Union school board discusses cash in schools

UNION, NJ — Union Board of Education members are considering new policies to reduce the amount of cash from student activities that is stored inside school buildings following a midnight burglary at the high school during the summer.

During a Sept. 12 school board work session, members discussed the June 29 theft of $26,000 from a Union High School secretary’s desk. Nine suspects, including the son of BOE Vice President Nancy Zuena, were charged in connection with the burglary.

New policy options discussed included using an online payment system for student activity fees and items like caps and gowns. A similar system, MySchoolBucks, is already in place for parents to pay for school lunches and is used in other districts, according to school business administrator Gregory Brennan at the meeting.

If parents or guardians are unable to access the online system, they’d be encouraged to pay with a money order made out to the student activities account, Brennan said.

BOE policy currently requires school activity funds to be deposited “promptly.” The board discussed that cash on hand received for student activities should be deposited in a bank within 48 hours.

The 48-hour policy takes into account the weekend, when getting to a bank may be more difficult, Brennan said at the meeting. School officials declined to comment when asked if the stolen cash had been accumulated within a 48-hour window.

The break-in occurred eight days after the last day of classes for underclassmen, which was Wednesday, June 21; graduation was held Friday, June 23.

The discussion about a new payment policy came when a vote was posed for a resolution regarding the renaming of the school’s account at ConnectOne Bank from “Union High School Booster Association” to “Union High School Student Activities.”

When board member David Arminio asked why the account had to be renamed, Superintendent Gregory Tatum said it was simply for auditing purposes, and that there is “no such thing” as a booster account.

The board unanimously passed the resolution at the work session meeting. There was no resolution on the table for the policies that were discussed.

According to Union Township Police Director Daniel Zieser, the stolen $26,000 has yet to be returned to the school.
“No money, to our knowledge, has been returned,” Zieser said in a Sept. 15 phone interview. “If they’re found guilty, restitution might be part of the sentence.”
The nine students arrested in connection with the burglary are: Fernando Cuhna, Joshua Cipriano, Kevin Rea, Christian Pereira, Marlon Roberts, Joshua Monica, Jason Laurent, Nichola Zuena and an unidentified 17-year-old juvenile.

Court officials said Cuhna and Cipriano were to have pretrial intervention hearings on Sept. 20, while Roberts, Pereira, Monica, Laurent and Zuena have court hearings scheduled for Sept. 21.

Rea does not have a scheduled court date yet, court officials said.
The next work session meeting is scheduled for Oct. 10, followed by the regular meeting on Oct. 17, at 7 p.m.