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Gloucester News Recent News

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].”

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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.

 

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Gloucester News Recent News

Glou City BOE Declares Impasse on Teachers’ Contract; Mediator to Be Assigned

 

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.”

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A view of the athletic field at Gloucester City’s new middle school. Photo provided.

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.

July 12, 2016 Agenda

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.

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Former GHS Coach and Athletic Director, Leon Harris, is sworn in to the Gloucester City Board of Education by Solicitor, Frank Cavallo, Jr.

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.

Categories
Education Gloucester News Recent News

Gloucester City BOE Interviews Candidates

At its special meeting on Tuesday night, the Gloucester City Board of Education (BOE) interviewed candidates for the vacancy left by Patrick Hagan, who resigned in May due to conflicts with college and work.

The candidates who were listed on the BOE’s agenda to be interviewed for the vacancy were: Leon Harris, Michael Hopkins, Bruce Marks, Shawn Spotts, Derek Timms, and Joseph Schili.

The Board also voted to approve two items on its agenda:

Special Meeting Agenda 6-21-16

The board voted to increase the maximum dollar amount for legal services for the 2015-16 school year to $150,000. Board member John Driscoll asked what the amount was for last year and he was told $90,000. School superintendent, Joe Rafferty, stated the reason for the recommended increase was because of  “issues that we’ve had with some of the teachers and things that are associated with that.”

The board also voted to approve a Resolution that effectively supports a grant application by the City of Gloucester for the Fiscal Year 2016 NJDOT Safe Routes to School Program.

Resolution

Rafferty also thanked secretary, Gail Sacchetti, for her years of service and dedication to the district. Sacchetti is retiring and will be replaced by Pat Blaylock.

The BOE will meet next on Tuesday, July 12 at 7:00 p.m. for a combined caucus and regular meeting.

 

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Bellmawr Gloucester News Recent News

Bellmawr, Gloucester City Among Top Ten Towns in Camden County

Bellmawr and Gloucester City are among the top 10 towns in Camden County for 2016, according to South Jersey Magazine. Every year, the magazine ranks its top towns by looking at factors that make “South Jersey such a great place to live, work and play.”

Bellmawr and Gloucester City made the list of Top Ten by County. Bellmawr ranked seventh and Gloucester City came in tenth.

This year, the top three spots for the Top 25 Big Towns went to:

1. Moorestown
2. Medford
3. Haddonfield

In 2015, Bellmawr placed last in 25th of the Top Towns category, but didn’t make the cut this year. Last year, Bellmawr came in sixth for Top Ten by County and Gloucester City was ranked ninth.

South Jersey magazine explained how it compiles its annual list: Each year for our annual Top Towns rankings we take a close look at the factors that make South Jersey such a great place to live, work and play. To do so, we’ve collected data from the state police, the state department of local government services and the state department of education. We then devised a formula that combined average property value and taxes, crime incidents reported per 1,000 residents, and high school performance (which took into consideration SAT scores, the number of AP classes offered and graduation rates). Towns are ranked in two categories: more than 10,000 population (big towns) and under 10,000 population (small towns).

To read South Jersey Magazine’s full report on this year’s top towns, click here.

To read the article from 2015, click here.

Categories
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.

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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.