Bellmawr Education News Recent News

Bellmawr Early Childhood Center Set to Open

School superintendent, Annette Castiglione, stated that despite delays, the Early Childhood Center will be ready for students on November 9.

Castiglione said at last week’s Board of Education (BOE) meeting that she recently did a walk-through of the center and the furniture is in and the custodians have been cleaning the rooms.

“The siding should be going up soon and the roof is on,” she said.

Castiglione and the district’s administrators gave a presentation on the district’s annual report. The report is available online on the Bellmawr Schools’ homepage

The superintendent also commented on the preliminary results of PARCC test. She said, “I received a 14-page PowerPoint on the PARCC Results, but we will not have the district results until late November.”

Once the district’s full results are received, they will be rolled out to the parents.

Speaking preliminarily about the results, Castiglione stated, “As we expected, the PARCC results certainly show that our performance is less than what was the case on the NJ-ASK. But for those of you who have been in education as long as I have, the NJ-ASK results the first year were significantly lower than what we call the GEPA (Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment).

She continued by saying, “Every time we change a standardized test, the results do shift dramatically and so we will expect that. We are expecting that statewide.”

She indicated that the results show statewide that Belllmawr’s students did not do as well in the PARCC as they did in the NJ-ASK.

“They did a little better in Language Arts than they did in Math, but in any case, they did what we expected them to do,” Castiglione said.

She further explained, “What this test is telling us is that we really have to keep ramping it up and going to the higher order thinking skills. That doesn’t mean teachers aren’t teaching and that the students aren’t learning. They are. There is no need for alarm. There is no need for opting out. There’s just a need to keep doing what we are doing.”

During the business portion of the meeting, all matters brought before the BOE were passed.

The BOE approved Anthony Sciarrillo as labor negotiator at the rate of $160.00 per hour because 2015-16 is the third and final year of the teachers’ contract.

The annual percentage increase for the teachers’ contract over the past three years is broken down as: 2.74% for 2013-14; 3.4% for 2014-15, and 3.97% for 2015-16.

The BOE voted to approve a $2,500 grant from GHA Technologies, Inc. to be used for technology equipment (Chrome Books) at Bellmawr Park School.

The BOE also voted to approve an agreement with Delta-T Group, Inc. for a learning disability teacher consultant (LDTC) not to exceed 10 hours weekly for the 2015-16 school year at a rate of $55.00 an hour.

The BOE will meet again on Wednesday, November 18 at 5:00 pm for its work session and the regular meeting will follow at 6:00 pm in the Bell Oaks Media Center.

Mt. Ephraim News

Mt. Ephraim BOE Hires Paraprofessional

Amid concerns of setting precedent, the Mt. Ephraim Board of Education (BOE) rejected a motion last month that would have approved the hiring of a paraprofessional candidate at a higher salary/step.

Before the board voted during September’s BOE meeting, there was discussion between the BOE and the administration about why the starting salary for this particular candidate had been submitted for approval at a higher step.

A paraprofessional also questioned the approval and speculated if the hiring at the higher step would be cause for a grievance.

The BOE’s primary concern was that if the candidate were to be approved at Step 7, as opposed to Step 1, then that would set precedent. When it came time to vote on the motion, it did not pass.

However, the candidate’s name was back on the agenda a second time for approval during last week’s BOE meeting. Again, the matter was subject to a lengthy discussion.

School superintendent, Leslie Koller said, “I won’t put her (the candidate) before you again. I had no intention of putting her before you again, but when I left last month’s board meeting, we have had another resignation.”

She elaborated by saying that despite the position being advertised, there were no applications for it.
Principal, Mike Hunter, agreed with Koller and said: “We had zero applications.”

He stood before the BOE and said: “It’s not a very easy position to fill and it is a position that is not highly sought after.”

He spoke of the hours of work and conversation that had gone into the process. He added: “We pay $60 a day to the substitute. We pay the firm Insight $81.20. Do the math. $81.20 times 180 is pretty close to what we are going to pay the recommended salary.”

He asked the board to consider the thought process that goes into the recommendation and to not just look at the number.

“It’s about the quality of the person that we are hiring. Sometimes quality is important and it is of utmost important in this situation. We do our due diligence,” Hunter said.

He then stated that since the last board meeting, another paraprofessional had resigned.

“They (the paraprofessionals) are taking jobs with benefits that we don’t offer, which I am not suggesting that we offer. We can’t afford to offer them and I understand that. But that’s why they are leaving – for benefits,” Hunter said.

Board member, Deena Noonan, interjected by saying she was concerned about setting precedent and said, “Step 2 or 3 is a lot different than step 7.”

Hunter responded: “Between Step 7 and Step 1, is less than $2,000.”

Board member, Nick Salamone remarked that when Hunter addressed the BOE, it was the first time he had ever heard an administrator speak directly to the board, and although he had no objection to it, he stated, “I could very well think that your speech could influence the revote.”

Board president Joan Greenwood asked if the applicant was working in another district.

The superintendent replied by saying the person is a certified teacher and has been working in a different district.

The board solicitor, Patrick Carrigg, interrupted the discussion and stated, “This is not appropriate now. You can talk in general about placement on the steps, but to talk specifically about her would be inappropriate.”

When the matter was brought to a vote, the motion passed. Board members Mario Alibrando, Robbin Malinowski, Patricia Blaylock and Joan Greenwood voted yes.

Board member Diane Vilardo also voted yes, but said she did so “with reservation.”

Voting no were Deena Noonan and Nicholas Salamone. Board members Carl Ingram and Rocco Vespe were absent from the meeting.

In addition to addressing the Board about the paraprofessional position, Hunter also asked the BOE to “respect us because we do our jobs well and we hope that you continue to respect us.”

Referencing remarks that had been made during last month’s meeting. Hunter said: “Last month, a board member said to the large crowd, ‘Thank you for all coming. Continue coming. Let us know the problems and we’ll fix them’.”

Hunter went on: “I beg to differ. That’s not your responsibility. You’re to let us know that something is going on and we will report back to you. Please choose your words wisely when you are talking to the community about things that are going on in the school. Please choose your words wisely when you’re on the ballfields and people are in your ears, which I know happens. I’ve asked you before, please pass them on to us and we will definitely report back to you.”

He added, “In the eight years that I have been here and since Leslie has been here, the district has never has never been more transparent than it is now.”

The BOE will meet again on Monday, November 16 at 7:30 pm at the Mary Bray Media Center.

Gloucester News

Resident Asks Gloucester BOE To Provide Agenda

A Gloucester City resident addressed the BOE about the lack of availability of the monthly meeting agenda, and said it is difficult to hear what is being said during the meeting.

“In accordance with the Sunshine Law, a copy of the agenda must be provided,” the resident stated to the BOE.

She further complained: “I can’t hear what is being said, so I don’t know what is being approved. I can’t follow along in writing.”

Board member Jackie Borger responded: “Thank you for bringing it to our attention.”

Board President Ed Hubbs added: “I will see that the agenda is put on the seats.”

(Note: This reporter also made a statement to the BOE during the public portion to say that it is difficult to hear what is being discussed during the meetings.)

Also addressing the BOE was the AFSCME union representative for the district’s custodians. He asked about creating a sick bank and wanted to know the district’s policy concerning withholding pay.
Business administrator, Peg McDonnell, responded by saying “By law, we can’t withhold people’s pay.”

School superintendent, Joe Rafferty, said those employees with questions about their pay should come into the board office so a search can be done on a case-by-case basis.

Rafferty was also asked about a rumor that the district may be looking into hiring an outside company to plow the schools’ lots during snowstorms.

Rafferty said that because buses had been cut from Cold Springs School, there are many more parents on the property than had been in previous years.

There is also a liability issue, Rafferty said, adding that the district is looking into a shared services agreement for snow removal with Gloucester City.

“We are trying to find the best way to remove the large amounts of snow because it is a liability with more people at the Cold Springs campus,” Rafferty said.

He also stated: “There is no intention to privatize and this is not to diminish the custodians’ jobs because they will still be removing snow from the walkways.”

During the meeting, there was a first reading of the district’s revised lice policy.

At the March BOE meeting, a parent had addressed the BOE concerning the lice policy and asked why the district does not follow a “no nit” policy.

In response to that concern, board member Bill Johnson questioned if there should be a policy change concerning lice.

The policy #8454 has been revised to read as follows:

“A student who is found to have active head lice will not be permitted to attend school until there are no active lice in the student’s hair and until all live head lice are removed as confirmed by an examination by the school nurse.”

During the business portion of the meeting, all motions brought before the BOE passed.
The BOE voted to approve the 2015-16 fall athletic contract with HA DeHart and Sons in the amount of $24,035.

A motion was approved for the 2015-16 non-public textbook purchase for Gloucester Catholic for Houghton Mifflin in the amount of $8,587.51, McGraw’s in the amount of $1,276.00 and Apple textbooks in the amount of $490.

The board accepted non-public entitlements from the State of New Jersey for 2015-16 for non-public security for Gloucester Catholic in the amount of $15,125.

The board also approved the following contracts for the 2015-16 school year: Positive Educational Solutions, LLC to provide autism classroom support in the amount of $180 an hour, not to exceed $32,000 and with P&N Grant Consultants, LLC to provide Perkins Grant Management Services for the 2015-16 school year at $58 per hour, not to exceed $773, to be funded through Perkins 2016 administration funds.

There was also a public hearing on the Refunding Bund Ordinance for School Refund Bund Series 2005. Board Secretary, Margaret McDonnell, previously explained that the district is refinancing (or refunding) a previously issued bond for interest savings.

The BOE will meet next on November 10 for a combined caucus and regular meeting at 7:00 pm in the GHS Media Center.

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