School board will give monthly incident report

UPPER FREEHOLD — Upper Freehold Regional School District (UFRSD) officials discussed changes in monthly reporting of incidents of violence and vandalism in the schools at last week’s meeting.

District Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Connelly announced that a memorandum had been received from the state Education Commissioner’s Office, stating that a "Violence and Vandalism Report" must be an item on the board’s monthly agenda.

He added, "We reflect society. The worst thing we could do is to not report a problem.

"Everything today is full disclosure — there’s no hiding things under the carpet, and it’s healthier. I would want my child in a school where problems are reported and dealt with."

There was some discussion among officials about the definition of violence, and what it would constitute.

Board member Jennifer DeMauro suggested, "As a tool for the district, year-to-year data analysis helps. Analysis clarifies definitions."

Connelly emphasized "honest reporting — neither over- or underreporting [the figures]. Things happen that are part of normal [childhood] growth.

"They are dealt with immediately," the superintendent said of violent incidents in the schools.

Board member Lee Hensley called analysis of violent incidents "bogus," noting that "90 percent of schools don’t report incidents." Connelly replied, "Not in terms of what we’re reporting," although he said that gray areas exist in terms of definitions of what constitutes an incident.

"We’ll revisit definitions and use this as a baseline year. We’ll do our own internal comparisons to use the data in a useful way," added the superintendent.

In related business, Allentown High School Principal Christopher Nagy outlined the school’s drug policy. "If we suspect [students] are under the influence, they are checked out by the school nurse and have a blood test. A positive result means suspension," Nagy explained.

He said last year two students were caught in possession of drugs, and that the police were called and dealt with the situation directly. Nagy also noted that the last week in October is Anti-School Violence Week, and that English and social studies classes will address the issue. He was looking to work with the state prison department and have a presentation made to students

Board President Lynn Meara remarked that, with the new fields and sports facilities, more kids could get involved in extra-curricular activities, which she believes will lessen the problems of violence and vandalism. In other business, a change order in the referendum was approved by the board. An additional $6,000 was appropriated to American Athletic Courts Inc., bringing the revised amount of the referendum to $547,500. Also at the meeting, Upper Freehold Deputy Mayor Bill Miscoski was on hand to accept an award to the township by the Board of Education .

It was given in recognition of a transfer of property by Upper Freehold Township to the UFRSD to use for educational and recreational purposes. Miscoski remarked that, when it comes to children, Upper Freehold and Allentown are "all one community."

— Jane Meggitt