On Wednesday, November 2 at 7:00 p.m in the Gloucester High auditorium, there will be a question and answer session with several of the candidates who are running for a spot on the Gloucester City Board of Education.
The Gloucester City High School PTO and the Gloucester City Education Association are presenting this event and refreshments will be served.
This is a chance for the community and parents to meet the individuals who directly impact the students and their education.
According to the sample ballot on the Camden County Clerk’s website, the six candidates who are seeking a three-year term on the Gloucester City Board of Education are: Shawn Spotts, Edward Hubbs, Leon D. Harris, Jr., Robert “Bob” Bennett, Sr., Derek Timm, and W. Bruce Marks, Sr.
On Election Day, Tuesday, November 8, voters will select three of the six candidates.
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?
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 .”
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.
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.
Gloucester City School Superintendent, Joe Rafferty, is giving $12,600 of his $15,000 merit bonus back to the district. He made the announcement at Tuesday’s Board of Education (BOE) meeting and asked that the money go toward the opening of the new middle school.
In accordance with the terms of his contract, Rafferty said he had the opportunity to obtain $15,000 worth of merit pay, but with the opening of the middle school and many other things, he told the BOE that he would like to give back $12,600 because “I feel that it is so important.”
Rafferty explained that he discussed this matter with his wife, Barbara. “It is something that we feel should be done from our side of the family to the family that I serve here.” The announcement was met with applause.
In other matters, Rafferty thanked the Gloucester City Fire Department, the Gloucester City Police Department and the Camden County Sheriff’s Department for demonstrating to district staff what would happen if a serious event took place at school. “It really empowered our staff to see how that was done. It was an eye-opening event and it was greatly appreciated,” he said.
The Director of the Early Childhood Center, Norrell Gurcsik, gave a presentation regarding the self-assessment for determining HIB (Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying) grades.
Gurcsik said that each school year, the school safety team at each building has to complete a self-assessment that is submitted to the State of New Jersey. She gave the results of the district’s self-assessment for the end of last year.
Gurcsik, said: “For Cold Springs School, we scored a 69 out of a possible 75. For Mary Ethel Costello, we scored a 68 out of a possible 70 and for the Gloucester City Junior-Senior High School, we scored a 67 out of a 78.”
Board member, Jackie Borger, asked for clarification.
Gurcsik responded: “For each category, we rate ourselves as far as training HIB personnel and procedures, so we total up those scores and look at those areas and try to improve for the following year.”
Amy Francis, the Director of Special Services, added: “Based on those scores, we are in good shape, but as far as those scores and the State, it does not specify a descriptor at this time. What happens is these scores have to be posted on the State website.”
Superintendent Rafferty offered clarification: “For example, if I send a team for HIB training, they will fill out that assessment, get a higher score, and that would be an area where we have training.”
GCSD To Undergo Civil Rights Review
The Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Dr. Elizabeth Curry, was asked to explain the civil rights review that the district will undergo in October.
Dr. Curry said that the district was selected by the Federal Government and the State for a civil rights review. “They will be here for two days in October to make sure we are an equal access employer and to make sure we have equal access for male and female. Do we have an equal amount of sports teams? They will look at our hiring practices and our counseling.”
Agenda Items Approved
On the business side, the Board approved various items on their meeting agenda.
A change order in the amount of $589 to Gaudelli Brothers, Inc. for the Cold Springs School fan coil project per bid dated April 29, 2016 and Board approved on June 9, 2016. The change order was requested to secure block walls to meet fire code. The revised contract in the total amount of $474,789.
Non-public technology purchases for the 2016-17 school year for Gloucester Catholic for textbook purchases from Houghlin Mifflin in the amount of $3,629.81 and for 13 Dell work stations and a USB charging station in the amount of $11,177.83.
A contract with Kennedy Health Systems for the 2016-17 school year for drug testing.
Additional contract approvals for the 2016-17 school year:
PSE&G to install four light poles for the new middle school in the amount of $7,873.75. Jackie Border clarified by saying these are light poles for Market Street.
Dell Compellent SAN (Storage Area Network) under the SCA State Contract in the amount of $212,277.42 to replace the end-of-life Dell Compellent SAN unit that serves as the virtual server and switch main hub for the district.
School Messenger (West Interactive Services Corporation) in the amount of $3,000 for the period of October 1, 2016-October 31, 2017 and funded by NCLB (No Child Left Behind).
IXL site license renewal contract in the amount of $23,340 for the period of September 5, 2016-September 5, 2019 and funded by NCLB.
Finally, as for the status of the teachers’ contract, Mediation is scheduled for November 21. As for the progress of the new middle school, Facilities Director, John Kenney, provided an outline in the meeting agenda that details all of the ongoing work.
Gloucester resident, Shaun Gismonde, addressed the city’s School Board on Tuesday night to ask about several issues. Gismonde started by asking how the the turf at the new middle school was funded and he also sought clarification about the roles of the district’s coaches.
Gismonde asked: “Where did the funding come for the turf for the middle school? Was it a loan?”
As part of his response, school superintendent, Joe Rafferty, said that the SDA [School Development Authority] were the ones to determine that. He continued: “It’s because of the extensive and elaborate drainage system that is underneath that. It is all full of large conduit. Where Fifth Street and Jersey Avenue come together, there has always been a problem with the way that drainage happened there. When they did the analysis for that to make the determination, they knew that they had to put, almost like a basin, underneath the field to take away the water that would come off of that project. That all came from the SDA, not a loan.”
Gismonde also asked about future plans for the field and if other schools will be able to use it.
Rafferty responded: “The purpose of all of our fields in Gloucester City has always been in the sense when the appropriate school is not using them, then that would be open to whoever would want to use that for whatever purpose.”
Rafferty continued by saying that officially, the district does not own the field yet. “That comes to us sometime in October or November when they will give us that property, but then we probably won’t be in to that property until possibly, January. We are looking at next summer as the time when that most likely will be utilized.”
Regarding the process that allows others to use the fields, Rafferty said, “It would be the same process that we do now. People submit [a request] to [facilities director] John Kenney to be able to use that. They have to have an insurance certificate and all of the things that go along with that. We’ve done this with all of our gyms.”
Gismonde then asked about Federal funding and the roles of the district’s teacher coaches, if they have direct contact with students or are they are strictly just for the teachers.
The district’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Dr. Elizabeth Curry, responded by saying that depending on their job, each coach either tutors individual students or works in a classroom teaching a class along with a teacher. This past year, they taught five days a week, she said.
Dr. Curry explained that the coaches’ salaries are in accordance with the salary guide and that they have equal scheduling. “They are under closer scrutiny than any other teacher in the district. They are with students for the entire day and have to account for their time and must name the student and name the teacher.”
At that point, the district’s solicitor, Cameron Morgan interrupted the discussion to say to Mr. Gismonde: “It sounds like you have a lot of questions. It might be best to speak with the administrators after the meeting.”
Board president, Ed Hubbs, added that there is a five minute rule for speaking during the public portion.
To which, Mr. Gismonde responded: “If you are elected, why don’t you let me say my peace” and then he asked about cutting costs, the district’s demographics, and how that translates into district’s graduation rate.
Gismonde said: “We have alot of money funneling into this. We pay a lot of money in taxes. Why isn’t our graduation rate over 86%?”
Board member John Driscoll stated: “Anyone here as an elected official wants to make a change.” Driscoll then asked Mr. Gismonde if he was aware of studies about income levels and pointed out graduation rates in other towns.
Gismonde said he had a concern about the district’s fields not being maintained.
Mr. Rafferty responded: “That is the worst statement. Our fields and the manpower and the people that do that are exemplary. Talk to any AD [athletic director] in the Tri-County Conference in any sport about what great facilities we have. I totally disagree with the state of the fields.”
Rafferty then stated that Mr. Gismonde was welcome to walk the facilities at any time with the facilities director and the athletic director.
At that point, Mr. Gismonde was thanked for addressing the Board and he responded: “I feel like I went unheard.”
In other matters, Board Member, Jackie Borger spoke about personnel and said that the district had 16 retirees, two non-renewals, and numerous slide moves.
Board member, Stephanie Cohan, said the district was looking to approve 35 policies, with the majority of them being code updates or basic language changes that were required going into the new school year.
Cohan added: “We decided to table one policy, which was student-teacher interns. We are working with our legal counsel to draft language so those interns or student teachers will need to have a background check.”
Regarding finance on the Secretary’s report, anticipated revenue has changed for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 for an increased $533,575 in extraordinary aid 2016.
The Board Approves Agenda Items
All Business on the meeting agenda was approved, including:
Appointing Ryan Burke as Assistant Band Director at the contracted rate.
A change at Cold Springs School that instead of four marking periods, there will be three trimesters.
A measure that would allow police to conduct an undercover school operation.
A donation in the amount of $8,000 from the Cold Springs School PTO
The 2016-17 Memorandum of Agreement with Law Enforcement.
The following contracts were approved:
CDW for the lease of 150 Chromebooks in the amount of $13,729.31 for the 2016-17 school year. Jackie Borger said that these Chromebooks are for AP students in grades 9-12.
Engaged Instruction for professional development in the amount of $31,200 for the 2016-17 school year and funded through NCLB 2017 funds.
Standards Solutions for professional development in the amount of $22,000 for the 2016-17 school year funded through NCLB 2017 funds.
Penn Literacy Network (PLN) for professional development in the amount of $41,160 for the 2016-17 school year funded through NCLB 2017 funds.
Penn Literacy Network (PLN) for professional development for Gloucester Catholic in the amount of $1,760 for the 2016-17 school year funded through NCLB 2017 Title 1 funds non-public budget.
Learning Driven Computing, LLC for professional development for Google Apps in the amount of $1,300 for the 2016-17 school year funded through NCLB 2017 funds.
Discovery Education Streaming Plus for Gloucester Catholic High School in the amount of $3,150 for the 2016-17 school year funded through NCLB Title 1 Funds, non-public budget funding.
P&N Grant Consultants, LLC – NCLB Grant Management Services for the 2016-17 school year at a rate of $58 per hour, not to exceed $44,812, funded through NCLB 2017 funds.
P&N Grant Consultants, LLC – NCLB Grant Management Services for the 2016-17 for $58 per hour, not to exceed $674, funded through Perkins Grant 2017 funds.
Board secretary, Peg McDonnell, clarified that P&N Grant Consultants are paid by NCLB and the Perkins Grant. She said that in April, the district went out for proposals for various professional services and that P&N Grant Consultants, LLC was among them. “Based on the Federal grants, there is a certain amount allowed for administration,” McDonnell said.
The Board of Education voted to approve the Janitorial Supplies and Equipment bid for the 2016-17 school year.
Non-public entitlements from the State of New Jersey 2016-17 for Gloucester Catholic were approved.
Additionally, the athletic supplies and equipment bid for the 2016-17 school year was approved.
Regarding grants, the Board voted to accept the following items:
Sketch-Up Pro 3D Modeling Software Licensing Grant from the New Jersey Department of Education for 710 licenses at $695 per license at a total cost of $493,450. The grant includes teacher training, materials, and resources. The software will be used in each building to support STEM, STEM and Engineering programs in grades K-12. The grant period is for one school year and is renewed annually for three years.
The 2016-17 Perkins Grant in the amount of $13,489 for the period of July 1, 2016-June 30, 2017 for the Marketing Education Program.
The Board of Education will meet next for its caucus session on Thursday, September 8. The regular meeting will take place on Tuesday, September 13. Both meetings will take place at 7:00 p.m. in the GHS Media Center.
Gloucester City’s teachers have reached an impasse in their contract negotiations, Board Solicitor, Frank Cavallo, Jr., said at the school board meeting on Tuesday night. Cavallo stated that that the Board of Education and the Teachers’ Association met in June. “At the end of that meeting, it was decided that the Board of Education would declare an impasse and file what is called a ‘Notice of Impasse’ with the Public Employment Relations Commission. I received a letter on July 11 informing me that they are investigating our filing and that a mediator would be assigned shortly,” he said.
HIB & EVVRS Reports
Director of the Early Childhood Center, Norell Gurcik, gave the Harassment Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) Report and the Electronic Violence and Vandalism Report (EVVR) for report period January 1-June 30, which is report period two.
Gurcik said: “At the Gloucester City Junior-Senior High School, we had eight HIB investigations and six were confirmed HIB. We had two at Mary Ethel, zero confirmed HIB. That makes a total of ten HIB investigations and six were confirmed a HIB.”
She gave a summary of the HIB report and outlined the nature of the HIB incidences: “There were two that were sexual orientation related and four under ‘other distinguishing characteristics.’ For the effects of the HIB incidences, there were six where the offender knew the actions would physically or emotionally cause harm to the victim or damage to the victim’s property. We had six insult or demean a student or a group of students. Five interfered with victims’ education and one created a hostile educational environment by severely or basically causing physical or emotional harm to a student.”
For the mode of HIB incidences, Gurcik said: “One was a gesture, one written, four verbal, two physical, and one electronic communication.”
Regarding disciplinary actions, she said: “We had two in-school suspensions, five out-of-school suspensions, and two detentions. For the offender remedial actions, there were seven individual counseling, six student conferences, and six parent conferences. For the victim remedial actions, we had eight counseling and two parent conferences and one out-of-school mental health services.”
For EVVRS, Ms. Gurcik reported: “We had two under violence and they were assault. We had two under substance abuse and they were confirmed use.”
Middle School Update
School superintendent, Joe Rafferty, said that he and several other administrators recently went to Trenton to pick out furniture and different items for the new middle school.
As for the school’s progress, he said: “Right now, things are going well. We have a picture of the field with the turf being put in. We are making an unbelievable amount of progress inside the building and things are moving along.”
Facilities Director, John Kenney, also gave an update: “The field work is progressing. For the goal posts, the supports are about half way in. The track work will probably start in the next two to three weeks.”
He continued: “Painting of the classrooms has started. Most of the concrete around the site is done. Roof work is about 90% done. Fencing work is about half way done on the site. There are about 130 people working down there. Final completion is early December,” he said.”
Kenney also said that because of the issue with the State and the transportation funding, Fifth Street is on hold and that is a major issue for the district.
Agenda Items Approved
On the business side, two items were tabled on the meeting agenda. The BOE tabled the approval of various policy revisions and a professional services contract with Positive Educational Solutions.
There was a discussion among the board about the starting salary for a teacher at the middle school. Jackie Borger asked about the starting salary and said she wasn’t questioning the candidate’s character, but she wondered why he wasn’t started as step 1.
Stephanie Cohan added: “It does seem like a high step.”
School superintendent, Joe Rafferty, responded: “This is a quality individual for the position,” and he asked Bill O’Kane, principal of Mary Ethel Costello, to provide an explanation.
“The position is for a fifth grade teacher. What it came down to is that he is the best candidate for the job for middle school math. He has a coaching background. To me, it’s a smart move. I felt this was smart hire,” O’Kane said.
The Board voted to approve the candidate to be hired.
Other approvals were:
The bill list grand totaling $4,196,782.06.
Contracts with Gloucester County Vocational-Technical School for pool rental for the 2016-17 school year in the amount of $7,675 and with Holcomb Bus Co. to lease two buses for the 2016-17 school year in the amount of $1,600 per bus per month to accommodate athletics and possible school trips.
To authorize the Board Secretary/Business Administrator to award the wall/window system removal reconstruction for the cafeteria at GHS.
Leon Harris Sworn in to the BOE:
Additionally, Leon Harris was sworn in as a board member by the Board Solicitor. Harris replaces Patrick Hagan who resigned his Board position in May. Harris was a former Lions’ football coach. In September, 2014, he retired as the district’s athletic director.
The BOE will meet next on Wednesday, August 3 for its Caucus and its regular meeting will be on Tuesday, August 9, 2016. Both meetings will be held at 7:00 p.m. in the GHS Media Center.