Reporting Requirements for Groups Upset Some Parents

PTAs, HSAs Asked to Get Insurance, Certify Nonprofit Status

The first Belleville Board of Education meeting of the new school year opened with representatives of parent-school organizations expressing concern about rules requiring the charitable groups to obtain insurance and to prove their non-profit status is current, among other requirements.

Officials said Monday night the requirements are necessary to protect not just the school district but the organizations themselves. Without insurance or a current non-profit status, the school district as well as individual parents could be liable in the event of litigation, said board attorney Al DeMeo.

“When you’re dealing with minors, the suit can be filed years after the fact, up until the child reaches majority age,” he told the audience. “If you’re talking about elementary school children that could be eight or ten years [after].”

Over the summer DeMeo sent out letters asking school PTAs and Home and School Associations to produce records showing that they are registered nonprofits, as well as financial records, along with obtaining insurance coverage. “Most of the organizations” have complied, DeMeo said, while others are nearly in compliance.

A number of representatives of the groups spoke during the meeting’s public portion and said they were working to satisfy the requirements, but also expressed concern that activities sponsored by the groups could be jeopardized if they’re unable to get insurance and produce the  records soon enough. The groups are independent but often use Belleville school facilities for activities.

“My goal and my hope is that the students don’t suffer,” said Danielle Schaefer, president of the School 8 HSA.

Another parent, concerned that the School 4 HSA may disband rather than provide the requested paperwork, asked whether she could create an organization serving sixth-graders at the building.

Yet another parent, Suzanne Biondi, also said the requirements put the volunteers who run the groups under the gun, pressuring them to submit the paperwork with the dates for planned events coming up. She also took issue with the way the parents were informed of the requirements.

“To have these letters go out over the summer, when busy parents have a lot to do....I’m going to say is inopportune,” she said. “I think a letter from the attorney may have been perceived as hostile.”  

“I do apologize if anyone took that letter for hostile,” board president Peter Zangari replied. “If it was perceived that way, I apologize.”

DeMeo and Superintendent Joseph Picardo agreed to meet with any parent organizations having difficulty on Sept. 20.

In other news:

  • Board member John Rivera suggested opening up school facilities to English as a Second Language (ESL) programs currently hosted at the Belleville Public Library. Though historically popular, Rivera said participation in the programs is declining, possibly because the library’s Washington Avenue location is not convenient for many people. The board agreed to explore the matter further.
  • Board member Joseph Longo publicly apologized for “losing his cool” on Sunday during the township’s 9/11 remembrance ceremony, in which Longo took part. Longo gave a heated response when a resident asked him a question about school-related business at the ceremony, which Longo attributed partly to the emotions stirred by the memory of the attacks. “I apologize to the board and the community,” Longo said, extending the apology to the family of the person as well.
  • Resident Ralph Vellon criticized the board for personnel changes that he said made it difficult for parents to register their children for school this year, alleging that cuts were made at the staff level while more positions were added in administration. Zangari angrily denied the charge, saying that more personnel have been added to the classroom.

The next meeting of the board will be held Sept 19 at 8 pm at library of Belleville High School, 100 Passaic Ave.

Nelson Barrera September 13, 2011 at 01:29 PM
Once again I ask. Why is it that questions, concerns and comments from our residents and parents never get addressed on the Patch or in the BOE meetings? Common courtesy from the elected broad members would be very much welcomed considering that presumably we share the same concern and interest in our town, and our students which will be the future of the United States, which will effect each and all of us, and our family. Can we please implement a respectful approach to addressing all comments and concerns of our fellow residents? Thank you Nelson Barrera
Danielle Schaefer September 13, 2011 at 02:13 PM
While the timing is unfortunate. I feel the oversight is welcome and necessary. I appreciate that someone (Mr. DiMeo) is looking to midigate our liability as board members. That is a detail that I overlooked while try to make plans for Halloween dances and Fun Day. Overall it tis a small price to pay for piece of mind for everyone.
Paul Milo September 13, 2011 at 03:57 PM
Hello Nelson. Was there a specific question you had that went unaddressed in the article? You can contact me via this chat or by my email, paul.milo@patch.com.
Jeff Mattingly September 14, 2011 at 02:14 AM
This is the result of a recent crack down/directive of the state of NJ to stop unregistered non-profits from raising $, no matter how worthy the cause, without showing the proper paperwork. Accountability ensures that donated $ will be applied without exception to the purpose for which it was solicited. If you are willing to try to be accountable you will find a good partner in the state of NJ, we did!
mdf214 September 14, 2011 at 11:48 AM
Danielle and Jeff I think you are absolutely right. Carolynn if you are a home and school executive officer I do not believe your comments are appropriate as it looks like you are speaking on behalf o fyour school and I am sure the other executive officers don't all agree with you. If you are speaking as a parent, separate and apart from the home and school, please make that clear before going off on a tangent as it does not make the other members of home and school associates look good. You should think before you go off on a tangent as youhave been known to do.


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