Bellmawr Education Feature Stories Gloucester Mt. Ephraim News Recent News Runnemede

SJO’s Year in Review: People Who Made a Difference in 2016


What a difference a year makes. As 2016 draws to a close, SJO takes a look back at the stories that featured organizations or people who are making a difference in our communities.

In this post, SJO highlights some of those people – from students spearheading a homeless project, to police and fire personnel outreaching to the community, to residents who created a Free Little Library for their town.

Presented in round-up style and in no particular order, here are 23 organizations or people who were featured on SJO as having made a difference in 2016:

1. Girl Scout Troops #30215 & #30082

Girl Scout Troops #30215 and #30082 hosted an appreciation luncheon for Bellmawr Police, Fire & EMS in July. In November, they held an internet safety event that was open to the public.

Bellmawr Girl Scout Troop 30215
Bellmawr Girl Scout Troops #30215 & #30082 at July’s Police, Fire & EMS Appreciation Luncheon. (All Photos by SJO)

2. Bellmawr Baseball’s John Smith

Bellmawr Baseball honored long-time volunteer/treasurer, John Smith, for 50 years of dedicated service before the 10U All Star game on July 5.

Bellmawr Baseball
(Photo by SJO) John Smith was honored for his service to the organization by Councilman Steve Hagerty and Bellmawr Baseball President, Rick Dougherty. Smith said: “I can’t believe it’s been 50 years. When I started, I was 6’3″ with black hair!”

3-4. Bellmawr Teachers, Sue DiPrinzio & Gina Heller

Two Bellmawr teachers, Sue DiPrinzio and Gina Heller, were named 2016 New Jersey Exemplary Educators.

Bellmawr Schools Gina Heller Exemplary Educator of the Year
Gina Heller said: “I love Bellmawr. I grew up here. All of my school age children are [school] choice students and come to Bellmawr Schools. I am grateful to the administration and the staff for all of the things that are happening, not only for myself, but for my kids as well.”
Bellmawr Schools Sue DiPrinzio New Jersey Exemplary Educator
Sue DiPrinzio (center) is honored by School Superintendent, Annette Castiglione (left) and Bellmawr Park /Early Childhood Center Principal, Elizabeth Calabria. The superintendent said that DiPrinzio goes over and above and that she loves to learn. DiPrinzio said that she has worked with every single teacher in Bellmawr Park and believes they have made her a better teacher.

5. Bellmawr Hockey Hosts National Tournament

Bellmawr Hockey hosted the national tournament and will host it again in 2017.

Bellmawr Hockey
During the May, 2016 council meeting (above) members of Bellmawr Hockey thanked Mayor Frank Filipek & Council for their support. Below, Councilman Jim D’Angelo accepts a plaque of appreciation  from Bellmawr Hockey.

6. Camden County Historical Society’s Chris Perks & Rev. Vince Kovlak

Chris Perks of the Camden County Historical Society and Rev. Vince Kovlak of Bellmawr Baptist Church remain steadfast in their efforts to save the historic Hugg-Harrison Glover House.

7. New Covenant Ministries & Its Christmas Eve Outreach

New Covenant Ministries has been bringing Christmas Eve joy to Camden residents for the past 30 years.

8. Msgr. William Hodge of St. Mary’s Gloucester City

St. Mary’s Church Msgr. William Hodge organized Gloucester City’s first St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Gloucester City St. Patrick's Day Parade
Msgr. William Hodge (left) & Grand Marshal Bishop Dennis Sullivan (right) at Gloucester City’s first St. Patrick’s Day Parade. (Photo by SJO)

9. Mt. Ephraim Teachers Raise Money

Mt. Ephraim’s teachers hosted a “picnic” to raise money for the Mt. Ephraim Education Foundation.

(Photo provided)

10. Jade Gasper, Alisha Simons & Little Free Library

Residents, Jade Gasper and Alisha Simons, brought a Little Free Library to Mt. Ephraim.

Mt. Ephraim Little Free Library
(Photo by SJO) Mt. Ephraim’s Little Free Library

11. Bruce Parry & the Annual Gloucester City Girls Softball Tournament

Bruce Parry and his army of volunteers make sure the annual Gloucester City Girls Softball Tournament happens each July.

Gloucester City Girls Softball Tournament
Photo by SJO. Bruce Parry and volunteers work to get a field ready for another softball game. during the Annual Gloucester City Annual Girls Softball Tournament.

12. Bell Oaks Students Help Distribute 2,000 Flags

Bell Oaks students helped to place 2,000 flags on veterans’ graves at New St. Mary’s Cemetery.

Photo Provided – Bell Oaks Students helped to place flags on the graves at St. Mary’s Cemetery

13. Bellmawr’s Nesenur Ozturk, Maddie Groves, and Jennifer Macao-Cedilla Help the Homeless

Bell Oaks students, Nesenur Ozturk, Maddie Groves, and Jennifer Macao-Cedilla spearheaded a collection drive to help the homeless.

Bellmawr Schools
Nesenur Ozturk, Maddie Groves, and Jennifer Macao-Cedilla address the Bellmawr School Board speak about their “Helping the Homeless” Project. Maddie said: “Our job as a community is to help. We believe that everyone deserves a second chance.” (Photo by SJO)

14.  Kyle Wright Organizes Annual Ryan Coyle Softball Tournament

Kyle Wright organizes an annual softball tournament in memory of his best friend, Ryan Coyle. The proceeds from the tournament benefit a scholarship fund for baseball players.

Ryan Coyle Softball Tournament
Kyle Wright addresses the crowd before the start of the games. This year’s tournament raised $7,000 for scholarships for baseball players. (Photo by SJO)

15. Bellmawr Fire Dept. Volunteers Help Out

Bellmawr Fire Department volunteers brought Santa Claus to visit with the Larc School students and also helped with the Bellmawr Learning Community PTO’s first Color Run.

Bellmawr Fire Department
(Above) Santa is escorted by volunteers from the Bellmawr Fire Dept. to visit Larc School and (below) volunteers help douse the runners during the Bellmawr Learning Community’s first color run. (Photos by SJO)

16. Bellmawr PD/Local PBA 375 Outreach to the Community

Bellmawr Police Department/Local PBA 375 outreached to the community with Water Ice with a Cop and a Magic Show.

Bellmawr Police Water Ice With a Cop
Ptlm. Jared Walton, Brian Ertl & Lt. Mike Draham with Evan Carlino at the Bellmawr PBA 375 Magic Show & Water Ice with a Cop (Photo by SJO)

17. Runnemede Police Officers Apprehend Human Trafficking Suspect

Three Runnemede Police Department officers: Ptlm. William Ortiz, Ptlm. Robert Alexander, and Sgt. William Sampolski, received recognition for apprehending a human trafficking suspect.

Runnemede Police Department
Ptlm. William Ortiz, Ptlm. Robert Alexander, and Sgt. William Sampolski are honored by Runnemede Mayor Nick Kappatos & Council for outstanding police work. (Photo by SJO)

18. Bellmawr PD’s Sgt. Chris Cummings Awarded Medal of Valor

Bellmawr PD’s Sgt. Chris Cummings was honored with a Medal of Valor, along with a Proclamation, in recognition of his heroic actions stemming from an incident that took place at the Tanger Outlets (The Walk) in Atlantic City on September 1.

Sgt. Chris Cummings of the Bellmawr Police Department was awarded a Medal of Valor, along with a Proclamation, in recognition of his heroic actions stemming from an incident that took place at the Tanger Outlets (The Walk) in Atlantic City on September 1

19. Bellmawr PD’s Jared Walton’s Actions Saved a Couple from Suicide

Bellmawr PD’s Ptlm. Jared Walton was honored with a Proclamation for saving a couple from suicide.

Bellmawr Police Department
Ptlm. Jared Walton receives a Proclamation from Bellmawr Police Chief William Walsh. Also pictured are Capt. Scott Parker & Lt. Mike Draham (Photo by SJO)

20. Runnmede-Bellmawr-Glendora Rotary Dedicated a Pavilion

Runnmede-Bellmawr-Glendora Rotary dedicated a pavilion at Green Acres Park in honor of Bartilo “Bud” Palmieri.

Bartilo Bud Palmieri Runnemede Bellmawr Glendora Rotary
The pavilion at Green Acres Park was dedicated in late November in honor of Bartilo “Bud” Palmieri. (Photo by SJO)

21. Summer Rec Program Keeps Kids Busy

Under the direction of Dawn Gillis and Kelly Cook, Bellmawr’s Summer Rec program provides fun activities for the town’s kids. It also employs teens to work as camp counselors.

This year as part of the Summer Rec program, some teens worked under the direction of Mike “Juice” Williams to paint fences around town.


22. Don & Bobbie Riebel Spread Awareness About Drug Addiction

Don & Bobbie Riebel
Don & Bobbie Riebel at Bellmawr’s Octoberfest. They lost their son 22-year old son, Colin, to an overdose. The Riebels use their voices to help spread awareness about drug addiction.

23. Deborah Magnin Started a Peaceful Protest

(This post reached over 109,000 people and had 62,000 views on Facebook.)

A nurse, Deborah Magnin, started the peaceful protests at Johnnie’s Liquors to bring increased awareness to the drug epidemic.
Bellmawr Education News Recent News

Bellmawr School District’s Business Administrator Resigns

Bellmawr School District’s Business Administrator/Board Secretary,  Amy Capriotti, tendered her resignation effective January 16, 2017.

At the December 21 meeting, the Bellmawr Board of Education (BOE) “reluctantly” voted to accept it. Capriotti is leaving the district after four years to take a position with Gloucester County Special Services/GCIT (Gloucester County Institute of Technology).

Since Capriotti has been the Business Administrator, the district’s past two audits have yielded no corrective actions or findings.

Interim Business Administrator

As for Capriotti’s replacement, the BOE is looking to hire Mark Ritter as the district’s interim Business Administrator.

During the workshop session last week, Ritter said that he was a teacher for 15 years at Collingswood High School and also coached basketball and soccer. He took a “strange career path” by coming out of the biology classroom and into school business administration. In addition to spending “a lot of time” in Atlantic County districts, he has also spent 15 years in Haddon Township, four years in Haddon Heights, and 16 months in Barrington.

Ritter said he hopes to bring “stability” to the district. He estimated that this will be his twelfth interim placement and that he “will not just go anywhere.” He also said that he is not “not worried at all” about coming on board during budget time.

School superintendent, Annette Castiglione, said that she is waiting for the Camden County Superintendent’s office to approve Ritter’s contract.

Gina Heller Recognized as 2016 NJ Exemplary Educator

In other matters, E.M. Burke teacher, Gina Heller, was recognized as 2016 Exemplary Educator.

Gina Heller New Jersey Exemplary Educator
E.M. Burke’s Gina Heller is recognized as 2016 New Jersey Exemplary Educator. Pictured with Heller are two of her four children, Giovanna and Grayson. Also pictured are E.M. Burke principal, Frank Jankowski and School Superintendent, Annette Castiglione. (Photos by SJO)

E.M. Burke principal, Frank Jankowski read from the nomination form that he submitted to the State and said that Heller has “exceptional educational talent.” Based on Link It data, all third graders in Heller’s classroom showed significant growth, he said. “This is the result of increased rigor and high expectations.”

Outside of the classroom, Heller continues to stay abreast of educational strategies, techniques, and programs.

Of being recognized as 2016 Exemplary Teacher, Heller said: “I love Bellmawr. I grew up here. All of my school age children are [school] choice students and come to Bellmawr Schools. I am grateful to the administration and the staff for all of the things that are happening, not only for myself, but for my kids as well.”

In addition to Heller being named 2016 New Jersey Exemplary Educator, Bellmawr Park teacher, Sue DiPrinzio, also earned this distinction. DiPrinzio was recognized during the November BOE meeting.

2016 New Jersey Exemplary Educator
At its November meeting, Bellmawr Park teacher, Sue DiPrinzio, was honored as 2016 New Jersey Exemplary Educator

Heather Dunham Staff Member of the Month

During the regular meeting, The BOE also recognized teacher Heather Dunham as staff member of the month.

Heather Dunham Bellmawr Schools
Teacher Heather Dunham (center) is recognized as Staff Member of the month by Principal, Anthony Farinelli (left) and School Superintendent, Annette Castiglione (right.) (Photo by SJO)

BOE Approves Agenda Items

On the business side, among the agenda items the BOE voted to approve were:

Additionally, the BOE voted to accept the following donations:

  • HP Windows XP desktop computer with mouse, keyboard and 17 inch display from Helen Radecke of Bellmawr.
  • 12 meditation cushions and baskets from Donors Choose for students to use for independent reading and centers in Mrs. Friend’s classroom at E.M. Burke School.

Next BOE Meeting

The BOE will meet next on Wednesday, January 4, 2017 at 5:00 pm in the Bell Oaks Media Center for its reorganization meeting. As per the published noticed, the purpose of the meeting is to swear in Eric Hoban and Patrick Murrary as Board members, to approve the list of meetings for 2017, and also to discuss and act upon any miscellaneous items of business brought before the Board. Formal action will occur at this meeting.

Bellmawr Education News Recent News

Bellmawr BOE Approves $315,500 Capital Reserve Transfer for Emergent Projects

At its November 21 Special Meeting, the Bellmawr Board of Education (BOE) approved the withdrawal of funds from its capital reserve account in the total amount of $315,500 to fund emergent projects for Bellmawr Park School and Ethel Burke School.

When reached by telephone, Board Secretary/Business Administrator, Amy Capriotti, confirmed that BOE approved the Resolution authorizing the transfer.

The emergent projects have been identified as follows:
  • $80,000 for electrical upgrades at E.M. Burke School
  • $90,000 for rooftop HVAC unit replacements at E.M. Burke School and Bellmawr Park School
  • $145,500 for boiler replacements at E.M. Burke School and Bellmawr Park School

At last week’s regular BOE meeting, Capriotti said that the district had been holding back on spending until the audit was completed. The district had approximately $320,000 earmarked to transfer from capital reserve for emergent projects, she said.

Providing further clarification about the projects, Capriotti said last week that the electrical system at E.M. Burke is old, needs to be re-done, and is beyond what can be done to fix it.

School Superintendent,  Annette Castiglione, also provided further comment last week by saying that E.M. Burke is hard to heat and cool and is an archaic building with small rooms.

Education Gloucester News Recent News

Gloucester City BOE Interviews Candidates

At its special meeting on Tuesday night, the Gloucester City Board of Education (BOE) interviewed candidates for the vacancy left by Patrick Hagan, who resigned in May due to conflicts with college and work.

The candidates who were listed on the BOE’s agenda to be interviewed for the vacancy were: Leon Harris, Michael Hopkins, Bruce Marks, Shawn Spotts, Derek Timms, and Joseph Schili.

The Board also voted to approve two items on its agenda:

Special Meeting Agenda 6-21-16

The board voted to increase the maximum dollar amount for legal services for the 2015-16 school year to $150,000. Board member John Driscoll asked what the amount was for last year and he was told $90,000. School superintendent, Joe Rafferty, stated the reason for the recommended increase was because of  “issues that we’ve had with some of the teachers and things that are associated with that.”

The board also voted to approve a Resolution that effectively supports a grant application by the City of Gloucester for the Fiscal Year 2016 NJDOT Safe Routes to School Program.


Rafferty also thanked secretary, Gail Sacchetti, for her years of service and dedication to the district. Sacchetti is retiring and will be replaced by Pat Blaylock.

The BOE will meet next on Tuesday, July 12 at 7:00 p.m. for a combined caucus and regular meeting.


Bellmawr Education News

Bellmawr Students Do Well On PARCC Tests

During last week’s meeting, the Bellmawr Board of Education (BOE) heard a presentation on the district’s PARCC scores from Director of Special Services, Dottie Specht, and Supervisor of Student Services, Roseanne Yezzo.

Of the district’s scores, School superintendent, Annette Castiglione, said: “We anticipated the absolute worst, but I think we did well in comparison to the State and compared to the other 22 PARCC states. We have a way to go, but I think we will get there.”

The district’s Power Point presentation, along with other district resources and information have been uploaded on the district’s website. Click here to be directed to the district’s information page on the PARCC test.

In other matters, the superintendent spoke about two tears in the Bell Oaks gym floor that need to be repaired. When the $75,000 floor was installed, the flooring material that had been selected was for use for sporting activities, not for use as a multi-purpose room, she said.

Business Administrator, Amy Capriotti, said that the cost to repair the two tears will be approximately $400 for labor because the district has some additional flooring left over from the installation. However, she said there is a limit as to how much leftover flooring material there is.

There was a question if there was a warranty for the floor and the superintendent responded: “It has not being always been used for its intended purpose of sporting activities.”

Going forward, there was discussion about groups being able to use the floor after the repairs are made and how the floor would be protected. The superintendent spoke of the possibility of finding alternative spaces and rooms within the Bell Oaks building instead of the gym.

After the repairs are made, Board President Eric Hoban said they will wait to see what recommendations the repairman has for the floor in terms of future use.

In other matters, the BOE thanked Mike Eckmeyer for his three years of service to the BOE.

The BOE voted to accept the Auditor’s Management Report and the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015.

The superintendent stated: “The district’s audit came back absolutely clean, without a finding and with no material weakness.”

Castiglione spoke of the four-six week process when the auditors come to the district. She said: “They look at every expense and every single thing we do.”

The BOE recognized Business Administrator, Amy Capriotti, for her work in the business office.

All business on the BOE’s agenda was passed.

The BOE voted to accept the following donations through Donors Choose: a Flashforge Dreamer Printer and 3D printer supplies, two HP computers and one touchscreen display stand and two wireless keyboards and mouse.

The BOE approved an interlocal services agreement with Educational Information & Resource Center (EIRC) for tutoring services beginning January 4, 2016 for approximately 22-23 weeks for two part-time certified teachers for five half-days per week at $50 per hour. A half-day is considered three hours per day.

The superintendent said this tutoring is designated for first grade classes at Ethel Burke School to assist with class size reduction.

The BOE also voted to dismiss a grievance from the Bellmawr Education Association (BEA).

The BOE will meet for its reorganization on January 6, 2016 to swear in board members and to approve the Board meeting dates for the 2016 calendar year.

*Article originally appeared in the December 24, 2015 edition of the Gloucester City News.
*Article has been updated to include the most recent link to the district’s PARCC information page.