click to enlarge)

Red Bank’s multiyear ramp-up to a full pre-kindergarten program reaches a new plateau Tuesday, with room for every four-year-old whose parents desired enrollment having a classroom seat.

But opening day of the 2011-’12 school year also means that fewer three-year-olds could be accommodated than initially expected, leaving some parents disgruntled, says Superintendent Laura Morana, who oversees the two-school district.

“Maybe one thing parents don’t understand is that we cannot accept every three-year-old,” she says. “There is a five-year program calling for gradual expansion of the program to 2013-’14, when all three- and four-year-olds will be enrolled. It’s not as though we’re neglecting the three-year-olds.” Read More »

PRE-K AT THE LIMIT, AND LIKELY TO STAY

pre-k2Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction, John Bombardier, with a pre-k student. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

After two years of growth, the number of children in Red Bank’s lauded pre-kindergarten program is likely to stay static next school year, a direct result of the state’s dire budget situation.

“I don’t know that we’ll be able to expand, but we expect we’ll have the same number of children for next year,” Superintendent Laura Morana said.

Now taking up residence at various locations throughout the borough, the early education program tailored to three- and four-year-olds is at capacity, with 238 students, plus a waiting list.

And Morana can’t stop singing the praises of the state-funded initiative, in which only five school districts in the state were selected to participate.

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BOARD PASSES BUDGET, TAX INCREASE

rb-budgetBoard members Ann Roseman and Ben Forest at Tuesday night’s session. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Red Bank Board of Education unanimously passed a $19 million budget Tuesday night, a spending plan that will increase the tax levy if voters approve it next month.

Even with $1.4 million in reductions in the general operating portion of the budget, to $14.1 million, the budget will result in a 3.75 percent increase to the tax rate due to a drop in revenues and the state-mandate that local school districts use surplus funds to compensate for state aid cuts, school officials said.

Property owners would see an approximate 2 cent increase per $100 of valuation their tax bills, to $0.5371. For the owner of a home assessed at the borough-average $405,000, that would mean $2,175 in taxes, excluding levies for the the borough government, the regional high school and Monmouth County.

To make up for a steep cut in state aid to the two-school system, positions had to be eliminated — though there haven’t been any layoffs — and, among other extracurricular programs, all athletics at the middle school were dropped.

“To me that’s just incredible,” said a displeased Ben Forest, who heads the board’s finance committee.

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MORANA: “WE’RE NOT GETTING ANYTHING”

IMG_6290While dedicated funding will pay for an expansion of the pre-K program, nearly all of the remaining state aid would be passed through to the Red Bank Charter School, Morana says.

The news from Trenton had Red Bank school officials elated, disappointed and “confused” all at once yesterday.

Elated because the state allotment of funds to schools under Governor Chris Christie’s austerity plan will put enough money into the district for an expansion of its highly regarded pilot pre-kindergarten program.

But baffled and deeply let down because, as it stands, the borough will net just $24,000 for all other needs, after deducting funds the two-school district is obligated to pass-through to the Red Bank Charter School.

Against a proposed $19.9 million spending plan, the state’s contribution is barely perceptible, says Superintendent Laura Morana.

“We’re not getting anything at all,” she told redbankgreen yesterday. It’s so perplexing to local officials that they are pressing the Christie administration for an explanation.

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MORANA TO CHRISTIE: LOOK BEFORE YOU CUT

img_9861072309Superintendent Laura Morana in her office in July.

Red Bank schools Superintendent Laura Morana is urging Governor-elect Chris Christie get a up-close look at the district’s pre-kindergarten program before taking a scalpel to the state budget, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

The district is one of only five statewide participating in a pilot program to establish early education curricula outside of the 31 economically troubled so-called ‘Abbott‘ districts. Red Bank got $2 million from the state Department of Education for an expansion of its program to 165 students this year, from 15 three-year-olds last year, and Morana had hoped to increase enrollment to 225 next September, the Press reports.

During his campaign to replace Gov. Jon Corzine as the state’s chief executive, Christie derided pre-k programs as state-funded babysitting, the Press says. But Red Bank’s program has been won positive reviews from researchers at Harvard, Georgetown and Johns Hopkins universities for its benefits in boosting academic achievements in early school years, Morana says.

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RED BANK EARLY-ED PROGRAM IN SPOTLIGHT

tools-nytmag1The article appears in an education-themed edition of the magazine.

The Red Bank school system‘s cutting-edge early childhood education program known as Tools of the Mind is spotlighted in the New York Times Magazine on newsstands today and tomorrow.

Already a magnet for education theorists who come to town to see it in action, the borough program is used by the magazine as a jumping-off point for a detailed discussion of some fairly arcane research into what works and doesn’t work in equipping pre-K and kindergarten students with the ability to learn.

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