What looked like a simple line item on a meeting agenda turned into a discussion about politics and advertising Monday night as the West Morris Regional Board of Education approved expenditures for its Honeywell notification system.
With a price tag of $5,800 for the full school year to communicate with school community members in the entire district, Honeywell’s cost reduced this year by 56-percent due to competing prices, business administrator Doug Pechanec said.
But it was the frequency – and previous focus – of the calls that drew concern from board member Jamie Button.
“We have our home phones and cell phones hooked up to (Honeywell) alerts,” Button said. “So when we’re getting calls about every little activity in the district, it becomes an irritant rather than its intended use.”
Button went on to say he believed the alert system should only be used for emergency situation and inclement weather situations.
Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast, who administers the majority of alerts that are deployed by the system, said the district wasn’t using the service enough.
Pendergrast recently spoke with the president of Honeywell International, he said, and was told the range of use could certainly be expanded.
“I think it’s a fantastic communication device, and I think we need to communicate more with the community,” Pendergrast told the board. “There’s a lot we need to communicate to our parents and it seems like we’re under-utilizing it for $5,800.”
Button then looked to the past and brought up a situation where former superintendent Anthony diBattista used the system in reference to voting on the annual budget.
“In the past we’ve used the system for political reasons and advertising,” Button said. “diBattista used to urge residents to vote for the budget over the Honeywell system.”
Contesting Button’s argument, board member Jacke Schram noted the public has not voted on the budget in the last two cycles and diBattista is no longer employed by the district.
“I just want to make sure we draw a line between advertising and non-advertising,” Button said. “Honeywell should not be used for advertising.”
The board voted 8-0 to approve the annual expenditure without any provisions regarding the discussion.
Is the regional high school district using the Honeywell Alert system enough? Too much? Let us know!