New Policy Manual Approved by LBI School Board, Adoption Expected Dec. 19

Nov 29, 2017

When the Long Beach Island Consolidated Board of Education reconvenes for its final meeting of the year next month, it’s expected members will vote on adopting, at second reading, a new policy and regulation manual. The board approved the new manual at its Nov. 21 meeting, following a short presentation by Philip Nicastro of Strauss Esmay Associates.

“All we do is policy,” he told the board, noting his organization currently works with more than 400 public school districts across the state. The Toms River-based company has more than 40 years of experience in school policy and regulation with a staff who have extensive education, policy and legal understanding. Nicastro was a school district superintendent for 26 years.

A draft handbook was put together with changes being made up until Oct. 16, when the book was updated to reflect the needs of the district, he said.

After the board formally adopts the manuals, there are several options, Nicastro said, for keeping the documents updated. Currently, the board uses a three-binder system for each member of the board and for key district personnel. There is also a master copy.

Strauss Esmay offers a web-based program that would permit each member of the board access to the district’s policies without the cost of printing. The service also provides an opportunity for members of the public to have access to the district’s policies by embedding a special URL on the district’s website, he said.

“What you get,” he told the board, “is support service updates, unlimited customized policy writing, and access to policies other districts have adopted that aren’t online.”

Officials sometimes use policies of other districts as a launching pad to customize a policy, instead of starting from scratch, he said.

“We updated 109 policies in 2016-17,” Nicastro said, noting about 300 of the public school district Strauss Esmay services use the web-based program to manage their policy and regulation manuals. “We have more than 200 policies available online, all tied to our software.”

The annual cost for the software is about $1,500, which is less expensive than printing the policy and regulation manual, he said. If the board opts to stay with the hard copy version, it would receive a Word and PDF master document at no charge, and at least one hard copy of the manual.

“It’s a lot easier to do electronically,” he said, acknowledging the choice is up to the district. Should the board agree to the software, the cost would include privileges for one editor and 14 users. Supplemental users can be added for $95. “When, if, you’re ready, we will show you how it works. We want you to be confident with it.”

Allyn Kain, a former teacher and head of the policy committee, reminded the board about 98 percent of the policies are state or federally mandated.

“We can’t change statute,” she said, noting there are approximately five or six policies the policy committee wants to discuss with the board as a whole before adopting them.

Nicastro told the board to pull out the policies that warrant further discussion; they can be adopted at a later time.

“They’re little things,” Kain told the board, such as whether they should advertise meetings in one newspaper, or two.

Board members Bonnie Picaro and Georgene Hartmann voted against approving the manual, citing concerns they didn’t have the material to review ahead of time. Board Vice President Jen Bott argued the policy committee spent hours going over the policies and regulations to make sure the district was in compliance.

“There is a basic concept that you don’t just vote on something you haven’t read,” Picaro said.

— Gina G. Scala

ggscala@thesandpaper.net

 

 

 

 

 

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