BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP — The Buena Regional Board of Education rejected a proposal to privatize aides at a packed and passionate meeting this week.
It leaves the district with an $800,000 shortfall for next year’s budget that acting Superintendent Pasquale Yacovelli, who also is business administrator, said will require cuts in other areas.
Aides and parents testified for almost two hours Tuesday night about the role of the aides, saying a private company won’t have the same sense of commitment and community as the district aides, many of whom live in the township and attended local schools.
Parent Angela Mathews talked about how aides for her 11-year-old, Julian, who has special needs, take care of him, calling if the weather is bad to see whether he will have problems. One even bought him a winter coat.
“We had it put in his IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that he can hug her,” Mathews said of an aide. “It’s his comfort.”
Aide Amy Collins talked about her work in the library and how she knows every student and their reading levels and helps them find books they will like. She said she spent her own time for months painting life-sized Disney characters for the school because she loves her job.
“We all understand the budget needs to be balanced,” she said. “But don’t do it by bringing strangers in and pushing us out. It’s not the way.”
Township Committeeman Steve Martinelli and Deputy Mayor Teresa Kelly also testified the Township Committee did not support the plan.
The district already uses a company, Insight, for substitute teachers and aides. Yacovelli said the district’s attorney advised they would not be able to extend that contract for full-time aides and would have to request new proposals. The defeated resolution would have authorized getting those proposals.
Yacovelli said the budget was about $1.3 million short, and the 2 percent cap on property taxes raised only about $300,000. He said 11 instructional positions were already planned to be cut, and the only place left to go for the cuts is programs and personnel, because other areas, such as supplies, were cut last year to save personnel.
“The high school’s supply budget ran out the third week of school,” Yacovelli said.
Interim Superintendent Mary Lou DeFrancisco attended the meeting but does not start work until Wednesday. She said she took notes and would listen to any suggestions but added there are no magic tricks to balance the budget.
“It’s all dollar signs,” she said.
DeFrancisco is replacing John DiStefano, who resigned from the district and retired for medical necessity, Yacovelli said.
DeStefano has been out of the district since mid-February. He received a $15,000 separation payment and unused vacation time worth about $4,000.