Superintendent's Corner

Bernard F. Bragen, Jr. ***********February 3, 2020

A New Beginning

The start of a new year is always a happy time for me, a time when ambitions and goals are reset for the new year. For me, it just so happens to also be the start of my residency as superintendent of the Edison Public Schools. I embrace this phenomenal opportunity and I am truly excited to lead such a fine school district. I would also like to welcome our two newest Board of Education members sworn in on January 6, 2020, Carol Bodofsky and Shivi Prasad-Madhukar. We also welcome returning BOE Member Shannon Peng, who was re-elected to a three-year term. Working together there is nothing we cannot accomplish. We have challenges ahead and the pressing need to address the severe overcrowding in our schools is paramount on that list. I remain confident that working with the Board of Education and the entire school community we will be able to address this and our other most pertinent needs.

The Board of Education will hold a referendum vote on March 10, 2020, through which we are asking for the public's support to address the issue of overcrowding in our schools. As you probably already know, on December 10, 2019, the Edison Board of Education held a referendum for approximately $189 million to address the issue, where according to the State Facilities Efficiency Standards, the district has over 5,000 unhoused students. A student is considered unhoused when the number of students exceeds the allocated square footage of the building. Even using the District Practice threshold, the district has nearly 3,000 unhoused students.

After carefully scrutinizing the plans and making modifications to include only what was directly tied to addressing the significant overcrowding in the district, the total amount of the proposal was reduced to approximately $183 million. The Finance and Facilities Committee of the Board of Education approved this amount, and another referendum was scheduled for March 10, 2020. At their January 27, 2020 meeting, the full Board of Education approved this as well. The quick turnaround to this referendum is due to the extreme and pressing need to address the overcrowding issue that will become increasingly dire as time goes on.

The Board of Education has been addressing the overcrowding issues in a piecemeal fashion with either annual capital expenditures or lease-purchase agreements, such as the additions recently placed on Menlo Park and Woodbrook Elementary Schools and the portable classrooms built at Woodrow Wilson Middle School and FDR Preschool Building. This annual expenditure amounts to $4-5 million. The Boards of Education over the past years have done all they can to address these issues with the resources they had, but it is not enough.

If the referendum is successful on March 10, 2020, we will be able to house all of our students in a safe and secure environment conducive to learning. Once this is achieved, those annual resources previously allocated to mitigating the overcrowding issues will be used to address the items below:

**Secure the spacing required for full-day kindergarten

**Address the renovation and improvement of common area spaces in schools not affected by the referendum to create new/renovated gymnasiums, auditoriums, stages, and other large group areas

**Create additional and/or renovate athletic fields

**Attend to other capital concerns to ensure the highest caliber education for all of our students

We cannot do this alone and look forward to working with the entire Edison Township School community to continue to strive for the best for our students and settle for “Nothing Less Than Excellence.”

Please contact me directly for more information and check our website regularly for updates.


Referendum March 10, 2020 (12:00pm---8:00 pm)