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Palisades moves 2024-25 budget forward; rejects all food service bids


Unable to move its 2024-25 budget past the “proposed final” stage at its April 17 and May 1 school board meetings, the Palisades School District was able to finally reach that mandated budget timeline milestone at its May 15 meeting.

The board’s unanimous vote sets up a final round of expense-cutting attempts, but offers no further opportunity to add new expenses.

The budget was left unchanged “as presented” on April 29 at a special fiscal committee meeting; the May 1 regular board meeting; and the May 13 fiscal meeting, and apparently removed, at least for now, the need for any further special meetings.

The final fiscal committee meeting of the school year is set for June 17, and the final regular board meetings are scheduled for June 5 and June 19.

Treasurer James Hallowell reminded the board that the budget “must be finalized by the end of June.”

Before the unanimous vote, some members expressed continuing reservations about a social worker position that significantly exceeded its grant support; the use of a new math teacher line; and a special program being supported only through teachers’ split responsibilities. Regarding the math teacher, they were advised that a job description had just been delivered, and the district is now advertising for a new math teacher for the high school.

Also at the May 15 meeting, the board voted unanimously to “reject all food service management bids,” opting instead to pursue “a phased-in approach with current staff.”

The outsourcing initiative was now noted as “still in flux,” with a frequently-asked-questions (FAQ) document on the matter to be coming soon from the district, in response to numerous questions it had received from its community on the matter. In addition to consideration of the fate of current food service staff, it appeared that nutritional standards might also be part of the conversation, with one board member appearing to posit a relationship between insufficient food sales and reduced sugar and salt content.

At the outset of the May 15 meeting, the district’s student Cybersonics Team, and its contracted advisors — Carlos and Denise Reckner — were recognized by Assistant Superintendent Rich Heffernan for “outstanding performance in (various) competitions.”

Their resultant rankings among other student teams were 2nd out of 50 in the state; 2nd out of 727 in the mid-Atlantic region; 51st out of 2,806 nationally; and 60th out of 3,474 worldwide.

The now long-running, extracurricular support for the district’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) academic program features challenging the students with a problem to be solved by their development of a robotic solution.

In addition, Heffernan recognized kindergarten teacher Tiffany Hamilton and middle school teacher Rory McMullen, for their selections from thousands of nominations, for Citadel Heart of Learning Awards. The now 23-year-old initiative by Citadel Credit Union recognizes Greater Philadelphia teachers “who go above and beyond the call of duty.”

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