Tillis Leaving Special Services
for the School District
By Jeanne Whitney
Specially Written for The Times
Director of Special Services
for the Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District, Susan
Tillis, will be leaving her $88,769-a-year job by Friday,
August 1, to go to Bergen County, where she will focus on
special education as the Director of Special Services for
the Westwood Board of Education.
Retired Director of Special
Services Eleanor McClymont will return to the Scotch
Plains-Fanwood district on an interim basis at $350-a-day
when Mrs. Tillis departs, according to a personnel
During her two-and-a-half years
with the local district, Mrs. Tillis said her duties
included supervising attendance, guidance and nursing
staffs in addition to the special education department.
Mrs. Tillis said her "real interest" is special
The Scotch Plains-Fanwood
district currently spends over $1.8 million for special
education alone out of a total budget of nearly $42
million. Mrs. Tillis, a Morris County resident, said
Westwood is a smaller district than Scotch
At Mrs. Tillis
recommendation, the Board of Education recently okayed an
additional $180,000 program for district 3-to-6-year-old
children who show signs of being autistic.
Mrs. Tillis added that Mrs.
McClymonts interim role would provide
"continuity" for the district.
In a related matter,
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Carol B. Choye asked the
board to approve over $18,000 for summer school for
special education students. Mrs. Tillis said these are
students who "might lose all theyve learned
over the year," if they took a two-month break.
Officials said 8 percent of the districts special
education students requires the extended school year.
In other business last
Thursday, the board voted 9-0 to approve six different
textbooks for purchase after district Social Studies
Supervisor Pat Boland told members the need for new books
did not signal a new curriculum but a change in emphasis
in the subject.
"I dont see any
major content change," she said. However,
"there is a very new emphasis on geography, the
humanities, fine arts and writing and thinking
Mrs. Boland added, "We
have done an extensive curriculum review with every
teacher in the department on this. Id like public
input next year."
She came to the district from
the Livingston Public Schools last year.
The cost of 350 new sixth-grade
science textbooks will be $15,000, according to Assistant
Supervisor for Instruction Dr. John R. Crews. Budget
constraints will determine the number of high school
Advanced Placement government and history textbooks to be
bought, officials indicated. The approved books range in
price from $21.57 to $46.99 each.
Every five years, parents as
well as faculty review proposed textbooks as part of a
general review of district departments. Board members
said they rely on the opinions of district educators and
residents when they approve textbooks. Textbooks are
usually available to residents in the board offices,
Newly-elected board member
Thomas Russo said he reviewed portions of the approved
"I found the quality of
the history text, especially the course readings, to be
exceptional. I found them to be comparable to college
level textbooks that Im familiar with," he
In other business, the board
approved eight district bus route bids for the coming
year that total $118,000. The cost for four of the bus
routes rose 33 percent from last year, according to
officials, since the district had not changed contractors
for six or seven years in a row. One route dropped 2
percent in cost, and three others decreased 5 percent,
"We havent exceeded
the budget that was presented in March," district
spokesman Matthew Clarke said.
In other business, the board
voted to approve, with changes, a lengthy list of
employee salaries and status for the summer and coming
school year. For example, a district clerk may earn $5.05
an hour while a teacher earns $25 an hour and a therapist
or psychologist earns $50 an hour, according to the
Officials said updated
personnel data would probably be ready by the next
meeting, Thursday, July 10.
On a separate issue, the board
debated whether a $23,000-a-year membership in the New
Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) should continue
to be required of local school boards by the state. A
board resolution in support of the NJSBA passed, 6-3.
The majority of board members
praised the NJSBA for collecting information about
contract negotiations, legislation and trends that affect
education and sharing it with member school boards across
"I have never worked with
an organization so professional," board member
Jessica D. Simpson said.
On the other hand, board
members Edward J. Saridaki, Jr., Albert J. Syvertsen and
Mr. Russo rejected the notion that state law should
require districts to spend money for the NJSBA
"I think our membership in
this is invaluable. But we cant force 600 other
districts to join," Mr. Russo said. Mr. Syvertsen
simply called the resolution to support membership in the
association, "odious. I urge everybody here to vote
no on it. What have they done for us?"
Other members saw the NJSBA as
a powerful lobbying antidote to the New Jersey Education
Association (NJEA) whose members are teachers around the
On a related matter, board
member Richard Meade alerted the board to proposed state
legislation that would do away with a school boards
option to enforce a "last best offer" in
"Its a tool
thats infrequently used," Mr. Meade noted,
"but I think it encourages parties to come to a
resolution. It has a deterrent effect."
Board member August L. Ruggiero
pointed out that if a contract agreement can not be
reached between parties, the previous years
contract with a 2.3 percent increase is used. There is a
three-year limit on the use of this option, other board
Mr. Meade said the bill
abolishing the "last best offer" bargaining
tool already passed the state assembly, 60-to 13, with
Board member Morris H. Gillet
claimed that the loss of the "last best offer"
option for district boards "would significantly
alter the balance of power in negotiations."
The board said it would look at
a request from the Terrill Middle School Parent-Teacher
Association (PTA) for more prominent exit and entrance
signs at the schools driveways. The PTA said
drivers frequently enter the exit, creating a dangerous
situation. The PTA also requested directional arrows
painted on the pavement at the site.
The board unanimously adopted
policy bylaws and Union County Education Services
Commission agreements. The county agreements cover
environmental safety, cooperative pricing of natural gas,
transportation and nursing services.