Bellmawr Gloucester News

9th Annual Ross-Kupcha Memorial Run a Success

On October 25, the 9th Annual Ross-Kupcha Memorial Run took place in National Park, N.J. The run is held in memory of Browning Ross, a two-time Olympian and Gloucester Catholic track and cross country coach, and also Bob Kupcha, an orthopedic surgeon and war veteran.

This year, the memorial run raised money for the Camilla Hall Retirement Home for IHM sisters and also the Bob Kupcha Scholarship Fund at GCHS.

Race director and current Gloucester Catholic cross country coach, Jack Heath, said, “I think it was our best race yet. Perfect weather and a visit from our Bishop to give all of the runners and walkers a pre- race blessing topped it off. It was great to see the IHM sisters there. They appreciated all of the efforts of the runners, walkers, and sponsors on their behalf.”

A bag piper from the Giordano Detachment of the Marine Corps and the Bonsal Blues Band also played at the race.

Heath commented about a course mistake that he discovered shortly after the race began. Instead of the 5K run being 3.10 miles, it turned out that the course was slightly longer than that, at 3.2 miles.

Heath said he realized it when he saw the leader runner go slightly off course right after the start and knew the race might be a “little long.”

Heath said: “It was fitting to have a race that is named after Browning Ross and not be exactly 3.10 miles. Ross rarely had races exactly the named distances. He usually measured courses with his car and frequently changed the course on his races just to keep it interesting. He would have liked this year’s race to see all of the high school runners and because of the course change.”

The top finishers in the race were Rams cross country’s Travis Finley, who finished with a time of 23:08.19. He was followed by second place finisher and teammate, Sean Ward. Gloucester Catholic coach girls’ soccer coach, Kate Ormsby, placed third overall.

Visit Coach Heath’s blog by clicking here.


Mt. Ephraim News

Mt. Ephraim School Board Members File Ethics Complaint Against President

In August, 2015, Mt.  Ephraim Board of Education members, Deena Noonan, Nicholas Salamone, and Diane Vilardo, filed an Ethics Complaint with the School Ethics Commission against Board President, Joan Greenwood, claiming Greenwood violated the code of ethics for school board members.

At issue is the statement that Greenwood made as BOE president on July 13 concerning the renewal vote for the contract of school Superintendent, Leslie Koller, whose contract runs through June 30, 2016.

The Gloucester City News filed an OPRA (Open Public Records Act) request to obtain copies of the School Ethics Act Complaint and all legal documents that have been filed to date.

The statement that Greenwood read was printed in the July 16 edition of the Gloucester City News and read in part:

A vote was taken in June to see if we could begin the renewal process for the Superintendent since it is a contract that we have to negotiate. While a majority of the board supported the motion for renewal, the law requires five votes in favor of renewal to pass.

Since two of our Board Members are conflicted because they have spouses working in the district, it means that a renewal motion requires five out of the seven votes. As you may know, three board members did not support the motion and so the renewal did not pass at that time.

We can revisit the vote anytime between now and next February and I expect to do so. Regardless of the vote last month, the Superintendent is our Superintendent under contract through the end of next school year.

The schools are improving, test scores are up, but there is more work to be done.

As was previously reported in the August 20 edition of the Gloucester City News, Noonan publicly declared her objection during the August 10 BOE meeting by saying the statement was not given to the entire board prior to Greenwood making it.

Board Member Mario Alibrando had asked for clarification.

Noonan responded by reiterating that she objected to Greenwood reading the statement during July’s meeting.

Board member, Diane Vilardo, stated that she too objected and added: “I have concerns.”

The minutes of the June 15 special meeting were also obtained as a result of the OPRA request and reveal that the four BOE members who voted to approve the renewal of Koller’s contract were Carl Ingram, Robbin Malinowski, Rocco Vespe, and Joan Greenwood.

The three BOE members who voted no were Noonan, Salamone, and Vilardo.

The two BOE members who were excused due to conflict were Mario Alibrando and Pat Blaylock.

Noonan, Salamone, and Vilardo filed the Ethics Complaint on their own behalf.

Their Complaint alleges four counts of ethics violations against Greenwood. Among the allegations are that Greenwood violated the code of ethics when “she made comments to the public and the press about contentious Board matters without first having the whole Board review the statement and approve it for presentation.”

Additionally, the Complaint alleges that Greenwood “does not have the authority as one board member to bind the Board to a public statement without the approval of the entire Board.”

The Complaint also contends that the information provided in Greenwood’s statement was misleading to the public, has the ability to compromise the Board and has the potential to be used against the Board because as it stands, the Superintendent’s contract has not been renewed.

According to the Complaint, if the status of the Superintendent’s contract does not change and the contract is not renewed, the Superintendent may use the statements made by Greenwood to allege that there was agreement with the Board that her contract would be renewed.

Noonan, Salamone and, Vilardo are requesting that the School Ethics Commission find that Greenwood violated the School Ethics Act and that she be subject to penalty as provided by the Act.

They are also seeking to have Greenwood removed from her appointed position of BOE president.

During last month’s meeting, the BOE appointed the Parker McCay law firm as special counsel to represent Joan Greenwood at a cost not to exceed $10,000.

Also obtained pursuant to the OPRA request, was the October 13 response that attorney Cameron Morgan filed on Greenwood’s behalf.

Morgan’s response included a Motion to Dismiss based on the inadequacy of the allegations contained in the Complaint and for failing to sufficiently state a violation of the School Ethics Act.

(Note: At the January, 2015 reorganization meeting, the BOE was deadlocked on voting for its president. The BOE voted three times during the meeting, but could not break the tie to name either Diane Vilardo or Joan Greenwood as BOE president. The matter was turned over to the county superintendent, who ultimately appointed Greenwood as BOE president.)

*Article originally appeared in the October 22, 2015 edition of the Gloucester City News.

Gloucester City BOE To Alter Traffic Patterns

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

With the opening of the middle school now two years out, Gloucester City School Superintendent, Joe Rafferty, indicated that he wants to alter traffic patterns in that area.

The district is looking into making Fifth and Sixth Streets one way “sooner rather than later,” Rafferty said during last week’s Gloucester City Board of Education (BOE) meeting.

“We would like to put a traffic light at the foot of Atlantic and Market Streets, but since Market Street is a county road, we have to approach the county about that.”

Rafferty also said that he spoke with the mayor about “giving back” Cold Springs Drive to the city because it had been abated to the district when Cold Springs School was built, and they discussed if the City would be interested in acquiring the Mary Ethel Costello and Highland Park schools.
The School District will be providing the mayor’s office with reports about the buildings.

He noted that in mid-July, the district had received determination letters from the New Jersey Department of Education Office of School Facilities that formally approved the district’s request to close Highland Park School and to dispose of the land on Highland Boulevard.

The district wants to dispose of the property in order to reduce liabilities and costs to upkeep this vacant school facility.

According to information previously provided by the BOE, the Highland Park School facility and land were acquired by a transfer to the school district on January 20, 1915 from P.A. Stewart Co. for consideration in the amount of $1.

The Highland Park School building was closed by Board Resolution dated June 14, 2011. Students and programs were relocated to the Gloucester City Junior/Senior High School in July, 2011.

In other matters. Rafferty acknowledged the district’s transition from becoming a busing district to a non-busing district. He noted a “sense of community” now that all of the children are being dropped off at school.

Board member, Jackie Borger, commented “There are a lot of children” and spoke of the need for more crossing guards.

During the business portion of the meeting, all items on the BOE’s agenda were approved.

The BOE introduced a refunding bond ordinance for School Refund Bonds Series 2005 in the aggregate principal amount of $3,495,000.

Business Administrator, Margaret McDonnell, said that the school district is refinancing (or refunding) a previously issued bond for interest savings.

The BOE approved a contract with Kennedy Health Systems for the 2015-16 school year for drug testing for the following amounts: service fee $50, medical examination $87, alcohol drug assessment $50, urine alcohol/drug screen $90, LSD urine $80, ecstasy $271, mescaline (psychedelic) $200, methadone screen $20, anabolic steroid $175, oxycodone $35.

The BOE approved non-public technology purchases for Gloucester Catholic for the 2016 school year for in the amount of $8,610.56 and Total Video in the amount of $6,790.

The following contracts were approved for the 2015-16 school year: Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech at $175 per hour not to exceed $4,000 and Discovery Education in the amount of $3,150 for non-public technology to be funded through NCLB Title I non-public.

An agreement with A.A. Duckett, Inc. for HVAC work for Cold Springs School was approved for $9,348 annually.

A transportation jointure contract was approved between the GCSD and the Brooklawn School District in the amount of $11,668.02 for transporting students to the Camden County Vocational Technical School in Sicklerville.

The BOE will meet again on Thursday, October 8 at 7:00 pm for its caucus meeting. The BOE’s regular meeting and public hearing on the Refunding Bond Ordinance will take place on Tuesday, October 13 at 7:00 pm in the GHS Media Center.

*Article originally appeared in the September 17, 21015 edition of the Gloucester City News.
Mt. Ephraim News

Mt. Ephraim BOE Hires Special Counsel

A Resolution was read following an Executive Session at Monday’s Mt. Ephraim Board of Education (BOE) meeting that would appoint special counsel to represent board president, Joan Greenwood for the Ethics Complaint filed against her.

The Resolution, read aloud by board member, Pat Blaylock stated: “Upon the recommendation of the Superintendent that the Board of Education awards Parker, McCay law firm with a contract as special counsel, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:18A-5(a)1, for legal services associated with the representation of Joan Greenwood in the matter of Noonan, et als vs. Greenwood. The Parker McCay law firm has been chosen based on their expertise and experience. The cost of legal services is not to exceed $10,000.”

Following the Executive Session, several board members made comments.

Carl Ingram said: “I hate to see it and this is taking away from the children when the finances could be spent elsewhere.”

Ingram also made a comment concerning his resignation from the board, but he did not offer his resignation during the regular meeting. He said: “I rescind my resignation.”

Nicholas Salamone said: “My actions are in the best interest of the district. Hopefully, my actions can help to correct the instability.”

Rocco Vespe called himself the “senior member of the board” and said “I’ve been on the board the longer than most and I share the concerns of instability. I am going to do everything I can to get the board back and stabilized because it’s what is best for the kids.”

Robbin Malinowki said simply that she is trying to remain positive.

Pat Blaylock stated: “It’s an embarrassment. When you run for the board, you don’t know fully what to expect, but you get into it for the kids. This is my community and my town. My motives are still the same and I will work on getting the board back on track.”

Earlier in the meeting during the public portion and prior to the reading of the Resolution, several parents addressed the BOE concerning “negativity” and “instability.”

One parent stated: “The Board doesn’t get along and doesn’t support the superintendent. The board office is a revolving door and the director of special services also resigned. What is being done to bring back stability to this district?”

Another parent said: “There is a lot of negativity about the board and the superintendent that is being spoken about in the community. This is a very small community and the kids will suffer.”

The BOE voted to accept the resignations of Interim Business Administrator, Valerie Carmody, and the Director of Special Services, Amy Francis. Francis recently accepted a position in the Gloucester City School District.

*Article originally appeared in the September 17, 2015 edition of the Gloucester City News.
Bellmawr News

Aviary Closes at Westbrook Lanes

When going bowling at Westbrook Lanes, stopping at the large bird cage at the center’s entrance is as much a part of the visit as getting a pair of bowling shoes, hoping for a strike, or playing pinball.

That changed when the decision was made to close the aviary for good.

Photo courtesy: Westbrook Lanes Facebook page

Sisters, Daria Giles and Joanne Franco, who now run Westbrook, are daughters of owners, Joe and Doris Cerrone, and they both agreed: “It was time for the birdcage to go.”

Giles said that when her parents took over the center in 1966, the aviary space used to be a waterfall that cascaded into a fishpond.

“My dad loved birds so he took out the fishpond and he built the enclosure for birds that he would decorate real nice for the holidays,” she explained.

Franco added, “At one time, we had as many as 40 birds and there were all kinds, like cockatiels and finches.”

Giles said that over the years, maintaining the birdcage has become a burden, and was quite time consuming because of the thorough and daily cleaning it required.

Another issue was trying to control the population. Not only would the birds mate, but at times, Westbrook found itself as a bird rescue of sorts.

Giles said that there have been times when people would come in to ask if their pet birds could come and live at the center. Some birds were Christmas presents that were no longer wanted while others were just looking to just get rid of their feathered creatures.

Giles always took the birds in, but every so often when it was obvious that there was overcrowding in the enclosure, she would put up a sign offering the birds free to a good home. Her requirement was that the birds needed to be given a home in a suitable cage.

And that is what happened. One final sign was placed on the aviary announcing that the birds were free to good homes and now, they are all gone. The aviary now stands empty and silent.

As for what will take its place, Giles is not sure.

People, especially kids, miss the birds. Giles said: “People still come in all day long and the first thing they ask is: ‘What happened to the birds?’ I have to explain that it was becoming a lot to maintain, but that all of the birds have found good, new homes.”

Fullscreen capture 212016 12108 PM
Photo by Anne Forline. Westbrook visitor stops to read my article that was hung on the empty aviary.
Article appeared in the September 4, 2014 edition of the Gloucester City News.