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Gloucester News

Large Public Support for GCSD Staff Members

During the last two Gloucester City Board of Education (BOE) meetings, there has been a large, public show of support for two staff members who were rumored to be losing their positions in the district.

The two staff members are school nurse, Linda Stewart, and homeless liaison, Jackie Berg.

At the May 5 combined Budget Hearing and Caucus meeting, several colleagues and members of the public spoke to the BOE to ask that Stewart’s job be saved.

While presenting the 2016-17 budget, Business Administrator/Board Secretary, Peg McDonnell stated that the budget did not project staffing cuts other than some retirement vacancies. Later in the meeting, a teacher asked for further clarification about eliminated positions since McDonnell stated that there wouldn’t be any budget cuts.

In response, school superintendent, Joe Rafferty, said: “There are issues with positions that were retained out of the RIF [reduction in force] from last year that should have been done but were not done. The current budget is not where the RIF came from.”

An email was sent to Peg McDonnell on May 11 asking if a vote had been taken to either retain or eliminate Stewart’s position and she responded that Stewart was included in the Board approved 2017 personnel listing.

During the regular BOE meeting on May 10, there was a large crowd in attendance to support Jackie Berg.

Berg received a Rice notice, which state law requires that public employees receive prior to any discussion of their job

Among those who spoke on Berg’s behalf were her husband, a  teachers’ union representative, and co-workers.

Berg directly addressed the school board and said she had a meeting with Mr. Rafferty and was told that her contract went through June, 2016. After serving 20 years in the district as homeless liaison, Berg wanted to know where this position was going to go and she stated that she wanted to continue her employment.

“In the past, staff jobs have been altered and changed, but their benefits and salary were never affected. I ask for the opportunity to continue in my job so I can continue to serve the community of Gloucester City,” Berg stated.

After she spoke, Berg received a standing ovation.

The BOE went into Executive Session and when the Board reconvened, several motions were voted on. One motion was to affirm the findings concerning two HIBs (Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying). One incident was found not to be a HIB and the second incident was found to be a HIB.

The BOE also voted on three motions relating to Berg.

The first motion abolished the position of Health and Social Services Coordinator effective June 30, 2016. On the second motion, the BOE voted to establish the position of District Liaison for the Education of Homeless Students effective July 1, 2016. On the third motion, the BOE voted to establish Jackie Berg in the position as District Liaison for the Education of Homeless Students effective July 1 at her current salary.

Following the vote, Berg thanked the BOE by saying: “I will continue to serve every day to the best of my ability: the students, the families and the children of the Gloucester City School District.”

Rafferty then stated that three names needed to be added to the list of staff renewals for 2016-17 and those names were Helen Whitcraft, Doug Ziegler, and Jackie Berg.

Rafferty also said that on May 10 [the day of the Board meeting], he received correspondence from Board Member, Patrick Hagan, who resigned his position as a Board member due to conflicts with college and his job. The Board voted to accept the resignation. Rafferty said that solicitor Frank Cavallo would be consulted as to advertising for the vacancy and about the process for selecting another candidate to fill the vacancy.

Board member Stephanie Cohan asked about a rumor that was going around that the district was hiring a Director of Security. She asked: “That is not the case?”

Rafferty responded: “I have no clue where that came from and I would like to know who said that so that I could clarify. I don’t know where some of these things come up. At no level, did anyone talk about that, approach that, or have a discussion on that.”

Regarding security in the district, Jackie Borger said that two part-time security guards (Timothy Flood and James McNamee) will be hired at $12.00 an hour.

On the BOE’s meeting agenda, George Berglund was hired at a salary of $32,050 to replace the security guard who resigned from Cold Springs School.

Stephanie Cohan also asked about the merit maximum of $15,750 for the superintendent’s salary that is listed as $157,500 on the meeting agenda.

Screenshot from page 13 of meeting agenda.
Screenshot from page 13 of meeting agenda.

Rafferty deferred to the Board solicitor, Frank Cavallo, who stated that the superintendent’s contract is capped. He said: “In the contract, there are merit goals that the Board approved. If the superintendent meets those goals, the Board will send that information back to the county, who will approve that he has met those goals. If so, there is a percentage of his salary that is attached to that.”

Rafferty added: “This is the first year that my salary has been capped and I still have to meet with the negotiations committee concerning those goals.”

Rafferty also gave an update on the new middle school. He spoke of ongoing discussions with the Department of Education concerning the construction and all of the different issues with that.

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Photos of the construction of the new middle school.

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He said that there are concerns of moving in the middle of the year. Stephanie Cohan asked about a definite date. Rafferty responded that he received a letter from Terminal Construction that they are ahead of schedule and that the SDA has approved their schedule. However, he is going to ask for formal notification from the SDA that will state when they will be allowed to move in. Rafferty also said there are still issues concerning Sixth Street and Market Street, which is a county road.

FullSizeRender_1

Stephanie Cohan also brought up a question that was asked about substitute teachers having to pay a $60 premium to be a “preferred sub” with Source 4 Teachers.

Rafferty responded that he met with the senior vice president of Source 4 Teachers to discuss various concerns. He also stated that there is an app that helps substitutes get called first on a regular basis.

SJO reached out to Source4Teachers for clarification about the app and Owen Murphy, who is the Vice President of Marketing for Source 4 Teachers, provided the following response via email:

Per your request, I’m providing you with some details that can hopefully clear up any confusion around Source4Teachers having an app.

Simply put, we do not have our own app. We are partners with Frontline Technologies. We use their substitute management platform, Aesop, which is widely used by school districts as well. It’s Frontline that offers an app which gives its users access to all jobs housed by the Aesop platform. It’s called Jobulator. Their website advertises that the app is $5.99 per month.

Since Source4Teachers uses the Aesop platform, our jobs are pushed into Jobulator. But, of course, so are all of the other districts who use Aesop.  So when a person interested in picking up jobs uses the Jobulator app, they are seeing Source4Teachers opportunities, but also many others.

Like most apps, this is simply a mobile-specific presentation of the information. These same Source4Teachers jobs can be found directly on our website available to anyone we’ve hired.

In other matters, Principal Sean Gorman recognized ninth grade students: Anieli Colon, Emily Petrik, Brook Byrnes, and Umaya Islam, for being awarded college scholarships.

Two parents asked the BOE on behalf of their children for consideration that teacher Cailyn Hadley not be moved from their classroom.

Student representatives from Cold Springs School and Mary Ethel Costello School addressed the BOE to give updates and reports about their schools.

Students representatives, Angelina Barrera (left) and her sister, Natalia Barrera, with Mary Ethel Costello Principal, William O'Kane at the recent Gloucester City Board of Education meeting.
Students representatives, Angelina Barrera (left) and her sister, Natalia Barrera (right), with Mary Ethel Costello Principal, William O’Kane at the recent Gloucester City Board of Education meeting.
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Cold Springs School student, Blythe Johnson, is introduced to the Gloucester City Board of Education by Principal, Karen Kessler.

On the business side, all items on the Board’s agenda were approved.

The bill list in the amount of $4,086,390.80 and various professional contracts for 2016-17 were approved. The list was included as part of the Board agenda.

Public Agenda, May 2016

Other approvals included:

  • Authorizing the Board Secretary/Business Administrator to award bid renovations of the high school cafeteria to accommodate coolers. This will be ratified by the BOE at the next Board meeting.
  • Contract renewal for Nutri-Serve Food Management for the 2016-17 school year for a total fee of $62,525.00. This will be year four of five years before the district is required to go out for a quote for food service management companies. Nutri-Serve guarantees that the bottom line on the operational financial report for the school year will be a return no less than $25,000.00. Increase of the consumer price index (CPI) is 0%
  • Award the Cold Springs partial fan coil replacement bid to Driscoll, Mech., LLC of Mt. Ephraim in the combined amount of base bid and alternate of $537,000. Bid includes a contingency allowance of $6,000.00.
  • A change order to the SDA new middle school project and to authorize proceeding with work per proposal to Terminal Construction by Ray Angelini, Inc. at a cost budget of $125,000, which includes a $14,418.90 contingency.
  • Extend the current trash contract with Waste Management from September 1, 2016-November 30, 2016 at pricing per the original bid.

Regarding Grant Items, the BOE granted permission to apply for the 2016 NJDA Summer Foods Program from June 27-July 28, 2016 based on enrollment at a price per student of $2.92 for breakfast and $3.68 for lunch. This program will provide breakfast and lunch for students at Cold Springs School, Mary Ethel Costello, and GHS.

The BOE also granted permission to apply for SketchUp Pro 3D modeling software application license for students for the 2016-17 school year. This will be for 710 licenses at $695 per license at a retail cost of $493,450. The SketchUp Pro Statewide K-12 Licensing Grant is available through the New Jersey Department of Education.

The BOE will meet next for its caucus meeting on Thursday, June 9 and again on Tuesday, June 14 for the regular meeting. The meetings are held in the GHS Media Center at 7:00 p.m.

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Gloucester News Recent News

Gloucester City BOE Votes To Affirm HIBs

 

Following an Executive Session at its April 12 meeting, the Gloucester City Board of Education (BOE) voted to affirm the Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIBs) as reported.

The BOE also voted to approve the sidebar agreement with the GCEA (Gloucester City Education Association) regarding sick leave subject to approval of the GCEA under the committee. School superintendent Rafferty stated: “Just to clarify, the name will not be mentioned, but a number will be placed there that will represent the individual.”

During the meeting under communications, the superintendent referred to a letter that was received from Board member Patrick Hagan concerning a request for a leave of absence. Rafferty said he needs to ascertain whether a Board member is allowed to take a leave of absence or has to resign.

Rafferty said he plans to meet with Hagan about the request. Hagan was not present at the meeting.

All business on the BOE’s agenda was approved.

April 2016 Regular Public Agenda

Among the approvals were:

  • Bill payment in the amount of $4,017,340.39.
  • A contract with Virtual High School for the period of July 1, 2016-June 30, 2017 in the amount of $7,500 annually.
  • The contract for Business Administrator/Board Secretary, Peg McDonnell, for the period of July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017. McDonnell’s salary will be $150,161.00. CNB News.net reported that McDonnell began her employment with the district in February 2007 at a salary of $98,000. Her salary in 2014-15 was $143,975 and last year she was paid $147,000.
  • Permission for five GHS students who are in the marketing class to attend the Southern Regional Consumer Bowl Competition. Those students are Steve Potts, Matt Orsino, Isaiah Cancel, Justin Ly, and Alex Holmes.

The BOE approved a school bus leasing agreement that authorizes leasing up to two school buses for district busing needs through June 30, 2016 from the following possible vendors: Gateway Regional School District, Holcomb Bus Company, and HA DeHart. The Board also approved an agreement with Gloucester Catholic High School to provide bus drivers and bus maintenance services for leased school buses.

Board Secretary, Peg McDonnell, clarified that the busing situation is for athletics.

Rafferty explained that the bus companies have the buses, but they don’t have the drivers. He said the district is looking for a way to get bus services and is working on a shared services type of agreement with Gloucester Catholic.

He said that for the past several years, Gloucester Catholic has picked up the GHS students to take them to swimming.

“They have people who can drive and we would lease a bus because our kids need to be transported. We have found that this is the cheapest way for us to try to solve this unique problem. Right now, bus companies cannot give the services that we need,” Rafferty said.

Solicitor Frank Cavallo Jr. explained there has been a change in the law about driver’s physicals. Because of those new regulations, companies are having a hard time finding drivers, he said.

Board member Stephanie Cohan asked needing to lease through June 30. Rafferty said playoffs go through the month of June.

During the meeting, the BOE also congratulated Kayla Fischer, Justin Ly, Davin Bowman, and Alexa Long for being among the GHS students honored by the Camden County Board of Freeholders.

GHS principal Sean Gorman said that each year, the Camden County Freeholders honor students from each county high school at the Scottish Rite Auditorium in Collingswood. This year’s ceremony was held on Tuesday, April 5th.

Camden County Freeholders Honorees from GHS:

Community Service Award: Peyton Weichmann
Leadership Award: Alexa Long
Most Improved Student Award: Kayla Fischer
Best Overall Student Award: Justin Ly
Most Courageous Student Award: Jessica Sherlock
Performing Arts Student Award: Davin Bowman
School Spirit Award: Justin Cowgill

 

Kayla Fischer
Kayla Fischer
Davin Bowman
Davin Bowman

 

Alexa Long
Alexa Long
Justin Ly
Justin Ly

The BOE will meet next on Thursday, May 5 for its Budget Meeting and the Regular Meeting will take place on Tuesday, May 10. Both meetings will take place at 7:00 p.m. in the GHS Media Center.

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Gloucester News

Ethics Complaint Dismissed Against GC BOE Vice President

In response to an OPRA (Open Public Records) Request filed with the School Ethics Commission (SEC), South Jersey Observer has learned that on February 23, 2016, the SEC dismissed an Ethics Complaint that had been filed against Gloucester City Board of Education Vice President, Jackie Borger.

Shelley Mealey of Woolwich, N.J. filed an Ethics Complaint*on October 26, 2015 against Borger. Mealey asserted that Borger violated N.J.S.A. 18A:12-24.1 (e) of the School Ethics Act, which states: “I will recognize that authority rests with the board of education and will make no personal promises nor take any private action that may compromise the board.”

At issue is a letter that Borger wrote to Mealey’s superintendent wherein Borger stated she was “Vice President of the Gloucester City School Board.”

As part of the case analysis, Robert Bender, Chairperson of the SEC wrote: “Respondent’s [Borger’s] official position as the Vice President of the Gloucester City Board holds no sway over the actions of the Woodstown Board; she simply has no authority to effect change in that District or determine its policies or actions…Respondent’s actions could not compromise the Gloucester City Board as the private action she took in a personal matter did not call into question any issue, deliberation, or vote taken by the Gloucester City Board.”

At its January 26, 2016 meeting, the SEC dismissed the Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The SEC further found the Complaint was not frivolous.

When contacted for comment about the decision, Shelley Mealey wrote in an email: “We filed the complaint on the advice of our lawyer. We will not be appealing for the simple fact that we just want to move on and forget the trauma that our family has been through.”

Jackie Borger also responded via email: “I had no doubt that the Ethics Commission would rule in my favor.”

The Gloucester City School District did not pay for Borger’s legal defense in this matter, Board Secretary Peg McDonnell confirmed in an email.

The SEC’s full decision is available here.

*Article updated to note that the Complaint provided by the School Ethics Commission contained portions that were redacted.

 

 

 

 

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Gloucester News Recent News

Minutes Obtained from Gloucester City BOE Executive Sessions

Displayed with permission from CNBNews.net

GLOUCESTER CITY N.J. (March 20, 2016)—The Gloucester City Board of Education approved a one-year contract for School District Facilities Director John Kenney in September 2015.

According to the minutes of the September 3, 2015, Executive session, Board vice-president Jackie Borger questioned the benefits package in the contract, such as $156,000 termination pay, up to $37,000 sick pay on retirement, and health benefits for Kenney and his wife paid past retirement to age 67.  Borger asked if any other district employee had benefits similar to what has been given to the  Facilities Director.

Board member William Johnson Jr., who serves on the Negotiations committee, and is the Board’s Finance chairman, told Borger no. He added that the contract may look like a really good deal for the Facilities Director but the one it is replacing was  a “Maserati.”

Kenney was hired in 1998 at a salary of $59,000, according to information received by CNBNews in an OPRA request.  He replaced Ralph Saunders who was making $69,130 when he retired. Saunders was in charge of 26 employees. He was hired in 1975 at a yearly salary $17,600.

Kenney’s annual salary, under his new contract, retroactive to July 1, 2015, is $119,468.

He oversees 29 employees. Included in that number are three custodial supervisors Kevin Biehl (salary $54,252),  Ronald Garrison (salary $72,846) and Chris Kusmanick (salary $66,252). The total salaries of the other 26 employees amount to $806,075. Their salaries range from a low $21,700 to a high of $46,374.

In April 2015 when the public was told the district had a $5 million deficit, Johnson, said he was concerned about future deficits and mentioned the operating costs for the new Middle School.

“We have been told several times by Facilities Director John Kenney to expect it to cost approximately $500,000 annually to maintain it. We have such a large deficit now how will we pay an additional $500,000 in the future? ”

RELATED: Eventually, The Well Will Run Dry

NOTE: A computer screen shot of Borger’s  September 3, 2015, remarks are below.  Further down are computer screen shots of other topics discussed by the Board at several other 2015 Executive sessions. 

….Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 11.41.51

 From the October 8, 2015, Executive session

Screen Shot october 8 board

 Oct. 8 meeting

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 14.27.01

 From the November 4, 2015, Executive session

November 2015

November 2015 page 2

From the November 10, 2015, Executive session.

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.35.12

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 12.35.29

Copies of the Executive session minutes were supplied by John Schmidt who is the vice-president on the N.J. Foundation for Open Government Board of Directors. Schmidt received the information from and OPRA request.

See more at CNBNews.net.

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Gloucester News Recent News

Lawsuit Filed Against Gloucester City Board of Ed

CNBNews.net is reporting that the Gloucester City Board of Education has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed against them for alleged Open Public Records Act (OPRA) violations.

On December 30, 2015, John Schmidt submitted an Open Public Records Act request to the Gloucester City School Board Custodian of Records, Margaret McDonnell. Schmidt requested six separate documents which included the minutes of the five most recently approved non-public (e.g. executive or closed) session of the School Board for which minutes are publicly disclosable either in full or in a redacted version. He received minutes of the Board’s Executive sessions held on August 11, September 3, October 8, November 4 and November 10, 2015.

Schmidt alleges that the August 11 minutes were redacted to conceal what would appear to be the name of an employee who was “arrested and charged with sexual assault.”

Furthermore, he alleges the minutes of the September 3 Executive Session were redacted to conceal what would appear to be a name of this same employee. He alleges the minutes of the November 10 Executive Session were redacted to conceal what would appear to the name of a Board member who “received a school ethics complaint.”

Schmidt alleges that Custodian McDonnell, or her agent, violated OPRA by not describing the nature of the redacted material in a manner, that, without revealing information itself privileged or protected, enabled Schmidt to assess the applicability of the privilege or protection.

On February 25, Schmidt, who resides in Gloucester City, filed a lawsuit against the Gloucester City Board of Education and McDonnell alleging that the defendants violated the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) by not describing the nature of the redacted material in a manner that, without revealing information itself privileged or protected, enable the plaintiff to assess the applicability of the privilege or protection.

Schmidt is asking for a privilege log containing sufficient detail so that he and the court can assess the applicability of the claimed justifications for the redactions in the provided executive sessions minutes. If the privilege log does not resolve the controversy, Schmidt is asking the Records Custodian to submit unredacted versions of the provided executive session minutes to the Court for an in camera inspection.

He is asking the Court to disclose either unredacted or more narrowly redacted versions of the Executive Session minutes, with the extent of the disclosure being determined by the Court. He is also asking for court costs and demands judgement against plaintiffs

The defendants have until March 28, 2016, to show cause opposition. The  Court date is scheduled for April 22, 2016, before Camden County Superior Court Judge Deborah Silverman Katz, in Superior Court, 101 S. Fifth Street, Camden.

Read more at CNBNews.net

*Article posted with permission from CNBNews.net