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Glou City Resident Questions School Board About Zero Tolerance Policy


Gloucester City resident, Steve Cowgill, spoke during the public portion of Tuesday’s Board of Education (BOE) meeting to ask about an alleged incident that recently occurred on Gloucester High property and involved Gloucester Catholic

Cowgill asked about the zero tolerance policy, saying he received a zero tolerance letter “within 5 days” for an incident that took place in Palmyra.

He questioned the district’s responsibility for the alleged, separate Gloucester Catholic incident that occurred “31 days ago.” Cowgill asked: “How is Gloucester High not partly responsible for zero tolerancing this guy?

(See related article from CNB News.)

Board President Ed Hubbs stated, “It is a police matter as far as we are concerned and we are addressing Gloucester Catholic.”

School Superintendent, Joe Rafferty said: “It was reported to the police chief. We cannot make a comment because it is a police matter at this time. “Right now, the chief of police [is] working on that and he will get back to me. As the superintendent of schools, I have to advise that this is legal action [and] that we, as a district, cannot comment at this time.”

Board Solicitor, Cameron Morgan, added: “It is being taken under advisement by the Board and the Board is going to determine what to do.”

During the meeting, Board member, Jackie Borger stated: “I think we need to write a letter to them [Gloucester Catholic], stating that they are responsible for actions on our property.”

The Board made a motion “to send a strongly worded letter to Gloucester Catholic” and the motion passed.

Gloucester City Middle School to Open September, 2017

In other matters, the Board approved a motion to amend the 2016-17 school calendar and also pushing back the move in date for the new middle school until September, 2017.

Superintendent Rafferty stated: “There are several factors – construction issues and financial issues. Fifth Street will have to be repaved. There are a lot of different contributing factors. Our concern is that we could not do that in such a small window of transitioning everybody and making it work, especially with so many different variables.”

Rafferty also said that he went to the Board, who agreed to pass the Resolution.

“We also talked to the State and also to the County and they are in agreement with us. We passed a Resolution to kind of take a step back how we are going to do this to make it right. There is no reason to hurry something up if we know that there are variables.”

Rafferty provided further clarification: “Right now, they have to replace every window in the middle school because of a manufacturing problem. There are issues with making the building tight, sound wise, [and] the police and fire radios don’t work out. There has to be a fix there. There are factors that we didn’t know, like [the issues] with Fifth Street, not only the surface but the infrastructure. There are too many variables. The Board is in agreement. A smoother transition would be in September [2017].”

Photo by SJO. The Gloucester City Board of Education passed a Resolution delaying the opening of the new middle school until September, 2017.

The Resolution outlined the various issues and include, but are not limited to: total window replacement as there are many benefits of window replacement within such an establishment, police and fire emergency communication blackout issues inside the school, loading dock construction defects, substitution approval issues.

Resolution on New Middle School Opening

Also, 5th Street will not be operational in time for a January, 2017 opening because of underground utility repairs and paving issues and because 5th Street is necessary for deliveries to be made the school and for traffic related to the safe drop off/pick up of students.

The district does not have enough time to establish and test health and safety drills/procedures, prepare constituents for new traffic patterns, set up and test cafeteria equipment.

The district also did not anticipate and/or plan for the cost impact of owning the new school from October, 2016 through April, 2017 in its school year budget. Additionally, early transfer will have a negative financial impact and be extremely detrimental to the district.

A member of the public spoke and asked about the district taking ownership of the school and also about the school’s name.

Rafferty said, “Right now, I am taking it under advisement from our attorney, [who] is working with us to formulate our plan. There are recurring costs that we are concerned with about taking it over, still having some contractors there and also the insurance, air-conditioning, and those kinds of things. If you look closely on the [Resolution], it lists several items that we are working towards and we don’t want to put ourselves in a detrimental economic situation.”

As for the school name, Rafferty said that for right now, the building is going to be the Gloucester City Middle School.

He also stated that at the Board’s pleasure, there will be different parts inside the building that may be named after people. “There are so many local people that it could be named after. We felt that by having different sections of the building named after people, that would be better, but it will be called the ‘Gloucester City Middle School.’”

Board Approves Agenda Items

In other matters, the BOE approved all business on its agenda.

October 11, 2016 Agenda

Among the approvals were:

  • The forms and terms of the Last Chance Agreement executed by an employee.
  • A contract with Positive Educational Solutions, LLC for professional services for the 2016-17 school year at a rate of $180 an hour, not to exceed $15,000.
  • Bill list in the grand total amount of $3,245,304.76.

The BOE will meet again on Thursday, November 3 for its caucus meeting and on Thursday, November 8 for its regular meeting. All meetings will be held in the Gloucester High Media Center.