Fund for Roosevelt, Inc.

P. O. Box 404, Roosevelt, New Jersey 08555-0404
A non-profit corporation.   501(c)(3) recognized.
Registered with the State of New Jersey.

Selected Press Coverage
of the Roosevelt Public Education
Issues Including Unjust State Aid Treatment

(All material is copyrighted by its source corporation.)

From an article by Ruth Calia Stives in the Examiner, 7 June 2001:

"Roosevelt School System Exemplary in its Efficiency NEW

"District gets good reviews in Local Gov't Budget Review report

"No one is more aware of the rising costs of local government than the residents whose property taxes pay for those costs, and the citizens of Roosevelt are no exception.

"In an effort to attain a high degree of efficiency, particularly in the school system, Roosevelt [School Board] invited a four-member team of experts from the Local Government Budget Review Program to review all aspects of its local government operations.

Note: The study was requested by the School Board and applied only to the school operation.

"The program was created in 1994 by former Gov. Whitman to help local governments and school boards find savings and efficiencies without compromising the delivery of services to the public. All aspects are reviewed by a team of professionals, at no cost to the community, who report their findings to the New Jersey Department of the Treasury.

"The report includes a comparative analysis with similar districts in New Jersey. In this case those districts include Lebanon Borough in Hunterdon County; Island Hieghts Borough in Ocean County; and Wenonah Borough in Gloucester County.

"The comprehensive review was conducted last September and October, during which time the team visited, observed, interviewed and purused all school documents.

"The resulting 50-page report contained no surprises, according to Chief School Administrator Dr. Dale Weinbach, but rather 'a confirmation of what we know about cost cutting. It is a testament to the exceptional sense of pride felt by the board and the community for their borough, as well as the willingness and determination to make needed changes where necessary.'

"Dr. Weinbach explained that in order to participate in the Local Government Budget Review program, the borough government [actually the School Board] was required to request the help of the review team through passage of a resolution. The team included a former superintendent and other educators who examined all records, interviewed all personnel, attended board meetings, and became involved in the community to the extent that, as Weinbach explained with a smile, 'they even participated in our fund-raising events.'

"According to the report, Roosevelt is a community that thrives on a combination of limited bureaucracy, a sound work ethic and excellent communications, where educational issues are addressed through sound research and input from the staff and community. Further, the report stated that the 'purchasing practices of the school district are sound and quality conscious. The taxpayers of the borough benefit greatly by this ongoing effort to save funds.'

"There were a few recommendations for changes or enhancements in the areas of technology, transportation and insurance for district employees, as well as further exploration of shared services within the borough. However, where the team recommendations would usually bring a savings of 8-10 percent for a district, the recommendations to Roosevelt already thrifty and cost-conscious, would bring savings of 1 percent.

"Copies of the entire report for the Roosevelt Borough Board of Education are available in the business office, and, as Dr. Weinbach noted in a press release related to the review program, 'The district will continue to provide the best educational program with constant attention to vigorous fiscal management.'"

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From an article by Bob Fleming in the Examiner, 2 June 2000:

"Ben Shahn Mural Brought to Life Through Arts Project

"Observance of National Holocaust Awareness Month took on special meaning for students at the Roosevelt Public School, who recently participated in an innovative arts project intended to reinforce their understanding of the founding of the community more than 60 years ago.

"On May 18, Arts for Anyone, a non-profit, cultural arts organization that uses various mediums of artistic expression in a classroom setting, gathered at the school to present a special program based on the mural painted on the main wall in the school lobby, when it opened in 1937.

"According to Dr. Dale Weinbach, chief school administrator, the entire community, both past and present, is well acquainted with the mural painted by the Depression-era artist Ben Shahn, who settled in Jersey Homesteads, later renamed Roosevelt, when the community was established in the late 1930s.

"'The mural is well known and symbolizes the rich past of the town's history, from the arrival of immigrants from Europe in the 1930's, to working conditions in New York City factories and sweatshops, to dismal living conditions in tenements there, and the establishment of the community which came to be known as Roosevelt,' Weinbach said. 'Over the years, thousands of residents and visitors have entered the school and passed under the mural every day, perhaps not fully comprehending the significance it has in their lives.'

"Over a three-month period, the Arts for Anyone group visited the shcool to work with the kindergarten through sixth-grade pupils, helping them to pick characters from the mural and design a storyline around those characters to bring the mural to life, Weinbach said.

"The project was funded through a grant from the Sunfield Foundation in Red Bank and a donation from the school PTA, according to Weinbach.

"'During the course of the project, the students and their teachers met with composers and lyricists from the Arts for Anyone organization and incorporated the character storylines with musical interpretation for group presentation,' Weinbach said. 'The timing of the project was perfect in that it reinforced the theme of tolerance for others, which has been stressed throughout the school year in all classes.'

Professional performers from the Arts for Anyone group took the students' character creations and storylines, which were then set to music, and presented them in dramatic fashion to all classes at the school, she added.

"The musical performances varied in style from folk music to opera to theater-type presentations, which captured the imagination of the students' character creations,' Weinbach said. 'It really brought the characters in the Ben Shahn mural to life and made their experiences seem real.'

"Describing the daylong program as a 'moving experience' for the staff and students, Weinbach said she believes everyone involved in the project will look at the mural day after day and appreciate its historical and cultural significance in thef ounding and development of the community."

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From an article by Robin Keats in the Asbury Park Press, 19 May 2000:

"Art for Art's Sake

"Every day, Roosevelt's 85 elementary school children pass by the giant mural painted by the Depression-era artist Ben Shahn that has adorned the school's lobby since 1937.

"Yesterday, Arts for Anyone, a non-profit arts group dedicated to bringing the arts into the classroom, made the people in that mural come alive through song and music.

"'We pass this mural and see it every day and, like an old friend, it has perhaps sometimes been taken for granted,' said school Principal Dale Weinbach.

"'So we decided to focus on this great mural, on its historical and symbolic importance, and we had the kids work with Arts for Anyone to create stories about its characters, members of the human family.'

"Commissioned by the Works Progress Administration, the mural by Shahn, a borough resident who died in 1969, depicts the arrival of immigrant Jews at Ellis Island, the coffins of Sacco and Vanzetti, labor leader John L. Lewis, New York City's tenements and sweat shops, blueprints for the town of Jersey Homesteads (later renamed Roosevelt in honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt) and the arrival of immigrants in New Jersey in the mid-1930s.

Note: Bernarda Bryson Shahn, 97, widow of Ben and co-painter of the mural states that the figures in the coffins are not Sacco and Vanzetti (although the similarity of features is striking), but Jews killed in pogroms. Since the coffins are in the upper left of the mural which symbolizes suffering in the "Old Country," this makes sense. Nevertheless, many well-informed townspeople believe in the Sacco and Vanzetti interpretation. In addition, Bernarda maintains that it is probably not completely accidental that the labor leader looks like John L. Lewis, but that the depiction was not intended to represent a specific individual -- just some larger-than-life leader.

"During the three-month project, each kindergarten-through-sixth-grade class made up a story about a character in the mural.

"Working with teachers, Arts for Anyone composers and lyricists developed musical scores and lyrics depicting the stories the children invented for the mural's characters.

"'Our composers come into the classroom to discover (the) character from the kids' point of view,' said Arts for Anyone director Bruce Taylor, Lawrence Township. 'The kids give adjectives to describe (the) character and we discuss literary terms like metaphor and mood.

"'Then the composers react to the adjectives by playing corresponding notes on a keyboard. The process is the same with lyric writing.'

"This process, which took place over three months, culminated in a performance that ranged from opera to musical theater to klezmer music.

"First-graders picked the figure of a man arriving at Ellis Island, wearing the number 76 on a card attached to his jacket -- his place in the immigration line. In the students' story, the man is looking for his family, which is somewhere else in the mural.

"'I'm just a number, not a name...I'm not a number, I have a name...a family, history,' the operatic song created for the character cries.

"The performance, which was audiotaped for the students, was underwritten by the school's PTA and the Sun Foundation of Red Bank."

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From an article by Coleen Dee Berry in the Asbury Park Press, 18 April 2000:

"Small School Gets Big Results

"In this town of some 900 residents, civic pride and responsibility are everyday lessons at the borough's single elementary school.

"The history of Roosevelt -- created in 1937 by a $500,000 federal grant as a garment factory and agricultural cooperative -- is interwoven with the school's curriculum for its 83 K-6 students. The entire borough became both a state and national historic site about 12 years ago.

"The school also reflects the borough's tradition of fierce social activism and community involvement. One school program pairs students with patients at a local nursing home -- the students visit and run errands for the patients.

"'We not only want our students to excel academically, we want them to grow up to be great citizens,' Superintendent and Principal Dale Weinbach said.

"With just 83 students, the school averages 12 pupils per classroom. It is the smallest school in Monmouth and Ocean counties. This year's graduating sixth grade numbers 13. Parents say the small class size allows for highly individualized attention and a curriculum style that is extremely hands-on.

"'As a Girl Scout leader I'm often in other school districts, and I just don't get the same sense of life and vitality and excitement that I do in Roosevelt,' said Mary Tulloss, a school board member whose daughter, Sarah, is in the fourth grade.

"The class size is so small, in fact, that the state Department of Education does not publicize the school's fourth-grade test results, contending that it would compromise confidentiality. But Weinbach proudly notes that in language arts, 70 percent were proficient and 30 partially proficient; in mathematics 60 percent were proficient and 40 percent were advanced proficient, with the same 60-40 breakdown for science.

"When they graduate, Roosevelt students go to the East Windsor school system in Mercer County. The transition to a much bigger school system 'is certainly challenging, but the students do adjust,' Weinbach said.

"The district's best teaching tool may be the huge mural painted by Depression era artist Ben Shahn located in the school lobby. It illustrates the history of the borough -- immigrants coming to the United States, the bad working conditions in the garment factories, the rise of the labor union and of education for factory workers, and a family moving from the big city toward Roosevelt, which is depicted as a blueprint on a table.

"'When a class is learning about immigration to America, the teacher can take them out into the hall and use the mural as a backdrop. We use it for diversity discussions on the way immigrants are treated. We use it when the students are learning the history of New Jersey,' said Weinbach. 'It really is the heart of the school.'

"But the taxpayers of Roosevelt pay a high price for their intensely personal school. With no real ratables in the borough other than single family homes, the school tax rate for the coming year will be $3.56 for each $100 of assessed valuation or about $4,840 for a home assessed at $150,000.

"The school district this year received $93,775 in state aid, $63,775 of which was applied to the tax levy to drop the tax rate by 32 cents to the $3.56 per $100 of assessed valuation figure, according to school business administrator Karen Minutolo.

"Residents have long complained that Roosevelt has traditionally been grouped with the wealthy districts in the state, which puts the borough in the same category as a Holmdel or Rumson. A petition drive for a reclassification is currently circulating in the borough.

"'A five minute drive through Roosevelt makes it abundantly clear that Roosevelt is not a wealthy district,' school board president Lauralynne Cokeley said in a recent letter to state Board of Eduction Commissioner David C. Hespe.

"If Roosevelt were classified to a more fitting moderate-income category, Cokeley noted, it would mean an addition $300,000 in state aid, which would cut taxes by almost $1,000 for each Roosevelt taxpayer.

"The state education department would only confirm that it received the letter, but would not say if or when it would rule on the borough's request."

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From an article by Bob Fleming in the Examiner, 6 April 2000:

"Extra School Aid Boosts Roosevelt

"The promise of property tax relief is finally a reality with an announcement last week by Roosevelt school officials that the district has received an additional $93,775 in state aid for the 2000-01 school year.

"School administrators and municipal officials welcomed the news as a positive step in the process of bringing substantial tax relief to Roosevelt residents who shoulder one of the highest school tax rates in the state.

"Dr. Dale Weinbach, chief school administrator for the Roosevelt Public School, told the Examiner she was notified of th additional state aid in a memo dated March 27 from Monmouth County Superintendent of Schools Michael Maddaluna.

"'The letter came as quite a surprise, just when we thought there would be no additional aid for next year,' Weinbach said. 'We were advised to hold an emergency Board of Education meeting to accept the state aid increase and incorporate it in our budget for next year.'

"According to Weinbach, the board had already adopted the 2000-01 school year budget at a public hearing on March 23. In order to receive the additional funds and have them applied to the budget, the board called an emergency meeting on March 29 and approved the receipt of the extra state aid.

"'The board was only too happy to convene in emergency session to receive more money,' Weinbach said. 'It was just under the wire.'

"Based on the budget adopted by the board on March 23, the school tax rate was estimated to decrease by 14 cents per $100 of assessed property valuation next year. With the receipt of the additional state aid, the tax rate is expected to drop a total of 32 cents per $100 of assessed property valuation.

"For a home assessed at $100,000 in the borough, the estimated tax cut will amount to $320.

"According to Karen Minutolo, the district's business administrator and board secretary, school administrators and board members decided to appropriate $63,775 of the $93,775 increased state aid directly to offset the school tax levy for the 2000-01 school year. The remaining $30,000 was placed in the district's unreserved fund to offset school taxes for the next fiscal year, she said.

"'This is a one-time additional appropriation with no guarantee we will receive anything like it next year,' Minutolo said. 'That's why we decided to reserve a portion to offset school taxes the following year.'

"Mayor Michael B. Hamilton told the Examiner the additional school aid was the result of school and municipal officials working directly with their county and state elected officials, including Assemblyman Joseph Malone, to obtain increased funding for the Roosevelt Public School.

"'We enlisted the support of Assemblyman Malone, who pledged to work on our behalf with the state Department of Education to address our funding concerns,' Hamilton said. 'I'm glad to report we're finally on the way due to his efforts and those of all the residents who lobbied for our cause for our fair share of school aid.'

"Hamilton and school officials have maintained that Roosevelt's classification as a wealthy school district by the state Department of Education is inaccurate and unfair.

"'The irony is that we are classified in a wealthy District Factor Grouping (DFG) when nothing can be further from the truth,' Weinbach said. 'We've been told that if we were properly classified, we would have received an additional $300,000 in school aid, rather than the (additional) $93,775.'

"Weinbach said the school district will continue to work with Malone and other state officials to have Roosevelt's DFG changed to accurately reflect the socio-economic status of the community and to provide for more equitable funding through school aid.

"'Preserving the special school in Roosevelt has become a crusade for many residents and a cause I have come to truly appreciate,' Malone told the Examiner. 'Unfortunately, bureaucracy moves rather slowly and it takes time to address situations like this one, but it's never over until it's over.'

"Malone, who has been meeting with Roosevelt officials for nearly six months and has been presenting their case in Trenton, said residents must continue to advocate their position for change in the DFG. The change may require special legislation to accomplish, he said."

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From an editorial in the Examiner, 2 March 2000:

"Can Anybody Help Roosevelt?

"Memo to Gov. Christie Whitman and state Commissioner of Education David Hespe:

"The District Factor Group designation that helps to determine the amount of state aid a local school district receives has a major flaw in Roosevelt.

"Roosevelt is currently ranked with a DFG of 'I,' placing it among a group of towns considered 'wealthy.'

"As you know, Governor and Commissioner, wealthy towns receive less aid than less wealthy towns. That seems fair.

"But because of a number of factors that have been well-documented by the borough's municipal and school representatives, it seems obvious that the DFG Roosevelt has been tagged with is completely inappropriate.

"Roosevelt's representatives have been trying to impress this point of view upon their state legislators and administrators within the Department of Education for more than a year.

"It looked like someone 'got it,' but then this year's state aid figures were released and Roosevelt was left in the same boat, heading against the current.

"Everyone in New Jersey, it seems, likes to complain about the property taxes they are paying.

"Gov. Whitman, Commissioner Hespe, take a look at the tax rates residents in Roosevelt are paying and you will be shocked at what you see. There is no way anyone should be paying between $5,000 and $6,000 in property taxes annually on a home assessed at $130,000.

"Listen to what you are being told about Roosevelt's DFG ranking (based on a community with 300 homes) and about the appalling lack of state aid the borough's school district is receiving.

"Something is not right here, governor and commissioner, and you are being asked to help."

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From an article by Bob Fleming in the Examiner, 2 March 2000:

"School Officials Press for Hike in State Aid

"Roosevelt School officials are pressing their case for increased state aid with state Department of Education officials and are enlisting the help of residents along the way.

"The Board of Education voted earlier this month to petition state education officials to review the school district's claim of insufficient state funding due to an incorrect District Factor Group (DFG) which is used to determine the amount of school aid a district receives annually.

"In [a] Feb. 16 letter to state Education Commissioner David C. Hespe, board President Lauralynne Cokeley outlines the plight of Roosevelt taxpayers who are struggling under the burden of a high school tax rate.

"'For approximately two years we have been attempting to correct the application of inequitable state aid funding formulas. We were told by Assistant Commissioner Michael Azzara that we are an anomaly and, if we were classified correctly, we would receive an additional $300,000 in state aid. We were told that we would receive additional state aid in our 2000-01 figures and on an on-going basis. Based on the recently released state aid numbers, it is apparent we have not been provided with this aid,' the letter reads.

"According to Cokeley, district officials maintain that the root of the problem lies in the state's classification of Roosevelt as an 'I' District Factor Group, commonly referred to as a wealthy district.

"'A five-minute drive through Roosevelt makes it abundantly clear that Roosevelt is not a wealthy district,' Cokeley said. 'School districts with an "I" classification are not eligible for certain levels of state aid, including the 2000-01 increases in Supplemental Core Curriculum Standards Aid.'

"The letter goes on to state, 'The additional state aid is designed to ensure that most school districts do not have a tax rate in excess of $1.72 per $100 equalized property valuation. In Roosevelt, we have an equalized general fund tax rate of $2.94 per $100, one of the highest in the state. Yet because of our classification as an "I" district, we are not eligible for any increased aid.'

"According to Cokeley, school officials have been told by state Department of Education representatives that there is no process to appeal the DFG classification and there is no recourse to correct the situation.

"'If we had not been classified as an "I" district for the current school year, we would have received $300,000 in Supplemental School Tax Reduction Aid, according to state officials,' Cokeley said. ' For Roosevelt taxpayers, that would mean an average reduction of almost $1,000 per household.'

"Based on figures released by the Board of Education, the average Roosevelt homeowner pyas between $5,000 and $6,000 annually in property taxes, with an average assessed home value of less than $130,000. The district's annual school budget, estimated at $2 million, is supported by $500,000 in state aid, which represents approximately 25 percent of total revenues.

"Cokeley's letter continues, 'The Board of Education has taken many steps to reduce our local tax burden, such as cutting expenses and increasing other sources of revenue. Our taxpayers have signed a petition in support of our efforts. Our municipal governing body has adopted a resolution in support of our efforts. We have done our part. Now it is time for the state to do its part.'

"The board has requested Hespe to reclassify the Roosevelt School District so it is no longer penalized as a wealthy district and to provide the district with permanent supplemental stabilization aid of $300,000 per year, Cokeley said.

"Board member Sharlene Ellentuck, chairperson of the board's finance committee, said school officials have not received any reply to their request and remain frustrated in their attempts to seek property tax relief through a more equitable distribution of state aid to school districts.

"She confirmed that residents are engaged in a letter-writing campaign to address the state aid situation with their elected officials and representatives of the state Department of Education. Residents have also signed a petition seeking immediate action on the state funding matter, which has been forwarded to Trenton.

"As the school board's desginee, Ellentuck, together with Mayor Michael B. Hamilton, a former school baord member, are attempting to arrange a meeting with Assemblyman Joseph Malone, who has previously met with Roosevelt officials concerning the state aid dilemma.

"Attempts by the Examiner to reach Hespe and representatives of the state Department of Education for comment were unsuccessful at press time."

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From an article by Bob Fleming in the Examiner, 17 February 2000:

"Roosevelt Fights on in Quest for School Aid

"Roosevelt municipal officials, school administrators, Board of Education members and residents are rallying around the cause for school tax relief after learning last month that the town's school district will receive little additional state aid this year.

"Roosevelt is scheduled to receive $570,114 in state aid for the 2000-01 school year, representing a $6,225 increase in funding over the current year's amount, according to figures released by the state Department of Education on Jan. 26.

"'We are in a crisis situation as it relates to state aid for the Roosevelt Public School District,' said Mayor Michael B. Hamilton, a former school board member. 'This is an issue that affects everyone in Roosevelt and demands our immediate attention.'

"According to Hamilton, school officials have been working closely with their legislative representative, Assemplyman Jospeh Malone, to address the situation of increased state aid for the Roosevelt Public School District.

"'The problem is centered around the classification of Roosevelt in a wealthy district factor group (DFG), which is certainly not the case in reality,' said Dr. Dale Weinbach, chief school administrator for the Roosevelt Public School, "We have been working with Assemblyman Malone and petitioning state Department of Education officials to correct this misconception so that Roosevelt can receive the additional state funding it is entitled to.'

"The amount of funding a school district receives is dependent upon its DFG classification according to state Department of Education officials. Roosevelt's school administrators have maintained that the borough's classification is incorrect and has been the reason for insufficient state aid funding over the years.

"'We're classified as a wealthy school district and that's just not true,' said Weinbach. 'State officials and Assemblyman Malone have informed us that this is a problem that will take some time to fix and may require special legislation to do so.'

"According to school board member Jill Lipoti, the situation continues to grow more serious.

"'I vacillate between being disgusted and disappointed over the inability to resolve the state aid funding problem,' Lipoti said. 'To date, there's been no legislative action taken and no demonstration of increased funding on the way.'

Lipoti said the school board is pursuing any and all options available to resolve the problem.

'We're standing behind a resident's effort to organize a letter writing campaign to the governor and the state commissioner of education.' Lipoti said. 'We're also trying to arrange an emergency meeting with Assemblyman Malone. Whatever it takes, we'll do it.'

"Other actions being taken by the school board include working with Census 2000 officials to ensure an accurate accounting of all Roosevelt residents, which will be used for state planning purposes; and filing a legal motion, a Freedom of Information request, to obtain the state's reasons for determining Roosevelt's DFG classification.

"Considering the uncertainty of receiving any additional funding, we're hoping to keep school taxes the same as the current school year, with no increase for 2000-01,' Weinbach said. "Parents and teachers are continuing to sacrifice so our school can continue to enjoy the excellent educational reputation that it has. It just becomes harder to do when we don't receive the funding we should to support the outstanding programs and services offered to all Roosevelt students.'"

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Most recently modified 29 March 2000.
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