Monroe board lauds three departing members

Staff Writer

As the Monroe Township Board of Education commenced its final meeting of the year, school officials praised the work of three outgoing board members.

Schools Superintendent Michael Kozak presented Board President George Doug Poye, Anthony Prezioso and Robert Czarneski, who served as a representative from Jamesburg, with plaques for their dedicated service on the board from 2013 through 2015 at the Dec. 16 board meeting. Poye and Prezioso ran unsuccessful bids for another term in the November election.

Kozak said Poye brought a unique perspective to the board, having served as an educator and high school principal in Hillsborough.

“Mr. Poye is not averse to asking tough questions [having] sweated through [some questions] myself,” he said, adding Poye always did so in a respectful manner. Kozak said Poye ensured the Monroe Township School District remained in the forefront of innovative educational practices and he assured Poye that they would continue to be a highly performing school district.

Poye spearheaded a steering committee to study the effect of growing student enrollment in schools and facilities and insisted on a balanced group of community members, students and educators.

“Mr. Poye is certainly one of the best presidents that I have worked for,” said Kozak.

Prezioso has been a champion for special education students, making sure they receive the best education the Monroe Township School District can offer.

“This is certainly evident in his comments and actions,” said Kozak. “He holds a huge holiday party for special needs students every year [which occurred this year on Dec. 12].”

Kozak said he can assure Prezioso that the district would continue to work to ensure all children receive a quality education that will prepare them for successful experiences in college and in career.”

Prezioso thanked Kozak and the board.

“We do this job for the kids,” he said.

Kozak thanked Czarneski for being committed to all the students, including the Jamesburg students he represents, ensuring that they receive the best educational experience.

“His commitment to education is evident through his own training as a board member and being an advocate for children in the districts,” he said.

Poye, in his final session leading the board, highlighted the many accomplishments the school district has made in the past three years.

The district refinanced $65 million of outstanding bonds from 2006 to 2008, saving $3.9 million in interest over the next 20 years, which averages just under $200,000 a year.

The district ended the financially failing MECA (Monroe Employee Childcare Academy) program and extended the district’s kindergarten program through the creation of Falcon Care, the tuition-based, board-operated enrichment program bringing revenue into the budget.

This past summer, renovations to the Monroe Township Middle School, funded out of the operating budget, allowed for the creation of 11 additional classrooms.

Poye said this was a great accomplishment for the district because they were able to create additional space for a “very crowded” school building by not utilizing borrowed funds.

An ad hoc student growth committee has been formed to find recommendations and present ideas to the board on how to handle student population now and five years from now.

Poye said this year the district saw an additional 186 students and foresees an additional

200 students every school year.

A redistricting plan was implemented after a state demography study in September creating a better balance for the seven elementary schools in the district.

Poye said he understands that the plan was unpopular, but noted that it was a state plan that the board approved.

The district upgraded facilities to prepare for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). The board approved a three-year iPad lease for the district’s one-to-one iPad initiative, he said.

Poye said after many meetings, the board successfully approved Kozak as the district’s new superintendent beginning in July. He said with the leadership of Kozak an improvement with communications among the school district and its constituents has begun.

He said going forward he has enjoyed working on the board and wanted to thank his supporters and the service of Prezioso and Czarneski.

“Being a member of the board is indeed a privilege and it is also a huge responsibility,” he said, adding that the commitment requires a willingness to listen to all points of views before making a decision.

Board member Michele Arminio thanked Poye for his dedicated service.

“You have been an intelligent and able leader who brought decorum and clarity and concise information to the board and to the public,” she said. “And I know that your continued interest in the community will ensure your participation and I look forward to meeting you publicly and privately. I am grateful and appreciate your leadership and the community has been well served.”

Board members Kathy Kolupanowich, Steven Riback, and Lew Kaufman shared the same sentiments and thanked Poye, Prezioso and Czarneski for their service.

A school board reorganization meeting will be held on Jan. 6, which will include the swearing-in of Marvin I. Braverman, who won re-election in November, and newcomers Dawn Quarino and Frank Russo.