Elections: BOE Candidates Talk Absentee Policy

The candidates for board of education answer questions about issues facing the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District.

With the board of education elections coming on Nov. 6, we thought it would be a good time to hear directly from the candidates themselves about the issues that matter to residents.

On six different days this week, we will feature video responses from seven candidates on questions concerning the budget, curriculum and communication.

The candidates are incumbents Patrick Breslin, Cindy Cullen and Daniel Petrozelli, and Jacqueline Barlow, Aaron Kurdyla, Taha Marhaba and Hany Mostafa.

For this fifth question, we asked the candidates to talk about the new change in the absentee policy.

Click here to hear what the candidates had to say about contract negotiations.

Mike October 19, 2012 at 01:02 PM
First, what no one seems to realize is that STATE LAW DICTATES MUCH OF THE POLICY!! (http://www.nj.gov/education/code/current/title6a/chap16.pdf), NJAC 6A:16-7.8 specifically. Second, in her video, BoE member Cullen says if a student comes "one day a year and can pass," then the goal of educating the student has been accomplished so who cares about attendance? I've met Ms Cullen, and I respect her, but I vehemently disagree with this position. What do we do (other than blame the teachers, as usual) with the student who doesn't pass? Should the taxpayers then bear the cost of educating that student for an extra year (or more)? How does this help prepare students for college or work? If a student is THAT motivated AND capable to learn a year's worth of material on his/her own, great - let's have a special program (or the student should be home-schooled and the District should cut a check to the family). Then again...a "come whenever you want!" policy *would* result in troublemakers and miscreants staying home (or at the mall, or breaking into cars...) and the learning environment, already good, would improve even more. So perhaps Ms Cullen is onto something.... Has anyone sought TEACHER input? Teachers are the ones charged with getting the student caught up (a few students take on that job, but most push it to teachers). When Susie takes that Bahamas trip and misses a week, the teachers work twice as hard as the newly-tanned students to catch up.
Evan Lerner October 19, 2012 at 02:07 PM
The revised absentee policy currently being discussed was developed with significant input from the high school teaching staff and administration. In fact, many of the suggested revisions came directly from a task force convened at the high school last year by Principal Ludwig to look specifically at this issue.
Hillside_Parent October 19, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Cindy Cullen's comments are disturbing. Everyone should hear her video before voting. "I don't care if kids go to school or not" is a really great thing to hear from a board member, don't you think? Seriously, Mrs Cullen, is this what you believe? Since my kid can pass his science class, should he be allowed to skip that period whenever he feels like it? If his teachers can get through the minimum curriculum in 170 school days rather than 180, should they be given ten extra days off? I mean, why teach the kids if they've alread met the minimum standards? If the teachers can meet the state-mandated requirements by teaching four days a week instead of 5, should they take every Friday off?
BwaterDad October 19, 2012 at 08:34 PM
I think Ms. Cullen was stating an intentionally absurd example to make a point. As for the issue of making the standard one of performance rather than attendance, I think she is expressing a viewpoint that strongly emphasizes emphasizing personal responsibility that, while we might disagree with this specific result, is worthy of respect and consideration.
Mike October 19, 2012 at 08:45 PM
@EL: Thanks for the clarification. I was unaware of that.
Mike October 19, 2012 at 08:55 PM
The primary standard IS performance: those who choose not to try will fail (those who think teachers will enter a failing grade for a student who busts his/her arse are kidding themselves). There is, however, an attendance standard as well. I like Hillside_Parent's idea that as long as the kids is learnin' teachers should be able to show up when they like. Ok, false equivalence, but it makes a point. Perhaps Mr Lerner can enlighten us as to how much latitude the District has in setting policy under state law? My proposal (for HS): Juniors get 2 days max for documented college visits Seniors get 2 days max for documented college visits Death in immediate family is up to 5 days; extended family = 1 day Appeal for extenuating/unusual circumstances (I believe this is already in place) NO excused absences for family trips, tanning runs to the Caribbean, etc. All students get 1/2 day for driver's test All students already get 16 UNCONTESTED "free" days off out of 180. That's 8.9%. That's almost 1/2 day per week. Let's all try taking a 1/2 day every week at work. Last one still employed wins! And this doesn't even BEGIN to mention chronic tardiness...
Mike October 19, 2012 at 08:57 PM
BTW, a few years ago, what required a doctor's note was changed to require a parent note instead.
Mike October 19, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Petrozelli seems to get it. Is it a coincidence this is a bigger problem with older (HS) kids? I think not. School is 39 weeks or so (just like human gestation). Lots of time to take care of most things (family trips, hangovers, etc.).
Evan Lerner October 19, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Mike, I don't know the state law on the subject. And I am in agreement with you that missing 16 days is significant. I also believe that attending school is indeed important to a student's education. PS - If we happen to be at the same place in the future, I'd appreciate you saying hi.


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