The Verona Township Council and Verona Board of Education commended each other for their unique working relationship at last night's joint meeting at the Verona Community Center.
“Most towns do not have the kind of relationship we have in Verona,” stressed board of education President John Quattrocchi, who presented a review of the relationship and the benefits the community receives as a result.
In most towns the council and the board of education operate in complete isolation, he asserted, whereas in Verona the two overlap.
“We are on the phone much more often than anyone in the public would recognize,” Quattrocchi said, indicating the two bodies plan to continue the pattern of open communication and cooperation.
“In Verona we see the relationship as a quality of life issue,” Quattrocchi said.
“It’s to get the best results,” Mayor Frank Sapienza agreed, citing the October 2011 snowstorm as an excellent example. He described how the township, the police department and acting Superintendent Elizabeth Jewitt all worked together to determine when conditions were safe to reopen schools.
“We’re a well-oiled machine,” Sapienza touted.
Council member Jay Sniatkowski observed the relationship has “improved 10-fold” in his tenure on the council, noting a good working relationship makes sense. Whether improvements are needed for the town or the schools, he pointed out, “it still comes out of the same pocketbook.”
According to Quattrocchi the two share services only when it benefits the entire community.
For example, he cited maintenance contracts, construction projects, ongoing snow removal and turf management, roof replacement at the community pool and upgrades to the baseball field and stadium for the Greater Newark Tournament.
Although Quattrocchi acknowledged the term “shared services” makes his “skin crawl,” he asserted the combining of services in no way indicated inferiority.
“Ninety-eight percent of the time it is doing more with less,” he said.
He pointed out working in collaboration with the town, the board was able to renovate a bathroom located beside the Lanning Avenue School gym, which is used by the whole community for various sporting events.
“Think of it as good ol’ barn raising,” he said.
Quattrocchi emphasized this collaboration is particularly important at a time when the schools across the state are under “extreme stress” financially.
Although he acknowledged the district appears to be one of the top spenders among comparable districts in terms of administration cost per pupil, when you look at the numbers in terms of spending per building, Verona ranks among the lowest in the group.
As an example, he explained it in terms of vacation homes. The more homes one owns the more maintenance costs. “It’s no different from having two vacation homes.”
In a related matter, Superintendant Steven Forte said he is looking into ways to bring in more revenue to the schools. One option is to rent out space in the middle school for a summer program. Another is to allow advertising on school buses.
Forte also reported two of the three summer college-credit courses have been cancelled. The history course on Vietnam remains.
Town Manager Joseph Martin said the council will discuss turf management at a future meeting after the issue was raised by a student in a previous meeting. The student had concerns about chemicals sprayed on athletic fields used by children in the town.
Along similar lines, Verona Environmental Commission Chairman Gerard Shimonaski requested the town council support the safe playing field act with a resolution. The field management topic is slated for the July 16 meeting.