🍎 Newark schools paid $44K for staff party at swanky venue

🍎 Several Newark schools don't have air conditioning

🍎 Lawmakers demand answers

NEWARK — Republican lawmakers in Trenton are blasting New Jersey's largest school district for hosting an expensive staff event while other school districts are struggling to cope with massive drops in state aid.

It's "disturbing" that Newark schools spent $44,000 on the June 1 event at Forest Lodge in Warren, said Assemblyman Alex Sauickie, R-Ocean.

That paid for 275 staff and 140 students to attend, according to an invoice published by TAPinto Newark. It featured food, a DJ, a rock-climbing wall, inflatable carnival booths, a police officer for security, and a rescue squad on standby.

Newark schools spend while others cut

Sauickie said that while Newark was spending on extravagant end-of-year events, Jackson Township schools are managing a shrinking budget thanks to decreases in state aid.

RELATED: Murphy is cutting aid to these 137 school districts in NJ

(Rich Hundley III/ NJ Governors Office)
(Rich Hundley III/ NJ Governors Office)

Gov. Murphy's proposed budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year increases school funding by $908 million up to $11.7 billion. Despite the massive increase, nearly 140 school districts face cuts due to changes in the school funding formula.

Jackson schools have lost $22.4 million in state aid since 2018, according to Sauickie. Meantime, Newark is getting another $100 million bringing its total state aid to $1.25 billion — over 80% of its total funding.

“They’re cutting the rug while schools in my district are forced to cut classes and electives for schoolchildren,” Sauickie said. “It makes you wonder exactly which districts are overfunded.”

Newark schools lack air conditioning

State Sen. Declan O'Scanlon, R-Monmouth, also hit Newark schools for its "outrageous" spending.

Newark Staff Fun Day (Allison James-Frison via Facebook)
Newark Staff Fun Day on June 1, 2024 (Allison James-Frison via Facebook)

"Newark school district is thumbing its nose at the more than 150 school districts that are facing educationally damaging cuts this year, as well as their own students who need air conditioning," said O'Scanlon.

Several schools in Newark are over 100 years old and lack central air conditioning, PIX 11 reported. And as New Jersey experiences a heat wave, that lack of central air makes classrooms furnaces for students who come home from school drenched in sweat, parents said.

Despite a heat advisory Wednesday and Thursday, school district spokesperson Nancy Deering said to PIX 11 that Newark classrooms are always safe and well-ventilated.

RELATED: Heat Advisory continues for New Jersey, great relief at the Shore

(Google Maps/Canva)
(Google Maps/Canva)

"More generally, the district has identified schools that are more than 100 years old and in need of renovations of various kinds, including HVAC and electrical upgrades, which are needed for installing air conditioners throughout a school building. Addressing those needs in those schools is a priority," said Deering.

New Jersey 101.5 has reached out to the Newark school district for comment on the statements from O'Scanlon and Sauickie.

Questions over alcohol at Newark school party

Assemblyman Sauickie also raised concerns over the possibility that alcohol was served at the Newark school event on June 1.

State Sen. Declan O'Scanlon
State Sen. Declan O'Scanlon (Michael Symons, Townsquare Media NJ)


TAPinto Newark reported that a menu copied in the invoice showed that bar service was included in the cost of renting out Forest Lodge. However, no photos from the event showed staff with drinks.

"No alcoholic beverages were served or available. To have written it in the first place is unconscionable," said Deering.

Sauickie said he sent a letter to Kevin Dehmer, acting commissioner of the Department of Education, to confirm whether alcohol was served.

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