The Verona Board of Education is once again contemplating a re-evaluation of some district procedures when picking chaperones from school trips.
At the June 19, 2012 board meeting, the board announced it will tighten its rules about chaperoning class trips after a group of fathers supposedly held a party in a cabin during a fifth-grade camping trip.
H.B. Whitehorne Middle School Principal Yvette McNeal emailed details of the incident in a letter to parents of all fifth graders earlier that week. Additional details were learned at that night’s meeting, including information the fathers, who were supposed to be chaperoning the 10 boys, left them without a chaperone while they lit fires and drank alcohol at another cabin during a five-hour party.
Late last year, the board passed a resolution by a 3-1 vote, with board member Dawn DuBois abstaining, outlining a 12-page set of regulations that goes over chaperone behavior, details how they choose class trips, how the trips get approved, what kinds of things teachers need to think about, the responsibility of principals, how to choose chaperones and a form chaperones will need to sign stating they will abide by the rules. Board vice president Joseph Bellino cast the lone no vote.
But during Tuesday night's public meeting, Verona father Shawn Luftglass addressed the board asking them to reiterate some of their class trip policies.
Luftglass' wife requested to attend a June field trip to the Paper Mill Playhouse. Luftglass said she was not able to attend since she is not a class parent. He also claimed chaperones go on school trips for free as a bonus for being a class parent.
“The administration will take the number of parents needed to chaperone the trip,” said Verona Superintendent Steven Forte. “If the administration feels they need five parents, and 10 want to go, they will still only take five.”
Verona Board of Education President John Quattrocchi said the board will need to look into who is paying for parents on these field trips and how they will determine which parents will attend the trips.
Luftglass said he would feel more comfortable if someone he knew was attending the trip as a chaperone.
“If there is a group of five families that know each other and only one of them has time and can go, then the other four families are also comfortable,” he said.
Luftglass said his wife took a personal day this year to attend a trip to the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange and felt that most of the parents had their eyes on their phones more than they kept their eyes on the kids.
“The only time they were paying attention to any of the children was when they might have been taking pictures of their children, with their phones,” said Luftglass. “The Turtle Back Zoo is such an open area that they allowed any parents to go.”
Luftglass is concerned about the next trip to the Paper Mill Playhouse, which is more confined, he said.
Forte said trips like these raise some logistical problems and when you go somewhere like the Paper Mill Playhouse, you need a specific amount of tickets and that sometimes the shows are full.
“We needed to tighten up field trips because there were too many people going on them,” he said.
The board said Luftglass raised some good points and they will need to re-examine how they choose parents for trips and also create an equal opportunity so some parents don't get to chaperone twice while others don't get to at all.