State Reveals its Stance on Fields of Dreams Plan
However, BOE opts not to reveal letter's contents—yet.
The much-debated Fields of Dreams high school turf field proposal could be a step closer to resolution. At Thursday evening's Parsippany Board of Education meeting, President Frank Calabria announced the state Department of Education's opinion of the plan finally arrived in the form of a letter at the end of the business day.
As to whether the state gives the controversial project a yea or nay, Calabria woud not say.
If the state's answer is yes, and the school board agrees, the next move would belong to the Township Council, whose members have already stated their support for the plan to use Open Space Trust Fund dollars to pay for the installation of artificial turf fields and other athletic improvements at Parsippany High School and Parsippany Hills High School.
If the DOE letter contains the answer no, supporters of the plan, which also would have the BOE cede 51 percent of its control of the ball fields to the township.
There is a third possibility: The state's decision—one made after the plan was reviewed by education officials and the attorney general—could be to allow the board to make up its own mind.
Calabria would not offer a reason as to why the board refused to reveal the letter's contents to the public.
"People will just file an [Open Public Records Act] request for it [Friday]," he said.
The school board president is on record as saying that BOE members will not make a decision on the turf field proposal until it has done its due diligence and researched the matter thoroughly.
At the same time, Mayor James Barberio, a vocal supporter of the project, has said he is anxious to see what the state has to say about the plan.
The DOE was asked by the school board to rule on the idea of creating a conservation easement, which would give the town majority ownership interest in the fields. That condition would have to be in effect in order for the town to go ahead with the FOD plan, according to Township Attorney John Inglesino.
The BOE meeting, which kicked off with student achievement awards, took place at Par Hills High School.
In other business, the board gave preliminary approval to three policy changes recommended by its Policy Committee.
One change to Policy 7250 would stipulate that naming a school or educational facility in honor of a deceased or retired school district staffer, BOE member or town resident could not take place sooner than three years after the death or retirement of the proposed honoree.
The second, Policy 9180, would be changed to state that school volunteers must be approved by the BOE upon the recommendation of the superintendent of schools. The amendment also would clarify that volunteers must work under the direction and supervision of "appropriately certified or licensed" staff.
The third, Policy 9181, would establish guidelines and requirements for co-curricular athletic and activity volunteers, which includes sports coaches and organizational advisers. If passed, this change would mandate criminal background checks for anyone who volunteers in school on a regular basis.
Having been approved on their first readings, the proposed policy changes must survive a second reading before they can go into effect.