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Fair Lawn Week in Review (March 5 - March 9)

Missed any of this week's news? It's all right here.

Monday, March 5

Concerned with the growing number of kindergarteners entering school behind where they need to be academically, the district is hoping to add a remedial full-day kindergarten option in the fall.

"If we want to continue with the  that we’ve been able to really enjoy over the last five years at , we have to get the younger kids stronger in the academics," Superintendent Bruce Watson said at Thursday's  meeting.

Fair Lawn currently has only a half-day kindergarten program, which Watson said has hurt the district for a long time.

"The students who are coming into the kindergarten, who are already behind, really do not catch up to that first grade when they enter first grade," he said. "Many of them are not on the same level as other students and we believe for some time now that they’re really starting at a little bit of a deficit. And that’s unfair for kids."

Don't get too excited about . It won't be going to reduce your taxes, add jobs and programs, or prevent prospective personnel cuts.

The money will be used primarily to prepare the district for what Superintendent Bruce Watson calls additional unfunded mandates coming down from the state like Excellent Educators for New Jersey (EE4NJ) -- the state's proposed teacher evaluation system --and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) -- which designs computer-based student assessments built on the Common Core State Standards.

Eleven districts statewide are currently piloting EE4NJ, the teacher evaluation program, with the expectation that it will be rolled out in all districts next year and provide annual teacher evaluations based on standards of effective teacher practices and student achievement.

Tuesday, March 6

Margie Gelbwasser may not have grown up interacting with her classmates in the digital space like today’s teens, but the 35-year-old author has no trouble imagining the disastrous consequences that bullying can have when perpetrated online, where words and pictures exist in perpetuity.

“When I was a teen, people spread rumors about people all the time. And what they said was hurtful and untrue, and this was just words—no internet then, no texting, no videos, etc.” said Gelbwasser, whose new novel deals with the issue of cyberbullying.

“I thought this book was important to write for all the teens out there who have gotten hurt by words that went viral, that reached heights words were not able to reach in the past,” she said. “I wanted people to see how one action can affect others.”

Due out March 8, Gelbwasser’s second young adult novel, “Pieces of Us,” tells the story of four teens – two pairs of siblings – who escape their tormented realities each summer at their families’ lakeside bungalows. 

Borough manager Tom Metzler said Friday that when it comes to maintaining or consolidating Fair Lawn's dispatch services, he wouldn't rush to recommend one course or the other.

"We're in the very, very early stages," said Metzler, who met for the first time last week with both the county and Chief Erik Rose about the prospect of merging Fair Lawn's dispatch services. "At a minimum, I'm sure we're 60 to 90 days out [from making a recommendation]."

Metzler said the dispatch consolidation issue had only come to his attention recently when the police department made a request in this year's capital improvement budget for major upgrades to its communications center.

"If you're going to spend a quarter or half-a-million dollars in new equipment, we certainly have an obligation to look and see -- can we save that money and offer the same service by going up to the county?" Metzler said. "If the borough is going to look into a shared service agreement, now would be the time to do that."

A Paterson man was arrested on burglary charges Monday night, after a resident allegedly spotted the man rummaging around inside of his car and called .

Following a brief search of the area, Fair Lawn police apprehended Dionte L. Simmons, 25, of Alois Place in Paterson, and charged him with burglary of an automobile.

Wednesday, March 7

The jump to high school can be tough for anyone, but it has the potential to be especially daunting for students with special needs.

So when students from the district’s  -- which serves individuals with cognitive disabilities -- aged out of  and moved up to  for the first time last year, the school’s student government officers took it upon themselves to help ease their move.

“We wanted to help them kind of transition from middle school to high school and get involved in school activities and get involved with the rest of the school community,” explained senior Laura Wagner, who chairs the committee that was formed last year in response to the Bridges students’ arrival.

Do I hear another source of revenue for Fair Lawn?

The borough will auction off  at the April 10 council meeting that should net a few hundred thousand dollars for Fair Lawn's coffers.

"It’s like a regular old-fashioned auction," borough manager Tom Metzler said of Fair Lawn's property sell-off. "The mayor will say, 'We’re now auctioning off a piece of property located at such and such, known as lot and block number da-da-da."

Once the lots are announced, public bidding will ensue and the plots will be sold to the highest bidder.

Thursday, March 8

Fair Lawn council agreed Tuesday to reconvene a  Committee composed of individuals from both the Recreation Facility Committee and the pool committee of the late 1990s.

The new pool committee, which is expected to include  and , will be charged with recommending to council a viable long-term plan for the borough’s  by June, with the intention of having that recommendation go up for a non-binding public referendum vote in November.

Borough manager Tom Metzler presented council with four possible alternatives for Memorial Pool Tuesday that should serve as a jumping off point for the committee.

All of the options are estimated to cost at least $550,000 and require bonding.

The Fair Lawn library will be forced to reduce its operating hours and expand staffer responsibilities in anticipation of imminent borough budget cuts.

Borough manager Tom Metzler said his recommendation to allot $100,000 less to the library than library director Tim Murphy had requested prompted the move.

Murphy confirmed Thursday that, beginning in April, the library will start closing at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, rather than the 9 p.m. closing time residents have come to expect. The library will still remain open until 9 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Other changes at the library are more likely to affect the staff than the patrons.

Children up through age 23 who live at home will now be covered under the 's family membership plan.

At Tuesday's work session, council voted 4-1 in favor of the policy change, which will provide cost savings and convenience for some families at the expense of generating additional revenue for the borough.  was the lone dissenting vote.

"I’d love to do it," Cosgrove said, "but under the current circumstances, as the manager continues to repeat, it’s a tough fiscal year and I just think we should keep it the way it was."

In previous years, after a child who had been on his family's membership plan aged out of the school system, he would be forced to purchase an additional $85 adult pass to continue using the pool. Now, as long as he can provide proof that he lives at home and isn't older than 23, he'll be covered at no additional charge under the family plan.

Friday, March 9

And the winner of the Fair Lawn Patch "Readers' Choice" Top Daycare Center/Preschool in town is...!

In a field of 13 competing daycares and preschools, Rainbow Academy captured 58 percent of the 165 votes cast this week, along with six positive reader comments.

"I vote for Rainbow Academy of Fair Lawn!" commenter Michelle King wrote. "The location is convenient, the staff amazing and your children will learn!! My daughter (who's 3 yrs) came home and told me about an xray machine! This school is wonderful..best choice ever."

 (19 votes, four positive reader comments) and Radburn Preschool (17 votes) finished second and third in the poll, respectively.

Rainbow Academy, an early childhood education franchise with centers across New Jersey,  this past December, but is already drawing rave reviews from parents.

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