Plenty of Support, Gifts During A.J. Gonzales Day

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The Gonzales Family at the Bellmawr Council meeting. (All photos by Anne Forline)

May 29, 2015 was declared “A.J. Gonzales Day” and Mayor Frank Filipek signed a Proclamation making it official.

During the May 28, 2015 council meeting, week’s council meeting, A.J. was introduced to the Borough of Bellmawr’s elected officials and also to local law enforcement officers who were in attendance.

Several agencies from surrounding areas came to honor and bestow the four-year old with gifts and to make him “one of their own.”

Among those who honored A.J. with special gifts were Bellmawr Mayor and Council, who gave the Gonzales family passes to Diggerland. Bellmawr Police PBA 375 gave the family a membership to the Philadelphia Zoo. Camden County Sheriff Department PBA 277 gave A.J. a badge and patches. Camden County Corrections PBA 351 and VFW 9563 gave the family a monetary donation.

VFW Men’s Club 7410 gave A.J. a special bike. Ethel Burke School gave A.J. handmade superhero capes, books and crafts. The administrative staff of the Bellmawr Police Department gave A.J. the “Captain Bellmawr” cape. Many other Camden County Police Departments sent patches, which A.J. will put up in his playhouse.

AJ Gonzales stands with local law enforcement.

A.J. was the subject of an April 2 article where the Gonzales family shared A.J.’s journey with FOP, or Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva.

FOP is also called “Stone Man Syndrome” and is a rare and baffling genetic condition that causes bone to form in muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissue, according to the International FOP Association (IFOPA).

There are 287 known cases of FOP in the United States. A.J. is number 286 nationwide and in N.J., he is number four.

Following the reading of the Proclamation and presentation of gifts, A.J. was led outside where local law enforcement stood at attention to give the local superhero an up close look at the inside of their vehicles.

A.J. was shy at first until he spotted one of his classmates. He then led her by the hand and together they climbed inside a black Bearcat, a vehicle often used as a rescue or SWAT vehicle.

A.J.’s father told Fox-29’s Shawnette Wilson: “I was born and raised in Bellmawr. I knew I had support, but didn’t know I had this kind of support.”

He hopes his son “can just be a kid. If there’s a cure in the future, that’s great. I just want him to be a kid.”

A.J.’s mother Kristi expressed her gratitude to the community by saying: “Your support means absolutely everything to us and we can’t thank you enough.”

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A.J. With Shawnette Fox-29’s Shawnette Wilson
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.
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.


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.