Mt. Ephraim News

Mt. Ephraim Report Cards to Change

Report cards in the Mt. Ephraim schools will have a different look because of the new student management system, said Mt. Ephraim School Superintendent, Leslie Koller, at last week’s Board of Education (BOE) meeting.

Koller explained: “OnCourse is our new student management system. Because the templates are different, the report cards will look different than they have in the past.”

Individual skills in some grades will be noted with the following designations: highly proficient, proficient, partially proficient, and below proficient.

Koller also spoke about the shift to standards based report cards. She noted that this year, Haddon Heights totally switched to standards based and that the transition process took about one year.

For the Mt. Ephraim School District to switch, she said: “That is a project we need to have the community and the teachers involved. It takes a lot of work. We are going to put that for down the road.”

A parent addressed the BOE about the term “modified curriculum” on the report cards. She said: “As a special education teacher and as a parent of a special education student, ‘modified curriculum’ doesn’t mean that they don’t work just as hard for the grades they receive.”

In other matters, the superintendent said that she has been researching options for an online conferencing system that is user friendly and not expensive.

As for the PARCC results, Koller said she is expecting to receive the results and will need time to analyze the information in order to be fully prepared to respond to parents’ questions.

Board member, Carl Ingram, stated that after the board reorganizes in January, talks will start concerning the teachers’ contract.

Contracts for both the superintendent and the teachers are up on June 30, 2016.

Board member, Mario Alibrando, spoke about the Mt. Ephraim Education Foundation exploring options for teachers to submit grants that would outline their needs.

During the business portion of the meeting, the BOE approved all motions.

The BOE approved a retirement for a staff member and the list of substitutes for Insight Workforce Solutions.

*Article originally appeared in the November 26, 2015 edition of the Gloucester City News.
Bellmawr News

Tiny Little Pieces is a Special Learning Facility

Tiny Little Pieces is a special learning facility.

Amanda Cardone is an experienced educator with a big heart for special needs children and always had a dream of opening a learning facility of her own. Cardone earned her master’s degree in special education from Arcadia University and has years of experience in early intervention strategies.

All photos by Anne Forline

In November, 2014 her dream came true when Tiny Little Pieces opened its doors for students to offer its services to the community as a daycare and learning center.

Cardone is the facility’s owner, and serves as its director. She shared the mission of Tiny Little Pieces, which is to serve both typically and non-typically developing children.

Students who attend Tiny Little Pieces range in age from infant to six years. Small class sizes help to maintain a low student-to-teacher ratio so children receive even more individual attention, Cardone explained.

“All of the teachers here are state certified, loving and nurturing. This is our family and we treat the kids like they are our own,” she said.

On a recent visit to Tiny Little Pieces, Cardone was giving me a tour of the facility and we set out to quietly walk through the halls to avoid disturbing students who were all busily engaged in lessons and activities.

However, as soon as two students caught a glimpse of Cardone slipping into their classroom, they wiggled out of their chairs and rushed over to hug her.

Tiny Little Pieces Director Amanda Cardone with some students.

Holding their papers up for her to see, they exclaimed “Look, Miss Amanda!” They were excited to show her their combined math and science lesson on bees.

Kneeling down to their level to admire their work, Cardone asked with a wide smile: “What do bees make?”

“Honey,” the students responded in unison as then they scurried back to their places to continue with the lesson.

Cardone said that Tiny Little Pieces also has classroom space for students who require state provided, early intervention services.

Early intervention strategies are employed for those children who need services for speech delays, gross motor delays or any other developmental delays, Cardone explained and added:  “We look to fill a void for services that other schools cannot provide.”

Another void she hopes to fill is to one day install a fully equipped playground on the side of Tiny Little Pieces.

Students have fun in the outside play area.

Presently, the space the students use for outdoor play is an asphalt patch that is surrounded by a six-foot vinyl fence.

She envisions creating an outdoor area for the students where the asphalt would be covered with rubber playground surface material. She would love to install equipment for all the children to play on. That includes newborns in strollers, crawling babies and even those in wheelchairs.

“I would love to create more outdoor space for the students. Installing a playground would really elevate this space.

We want to put in a jungle gym and playground equipment so all the students can use it. We don’t want any students standing off to the side because they can’t get on or use any of the equipment,” she explained.

She said the teachers also use the space as an outdoor classroom.

“The students recently grew plants and learned to care for them outdoors. They also watched butterflies grow and helped release them,” Cardone said.

When teachers plan science or outdoor activities, the students carry their chairs outside so they do not have to sit directly on the asphalt.

Amanda wants to install a playground one day for the students.

Cardone acknowledged that the cost of installing a playground is expensive, but has hopes one day that dream will also come true.

Parents Darren and Angel D’Achille have enrolled both of their daughters, Ava and Allie, at Tiny Little Pieces.

When asked about Cardone and the education their children receive at Tiny Little Pieces, the D’Achilles both agreed: “Just amazing.”

Angel, who often volunteers to answer the phones at the front desk, said: “The teachers treat the kids as if they were their own. This is not just a daycare. Even my youngest, Ava, who is one and a half, is learning sign language.”

Darren said: “To sum it up, it’s the staff. We looked at three or four other places, but we just love Amanda. The staff has created an environment for students so the parents know their children are happy, safe, and comfortable. It’s a great facility with a level of trust that makes you feel good about sending your kids there because you know it benefits them.”

Bellmawr News

Attorney Alleges Misconduct, Criminal Acts by Councilman; Plans to Sue

A lawyer representing a Borough of Bellmawr employee has put the Borough on notice that she intends to institute a lawsuit against the Borough and Councilman Paul Sandrock for alleged criminal acts and official misconduct.

The attorney, Cheryl Cooper, also urged the Borough to conduct its own investigation into
Sandrock’s alleged activities.

Via letter dated August 20, 2015, Cooper advised the Borough’s attorney, Robert Messick, of her representation of the Borough employee.

The Gloucester City News is in possession of the letter.

In the letter, Cooper wrote about “several incidents by Mr. Sandrock that constitute harassment and interference with [the Borough worker’s] employment.”

Additionally, the letter alleges that “Mr. Sandrock physically assaulted [the Borough worker] at a political event when he grabbed his face, and told him to look at him when he was talking to him.”

Cooper’s letter served as notice “that Mr. Sandrock, in his official capacity, has committed violations of New Jersey law.”

She indicated her intent to file a lawsuit against both the Borough and Sandrock, individually, for damages he has caused the Borough worker and for breaching New Jersey law.

“I am looking into the appropriate state authorities to report Mr. Sandrock’s breach of authority, constituting ‘official misconduct’,” Cooper wrote. She stated in her letter that when a public official exerts improper influence in his official capacity, it is official misconduct and crime. Misconduct can be taken ambiguously as some employees might have different opinions on what constitutes ‘misconduct’, and more can be read about it here. In this case, Cooper firmly believes that the actions that took place should certainly be considered misconduct. Cooper also pointed out that a public official may be criminally liable for purporting to act in an official capacity to deprive another individual of his civil rights.

Additionally, she wrote, “It is a crime of pattern of official misconduct if a public official commits two or more of the acts that violate the provisions” of New Jersey statutes.

“Mr. Sandrock has also threatened (another Borough worker’s job who has since returned to Teaneck),” Cooper wrote in her letter. She is currently in contact with the other worker and has advised her to consult with Teaneck personal injury attorneys about the incident.

Cooper continued: “It is clear that Mr. Sandrock is using his political office to exert pressure on others, to threaten the employment of an upstanding Borough employee, all for no apparent reason.”

Cooper wrote that the Borough employee has a valid claim against the Borough and also that Mr. Sandrock’s behavior as a public official in Bellmawr is a violation of criminal code in the State of New Jersey.

A call was made to the Borough of Bellmawr in an attempt to reach Sandrock concerning the allegations against him and a message was left.

As of press time, Sandrock did not respond.

An email was also sent to Borough Clerk, Chuck Sauter, asking for additional information.

Sauter was asked in the email if Robert Messick is representing both the Borough and Sandrock, or if special council had been appointed.

The email sought to confirm whether or not the Borough had begun an investigation.

Because of the legal nature of the question contained in the email, Sauter referred the matter to the Borough’s lawyer, Robert Messick. A call placed to Messick was not returned. Cooper responded “no comment” when she was asked for further details on the matter.

*Article originally appeared in the November 5, 2015 edition of the Gloucester City News.
Gloucester News

Gloucester City BOE OKs Plan for Lights At New School

The Gloucester City Board of Education (BOE) voted last week to authorize a design change for the new middle school to include field light proposals at a cost budget of $125,000.

School Superintendent, Joe Rafferty, clarified by saying: “It is just a conduit that is going to be underground. It is not the lighting itself.”

Forline Construction continues on the new middle school. Photo by Anne Forline
Construction continues on the new middle school.

Rafferty explained this opportunity to install the conduit was brought to his attention by the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (NJSDA) and Terminal Construction.

It was recommended “as an opportunity that we shouldn’t let go by.”

Rafferty said that by putting the conduit in now: “We won’t have to go through the expense in years to come to rip up the field.”

He also called it a “smart move and an opportunity for us to save money up front on the project.”

Rafferty further added: “It is important to understand that we are not financially capable of putting up lights in the next two or three years.  We would sit until we have the available funds to do the rest of the project, but if we don’t do this, then it will cost us almost double than it would now.”

Board member Jackie Borger said, “It’s just so much money right now and we just don’t have the money.”

Board member Stephanie Cohan asked what budget the project would be coming from.

Business Administrator, Peg McDonnell responded by saying: “It would come from the capital reserve funds.”

McDonnell spoke about various budget items and said: “There are funds in there for things for the new middle school not covered by the SDA and we know that there are a number of things that the SDA will not pay for.”

The superintendent also speculated that January, 2017 could be an “outside date” for the opening of the middle school. However, he said: “We have not gotten any official notification of that.”

Jackie Borger said: “We have not considered this. We would then have to push a large amount of things into the budget (of the year that the middle school will open) that we weren’t expecting, things like phones, computers, and wiring. All that stuff we would have to move up. I don’t want to not have money for books, but have a lovely space to put lights.”

Board President Ed Hubbs said: “Don’t get that date of January in your head because anything can happen.”

To which Stephanie Cohan agreed, but replied: “We still have to be prepared for that.”

Peg McDonnell said: “If it can’t be done, then the money won’t be used for that, but the purpose is to align the money so that the conduit could be done.”

Jackie Borger asked: “If they say we can, does that mean we are going to?”

McDonnell replied: “We would still have to abide by state contractor rules of purchasing for approval.”

She pointed out the wording in the motion: “It says ‘subject to Department of Education (DOE) and SDA approval and compliance with NJ State Public Contract laws and bidding requirements’.”

When the matter was brought to a vote, the motion passed. Jackie Borger voted no. Voting yes were Stephanie Cohan, Richard Dolson, Ed Hubbs, Bill Johnson, Bruce Marks, and Tracy Farrow. Board members Patrick Hagan and Linda Bittman were absent from the meeting.

In other matters, all other business brought before the BOE passed.

The BOE approved an architectural agreement in the amount of $89,850 for phase 2 of an HVAC project at Cold Springs School.

The contract was approved with Regan Young England Butera Architects.  Scope of services consist of a field survey, design/documentation, bidding, and construction administration for replacement of 10 classroom vertical fan coil units, associated ductwork modification/replacement, and new controls.

The BOE approved a contract for the 2015-16 school year in the amount of $7,500 for School Messenger to be funded through NCLB Title I.

A contract was approved with Camden County Educational Services Commission for two IDEA teachers, three days a week in the amount of $95,400.

In other matters, the revised lice policy was discussed again.

During last month’s meeting, the BOE approved first reading of the revised policy.

However, board members, Stephanie Cohan and Jackie Borger, had an additional concern about incorporating specific language into the policy, primarily that if a child has live head lice then the child cannot be returned to his or her classroom until cleared by the nurse. This revision was submitted to the board solicitor for further review.

The superintendent advised the BOE that the district’s SRO (school resource officer) had been sent out to Nicholson Road for concerns about the bus stop at that location.

However, Jackie Borger stated: “It is a danger” and said that she had spoken with the police who assured her there would be monitoring at that location. The SRO recommended to keep the bus stop on Nicholson Road where it is.

When the matter was brought to a vote to accept the SRO’s recommendation, the motion passed. However, Borger voted no as did Bruce Marks.

During the public portion, a paraprofessional was asked to relay concerns to the BOE concerning two Source 4 Teachers employees, who were unable to attend the meeting. Source 4 Teachers is the provider of substitute staffing services for the district. The issues that were relayed to the BOE concerned communication and alleged pay problems.

It was stated that “There is very little communication on their [Source 4 Teachers] part.  Trying to talk to someone there is like pulling teeth. Call times take forever and sometimes, it takes days before you get a response.”

Also, the BOE was told of “going blindly into a job” and how one substitute was “sent to the wrong school two out of three jobs.” There was an additional complaint of late pay.

Board member Stephanie Cohan asked if there were options for substitute staffing and stated: “Maybe we should explore them.”

Rafferty responded by stating: “As we go along, we will see what the Source 4 Teachers issues are.”

The BOE will meet next on Thursday, December 3 for a caucus session and Tuesday, December 8 for its regular meeting. Both will take place at 7:00 pm in the GHS Media Center.

*Article originally appeared in the November 19, 2015 edition of the Gloucester City News.
Bellmawr News

Bellmawr’s Early Childhood Center Opens

100_0209Despite delays, the doors to Bellmawr School District’s Early Childhood Center (ECC) finally opened for students on November 16.

As was previously reported, historic fill (dinner plates and bottles) had been unearthed during the early excavation work at Bellmawr Park.

Because of that, construction had to stop while the site was remediated.

The final cost of the soil remediation is still unavailable. However, during its meeting last week, the BOE approved a change order to Mobilease in the amount of $450,682 for the soil remediation.

Board secretary, Amy Capriotti, was asked if she was able to give a final cost of the remediation and she responded that she could not.

Capriotti explained that the district is waiting to receive a final report from the environmental consultant, Environmental Design, Inc. (EDI) and that EDI was recently back on-site doing more work at the ECC.

She said she could not speculate a dollar figure for EDI’s work, nor does she know when EDI is expected to send a bill.

During the business portion of the meeting, all motions were approved, including:

The BOE passed Resolutions for student tuition placements and transportation.

The BOE also approved a stipend in the amount of $2,000 for the facilities director and also a stipend in the amount of $1,000 to the support technician for working extra hours on the ECC project.

In other matters, the BOE heard a presentation about LinkIt, the data assessment tool for students.

The BOE will meet again on December 16 at 5 pm for its work session. The regular meeting will follow at 6 pm in the Bell Oaks Media Center.

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*Article originally appeared in the November 26, 2015 edition of the Gloucester City News.