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BOE hears from town about police officers


by Lauren Bucci, Gazette Staff Writer


HAMMONTON—At the April 10 Hammonton Board of Education meeting, Mayor Stephen DiDonato came before the board to discuss the importance of retaining the Special Resource Officers (SROs) employed by the district.
“I want to speak to you about the SR officers at the school… We were one of the first schools in the state to do such [employ SROs], a couple of years later we moved to the middle school realizing that times have changed. I stand here tonight, unfortunately the times have changed,” DiDonato said.
DiDonato stated that last year the board of education budget included approximately $165,000 for special resource officers, and this year the cost for the district was $194,000, or an approximately $29,000 increase.
“Last year in your budget you included the $165,000 and change for the SROs. This year the cost for the school was 194 [thousand dollars],” DiDonato said.
DiDonato informed the board that the town was willing to split the difference of the increased cost with the district, requiring a cost of $180,000 in the budget for the school district to employ special resource officers.
“So publicly today we’re [the town] willing to split the difference and charge $180,000 which is a $15,000 swing from last year to this year,” DiDonato said.
According to DiDonato, 40 percent of the remaining $15,000 increase would be assumed by the sending districts, leaving a cost of $9,000 for the taxpayers of the town to assume or a tenth of a cent increase.
“Forty percent of the cost of that $15,000 would be [borne] by the [sending] district, so approximately $6,000. So it would cost the taxpayers of Hammonton $9,000 to keep that officer over last year in the building which is a tenth of a cent…but a tenth of a cent for the safety of our students…I find to be insignificant cost for the safety of our students,” DiDonato said.
DiDonato noted that the town is willing to continue to provide an additional officer for the Warren E. Sooy school and the Early Childhood Education Center as well.
“Last year council put on an additional officer…for the ECEC and WES building and we’re willing to do that again next year,” DiDonato said.
He urged the board to consider the decision over the next month with the safety of the district’s students in mind.
“So I ask you to think about that decision over the next month… Remember the safety of our students and their comfort is first and foremost,” DiDonato said.
Hammonton Board of Education President Joseph Giralo thanked DiDonato and emphasized that student safety is a top priority for the district as well.
“Thank you and for the record this board also takes safety as the number one precaution for all of our students,” Giralo said.
Charlene Zoerb from the New Jersey School Boards Association presented the board with a strategic plan focused on goals related to student achievement and technology, finance and facilities and communication. This is a five-year plan that can be used for goal setting according to Zoerb.
“This strategic plan is really a framework for the board to use as a guiding light to go forward over the next five years… The board of education usually uses it for goal setting,” Zoerb said.
The plan is formed through a collaborative effort with members of the community, staff, and parents according to Zoerb.
“We have community members, parents, staff, many, many participants were involved,” Zoerb said.
The board passed a resolution recognizing Marie Fucetola for her achievements and service to the district and the community. Fucetola was honored as Citizen of the Year on April 11 by the Hammonton Lions Club. [See Page 3 for related article.]
Board member Thomas Attanasi congratulated Fucetola and recalled their time as colleagues.
“I just want to congratulate Marie Fucetola for Citizen of the Year… I was a colleague with Marie for 16 years and the honor she’s receiving is well deserved,” Attanasi said.
Two resolutions were passed authorizing the execution and delivery of two grant agreements for the Hammonton Middle School HVAC replacement and window replacement projects.
The board also approved two resolutions delegating authority to Hammonton Business Administrator Barbara S. Prettyman for the supervision of the school facilities project for the HVAC and window replacement projects.
The board awarded a contract to TTI wireless in the amount of $7,508.48 for Meru support and replacement services.
Board member Sam Mento gave an update from the negotiations committee and reported that negotiations were moving forward with a lot of give-and-take from both parties.
“We’ve already agreed to about a dozen or so language changes to the existing contract, some at the request of the committee some at the request of the association and I have to say thus far there’s been a lot of give and take. We are scheduled to meet again next week and I will be sure to keep the public filled in on our project,” Mento said.
The next meeting of the Board of Education will be the public budget hearing on Wednesday, May 7.
Board member Eric Weiss was absent from the meeting.