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School Board Updates Policies

One policy will make it clear that home-schooled children cannot participate in school sports.

Millburn School Board members discussed changes to the athletics policy on Monday night, making it clear that athletes who don't attend Millburn schools cannot participate in school sports, a rule that would keep home-schooled students from getting to play.

The change in wording evolved out of changes to policies around the state and the country – in some communities home-schooled students are allowed to play sports for school teams and in other communities they are not, said Board Member Sam Levy, who heads the board’s policy committee.

The rule allowing home schooled children to play school sports is sometimes referred to as the “Tim Tebow Rule” because Tebow was homeschooled and played high school sports in his Florida hometown before going on play in college and the NFL, he said.

Millburn does not allow home-schooled students to pick up a chemistry or calculus class so some board members said it is only fair that they not be allowed to play sports either.

“Our policies do not permit that kind of cherry picking (in academics) either,” Levy said.

 “The prevailing wisdom is that it’s not fair for those students to participate when they don't have the same restrictions and academic pressures to meet as the students in school,” Levy said. “I think it is also meant to eliminate districts from potentially poaching top athletes from other districts and bring them in to be home schooled in the district and play for the team.”

Mark Zucker said that he thought it was important to make the community aware of the policy so that anyone who wants to discuss it will have a chance.

 “If you are home schooled and have no opportunity to participate in sports, yet your parents are paying axes,” Zucker said. “I don’t really feel all that strongly about it though.”

A couple of residents spoke against the policy change, saying that home schooled children should not be excluded from sports because their parents do pay taxes and those taxes do go to support the schools.

The board also reviewed other policies, mostly editing out the pre-ambles to specific policies.

In other discussion, at the beginning of the meeting, Board President Michael Birnberg polled the other members of the board to find out if they had leaked information from a a recent executive session.

Birnberg said that during the executive session, there was a discussion concerning a matter that could not be made public (all information in executive sessions is private). Later, he said, some correspondence with the subject of the discussion seemed to include exact wording from the Board's private discussion. When polled as to whether they had shared information from the executive session, all the board members said, "No." So Birnberg said he would be looking into the matter further. 

In his report to the board, Superintendent Dr. James Crisfield listed numerous accomplishments by Millburn High School students, including the who have been named National Merit Finalists in the 2012 Competition for National Merit Scholarships and three US Presidential Scholars (students who made a perfect score on the SAT.)

This prompted Board Member Jeffrey Waters to remind the audience that so  many National Merit Scholar finalists is unusual for most high schools.

He said he was glad for the public to hear this news because at the last meeting two members of the audience chastised the school board only being the best in the state and having fallen in rank nationally, stating that MHS students are competing with kids from better schools that are thinking outside the box.

“From what I heard last week it sounded like because we don’t have organic gardening, the school district is on the verge of collapse, then I hear this data,” Waters said.

“I like it when a number proves a point,” he said. “And I think we have some numbers here that do prove a point and the point is not that because we don’t have organic gardening somehow the Millburn school system is a failure. That’s preposterous.”

He went on to admonish those the system without facts to back it up.

“I think this small group of people are having a disproportionate impact on public perception and they’re doing it through the press and it’s flat out wrong,” he said. “I, and everyone up here, will be totally vigilant at the slightest sign of that (decline) but I don’t see it, and I look for it every day …We’re doing extraordinary things here every day.”

School officials also received praise from parents for the kick off of the strategic planning session that was held on Sunday.

About 60 participants showed up and got to work, said Dr. Christine Burton, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum,

“It was a wonderful day, generating ideas and discussion,” she said, adding that she would keep the community updated on the progress on the district's website.

The Bus stops Here March 14, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Ms. Most: You ask what having 17 Merit Scholar Finalists "means in terms of our district's overall performance" and you call for an analysis of these scores over the past 5 years. Hmm... not sure what these very high scores could mean for the district. It sure is curious. But, since we're talking about SATs, maybe this SAT question can help us all to figure it out. Question: The Millburn School District can be described as: A) needing organic farming B) needing metrics, metrics and more metrics, as only they can save the district C) a district for which Carolyn Most's constant barrage of fact-starved blogging comments on multiple websites is harmful to the real estate in town D) a district producing many very well-educated, successful students E) all of the above F) only C and D
greengirl March 14, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Test question number 2: Millburn School District should be proud that it: A.) Listens to its constituency and caters to their needs B.) Uses its funds realistically to meet the current needs of students C.) Is looking into its continuing surplus and how it can be reduced to benefit students and residents alike D.) warmly welcomes and embraces resident comments at BOE meetings E.) does not bully board members who do not vote with majority blocks F.) develops written plans and makes them accessible to board and public before requesting spending money G.) it should be ashamed that it does not do any of the above Answer: G The bus may stop here but I pay for it and I want to know where it going!
neanderer March 14, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Good point. Did Birnberg confirm he did not release the information?
M OKeef March 14, 2012 at 08:00 PM
And I thought the comments argument was going to be whether it is the school's curriculum or private tutoring which leads to high SAT scores.....
greengirl March 14, 2012 at 10:20 PM
JHK- I am not WLM or affiliated in any way. You call it arrogance. I call it disrespect for others that do not share their views. The behavior that I witnessed was condescending, hostile and unprofessional to other board members and the public alike. Perhaps it was a reaction to the WLM people (I do not know who they are) but that does not excuse it. You say that most are in agreement with the BOE. Who witnessing the treatment of Ms. Pasternak, replete with eye rolling when she was speaking, would stand up to the BOE and have that directed against them? That turnout is low could be attributed to the unfriendly environment at these meetings and an unresponsive attitude towards the public-which you refer to as "spoiled and entitled." I was talking with some people and I'm not seeing a lot of support for the BOE or superintendent and a lot of confusion with the continuing surplus. I asked a board member if the public has access to plans before we spend money and was informed that the BOE doesn't either! Why not? I am not a regular on this site outside of environmental issues so maybe this has been addressed before. Posts like The Bus Stops Here are the same nasty tone as the meetings-same people? With the intention of showing my daughter how the system works I thought I would check out a meeting first because I heard they get rough. I will not bring her. In fact, I may not go back again myself.

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