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Hurricane Sandy, Teacher Contracts Made Headlines in 2012

Here's a look at some of the top stories from each month over the past year.

January

School officials began discussing the possibility of moving annual school elections to November. The law enabling the change contains caveats that trouble some members—including automatic approval of budgets meeting the tax cap rate—but both the Warren Board of Education and the Watchung Hills Regional Board of Education approve the move.

Two men hunting in a wooded area in Green Brook, near Warrenville Road, discover a human skeleton. Forensic investigators with the New Jesrey Medical Examiners Office have been studying the remains, but have so far only said the skeleton was male.

February

Legislation to require schools to have automatic electronic defibrillators to prevent students from succombing to sudden cardiac arrest advanced in the legislature, giving hope to Warren residents Jim and Karen Ziliniski, who had been trying to secure passage of the measure since losing their daughter Janet six years ago. Their hard work paid off with passage of Janet's Law.

Watchung Hills Regional wrestling head coach Dan Smith notched his 200th victory on Feb. 1. His team and supporters celebrated after the match against North Plainfield.  

March

The Watchung Hills Regional Board of Education approved a . The board had earlier authorized moving the school election to November, eliminating the need for public balloting on the budget since it came in below the 2 percent tax rate increase cap.

Tensions in the ongoing teacher contract negotiations at Watchung Hills increased in March with students quietly protesting the impact of "work to contract" rules by teachers, limiting some access to educators. Meanwhile,board members addressed residents to say the stalled negtiations weren't just waiting for an April meeting with a state mediator to resolve the conflict. 

Meanwhile, talks on a new contract for Warren Township educators also languished, as both sides waited for a report from a state-appointed mediator. until June. 

Warren Township recognized resident Doug Reeder as Citizen of the Year

April

Local officials began reviewing a proposal to consolidate police departments throughout Somerset County in April. The panel which developed the proposal gave municipalities until Aug. 1 to indicate whether or not they would participate, but Warren determined the plan wouldn't provide the service residents appeared to want and nixed the plan.

without adding to taxes collected.

Only two candidates file for the June primary for the two Township Committee seats held by Gary DiNardo and Victor Sordillo: Dinrado and Sordillo.

Mayor Carolann Garafola announced its highest honor. 

May

May held lots of big news at Watchung Hills Regional High School, includinga resolution to the 11-month-late teachers' contract and  after the retirement of Green Brook resident Thomas DiGanci.

Library worker Larry Sapienza launched a public appeal to gain his job as Warren Library's circulation supervisor, after being dismissed in April. Several dozen supporters show up for a Somerset County Library Commission meeting to speak in his favor. Sapienza's termination was reversed by the commission in June, but he was not returned to his previous job. 

June

An agreement is reached just short of the second anniversary of the expiration of the previous contract between the Warren Township School District and the WTEA.

, including several in Warren during a string of break-ins in the spring.   

Warren Township launches an aggressive schedule of road repairs and overlay projects, starting with King George Road. Before it's over, Old Stirling Road, and sections of Mt. Horeb Road and Forest Drive, will get improvements.    

Watchung Hills Regional celebrated the graduation of nearly 500 students June 22.

July 

Warren Township named the refurbished municipal basketball courts after volunteer coach Scott Andersen, holding a rededication ceremony July 12.

Watchung Hills Regional's project to repair the school's track became more complex, when it was discovered poor drainage was destroying the foundation layers. The  to undertake a more complete repair of the track aimed at ending the problems that have been plaguing it in recent years.

August

Warren schools undertook an unprecedented number of projects over the summer, wrapping nearly everything in time for the start of school—and even more impressively, most were done under budget.  

A bizarre series of event led to eventual charges of sexual assault against a minor and child pornography against Watchung resident Patrick Deck after he was allegedly caught videotaping boys in a bathroom at the Land of Make Believe amusement park in Hope on Aug. 12. When Watchung police took Deck into custody on the charge, they reported discovering he had a rifle in violation of terms of a previous conviction, as well as videotapes reported to contain child pornography. Further investigation led proecutors to charge Deck with sexual assault in producing the videos. At his arraignment, Morris County Superior Court Judge Ann Bartlett, sitting in Belvidere, told Deck he not be considered for a plea agreement or other pre-trial intervention. His trial date has not been set.

September

Warren Township settled a complaint filed against utility JCP&L, outlining new programs the company promised to provide municipal officials with better information. And less than two months before it would be put to a test (and fail), the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities issued a report demanding utilities do a better job of communicating with towns and residents about power outages.   

October

Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey Oct. 29, causing massive damage to shore communities and toppling trees and power lines locally. Residents were thown into a power outage that lasted as long as two weeks in some neighborhoods. Schools and municipal offices closed, and Halloween celebrations were canceled. The storm ripped the roof off of a gym at Watchung Hills Regional, causing .

Mayor Carolann Garafola railed against the response by utilties to the power outage that followed the storm, first urging them to follow their own stated priorities for restoring power (which would have benefitted some Warren residents) then charging the companies were not accurately reporting outage figures to state officials in daily conference calls.

November

November began cold and dark, as the ongoing power outage caused by Superstorm Sandy became more problematic. Election officials scambled to find locations for the Nov. 6 general election and to accomodate voters unable to get to polling locations; a group of visiting students from Austria were stranded as their frantic parents tried to reach them; and gas rationing was imposed as dwindling supplies caused lines and problems at gas stations.

The issues clouded election results for the first-ever November school board voting, with the election results not certified until the end of the month. The closest local race was for the Watchung Hills Regional Board of Education, with Gregory Przybylski edging out Diane Becuore for a three-year term. 

New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara filed a complaint Nov. 30 charging Warren resident Peter Riccio with participating in an online drug sales fraud scheme.

December

The Warren Township Committee launched a public bid to weigh in against a rate increase request by JCP&L after two years of problematic storm responses. The township planned to ask residents and other municipalities to join in opposition by filing for intervenor status with the Board of Public Utilities.   

Warren Township passed new rules restricting the number of chickens and fowl residents can raise, in response to complaints of unsafe conditions from some residents due to neighbors' fowl.

After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killed 20 children and six adults, Warren police stepped up patrols around local schools as a precaution.  

The Uniform Crime Report—an annual summary of crime statistic tabulated by the New Jersey State Police—was issued this month, showing again how safe Warren is. Although . 

A vocal ensemble of Watchung Hills Regional students won a $1,000 prize after winning the high school category of NJ 101.5 FM's Christmas Choir Contest. The students recorded "Silent Night" to win the prize.

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