Presentations took center stage during the Jefferson Township Board of Education’s first official meeting of 2021 on Monday night.

Assistant Superintendent Roger Jinks Jr. began the proceedings by going over the district’s underfunded mandates while, K-12 Supervisor of Social Studies Daniel Papa highlighted the dangers of online predators in observation Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

Through his presentation, Jinks, appointed Assistant Superintendent in October 2018, hoped to extend further transparency in uncertain, trying times. An unfunded or underfunded mandate is defined by Jinks as regulations or requirements placed on school districts that require a district to purchase materials or resources, as well as to field personnel or programs, with little or no funding from the state.

“We’d like the public to have clarity on all of the additional things that the district has to do in order to maintain the requirements that the state puts on us,” Jinks said. “That includes the various updates to (Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying), evaluation of staff. While all of these are beneficial to districts as a whole, it does put an additional burden on the staff and administration of that district.”

Some of the underfunded mandates covered in Jinks’ presentation (available in full on the
official township website) dated back to 2006. Among those discussed were the HIB policies
introduced in 2011 and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Assessment unveiled during the 2014-15 school year. Jinks hopes that the public appreciates the clarity.

“It’s understanding that these are all the things that have to be done just to provide clarity on what we as a district are doing to meet all these mandates,” Jinks said of his goal through the presentation. “I think our biggest obstacle is the funding shortfall that we’re looking at, over an excess of $2.8 million that we as a district are looking to lose. Our biggest goal is to continue providing the best education we can for our students.”

Shortly after, Papa addressed the board and public on the dangers of human trafficking through the internet and social media programs. The movement was first recognized by President Barack Obama in 2011.

In addition to his duties with the district, Papa also serves as the president of the New Jersey Coalition against human trafficking. He noted that online enticement has drastically risen in the age of COVID-19, with students spending more time at home with their screens, particularly through online learning. Predators, according to Papa, engage through personality mirroring, common interests, and even mere attention. Papa laid out several preventative strategies, which included online interaction education, engaging with only trusted online contacts, reducing shame in everyday conversations, and even cutting down on screen time entirely.

“We are experiencing a very grave threat to our young people,” Papa said. “Human trafficking may be perceived as an issue that may happen somewhere else, and that it may not happen here. We know that human trafficking exists everywhere, not only in our backyard, but all throughout our state as well as our country.”

Papa described his presentation as a “toolkit” in the fight against human trafficking. His full
analysis is likewise available on the district site.

“Our focus is now on online grooming and online exploitation,” Papa said of his Coalition’s
modern endeavors. “Human trafficking is a grave injustice which is a threat to justice
everywhere, including right here in Jefferson Township.”

The board will next meet on February 15, with their open session commencing at 7:30 p.m.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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