Board announces 1/2-cent decrease
Seeking $2.8M in grant funds
HAMMONTON—Hammonton Board of Education President Sam Mento III announced a tax decrease by almost half a cent at the board’s May 6 meeting.
Board President Sam Mento III called the meeting to order and all board members were present at the Samuel A. Donio Memorial Library with the exceptions of Al Pangia, Erica Polito and John Thomas.
Superintendent of Schools Robin Chieco presented the 2021-2022 Hammonton Public School District Budget in the following sums: General Fund: $55,646,313; Special Revenues: $3,279,066; Debt Service: $2,311,173.
The Total Budget for the 2021-2022 school year is $61,236,552.
The 2021-2022 General Fund Tax Levy is $18,198,582 and Debt Service Tax Levy is $1,644,835. The Total Tax Levy is $19,843,417.
The 2021-2022 State Aid (all funds) is $25,706,499. The 2021-2022 State Aid Increase (all funds) is $3,181,223.
The Hammonton District received ESSER I funding in the amount of approximately $700,000, which was used for Chromebooks, hotspots and COVID-19 supplies. The Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) was approximately $225,000 and was used for teacher computers to provide livestreaming. The Digital Divide fund of approximately $204,000 was used to purchase Chromebooks or tablets at the Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC).
The Hammonton District is in the process of submitting the grant application for the ESSER II for approximately $2.8 million, which will be used for school buses, air purifiers, learning acceleration, mental health and additional staff positions, Chieco said.
Chieco said 54 passenger school buses will be purchased.
“To increase ventilation safety, these new vehicles will be equipped with Hepa 4 Filtration and Purification Systems,” Chieco said.
The Hammonton School District will have the following new positions to meet the challenges of the 2021-2022 school year: Mental Health Assistant Counselor (District), Additional Middle School Guidance Counselor, Elementary School Intervention Teacher, Elementary School Bilingual/ESL Teacher and Pre-K Elementary Supervisor, the latter being a replacement position.
“Our children have suffered trauma over the past year and we want to be able to offer counseling services within our buildings to address these additional needs. In additional to universal mental health support, this council will also coordinate with outside agencies when necessary,” Chieco said.
During her presentation, Chieco said the district is applying for a grant to implement Positive Behavior Supports in School Program (PBSIS) for the 2021-2022 school year for the high school and middle school. PBSIS is a tiered intervention program for conduct, behavior and social and emotional wellness. The training is provided through Rutgers and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Next, Chieco talked about assessment and progress monitoring for the 2021-2022 school year.
“When students return, we need to be able to quickly identify academic levels of our students and their learning gaps that may have occurred over the past year and a half. In order to diagnose students quickly and measure their progress, we are purchasing a data warehousing and assessment program through grant funding,” Chieco said.
This purchase will allow for benchmarking, progress monitoring and student achievement analytics with an intervention manager component.
Chieco then announced new math and science programs as well as new programs for English language arts. In addition, the Hammonton High School will have the following additional course offerings: AP Physics I and an Atlantic County Community College dual credit (free tuition) course called Comprehensive Medical Terminology.
“We are also expanding our summer offerings this year by providing a summer credit recovery program at the high school for any student that failed English or math. In addition, we will continue to offer our summer programs at ECEC, WES [Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School] and Hammonton Middle School,” Chieco said.
“Information will be provided to parents very shortly and all programs will be free of charge and will have transportation provided,” Chieco said.
For facility improvements, there will be additional space in buildings/expansions, covered walkway between ECEC and WES, security upgrades and a Wellness Path at ECEC (collaboration with Hammonton Education Foundation).
“My grandfather always said tide goes in, tide goes out. And I really believe that finally the tide is coming back in for the Hammonton School District for funding and we’re going to be able to do some real nice things for our students, faculty and staff in the next few years,” Mento said after Chieco’s budget presentation.
The meeting then moved to public comment. There was no comment from the public concerning the budget for the 2021-2022 school year.
Seeing there was no comment, Board Vice President Michael Pullia motioned to vote on the budget, seconded by Board Member Barbara Berenato.
For finance items concerning the budget (No. 1-4), the board voted to:
• Approve to adopt the 2021-2022 Hammonton Public School district budget, as required by the New Jersey Department of Education process, in the following sums: General Fund: $55,646,313; Special Revenues: 3,279,066; Debt Service: 2,311,173; Total Budget: $61,236,552.
• Acknowledges that the 2021-2022 school district budget represents: General Fund Tax Levy: $18,198,582; Debt Service Fund Tax Levy: 1,644,835; Total Tax Levy: $19,843,417.
• Approve to include in the 2021-2022 Budget a Withdrawal from the Maintenance Reserve in accordance with NJAC 6A:23A-14.2(d) in the amount $465,000 for required maintenance activities as reported in the comprehensive maintenance plan pursuant to NJAC 6A:26A-4.
• Approve the Requisition for Taxes for the year 2021-2022.
The meeting then moved to committee reports.
Board Member John Lyons from the solar energy committee said temporary fencing has been installed over by ECEC and the football field. Inside the fencing is the solar panels and equipment for the installation.
Next, Board Member Raymond Scipione gave the community relations report. Upcoming events include senior week trips beginning May 24 with excursions to Top Golf, Cape May Zoo, kayaking and Ocean City boardwalk and Great Adventure (now June 2); outdoor jazz band concert on May 24; annual junior/senior powderpuff game on May 27; outdoor junior/senior prom on June 4 at the football field; and field days at ECEC and WES will be in June over multiple days.
Next, Board Member Linda Byrnes gave the curriculum report.
“I can attest to the jitters that teachers went through every spring not knowing what the budget was going to bring next year. Always being asked to do more with less and it’s a nice time for the Hammonton school district to be in this position,” Byrnes said.
Mento then gave the buildings and grounds report.
“Right now we’re discussing plans to potentially extend our buildings and put some outdoor eating areas … we’re making plans to accommodate that next year,” Mento said.
Along with new outdoor eating areas, Mento announced the school district plans to go back five full days starting next school year.
“It’s very safe to say with things continuing as they are, we’re going back to school as normal next year,” Mento said.
Mento also announced starting Wednesday May 26, the Hammonton Family Success Center will have walk-up COVID-19 vaccinations provided by AtlantiCare.
“And starting in May, the dates to be announced, and probably two weekends from now, we are going to be opening up the Hammonton Middle School gym for shots for adolescents as you know the criteria has changed now. I believe it’s from 12 and up are eligible for the Pfizer. And again, working with AtlantiCare in Atlantic County, we’ll be providing an area at our Hammonton Middle School on weekends,” Mento said.
The meeting then moved to the second portion of public comment. Melissa Castone, a public school educator for almost 20 years, spoke to the board.
“For 11 months, I taught remotely from home while I was the co-educator for Liam and Colton Castone who were both learning from home remotely. I know all too well the trials and tribulations that educators have gone through this year,” Castone said.
Despite her years in education, nothing prepared her for this school year.
“In April I was called back into the in-person classroom and had to start a difficult transition not only for myself but for my children. I am happy to report that only with the help of the Hammonton Public Schools faculty and staff, has this transition been a success,” Castone said.
For teacher appreciation week, Castone thanked the following individuals who have directly impacted the success of her two children: Ashley Filipone (fourth grade special education); Kristin Cavalucci (fourth grade ELA); Jorge Carde (fourth grade math); Aimee Barts (fourth grade math); Tracy Rearick (fourth grade special education); Gabrielle Attanasi (learning disabilities teacher consultant and case manager for Castone’s son); WES Principal Dr. Kristina Tigro; Christi Lane (fourth grade); Mea Lupinetti (fourth grade math); Amanda Gilbert (first grade remote teacher); Krista Leach (first grade in-person teacher); ECEC Principal Dr. Darla Salay; and Katelyn D’Errico (guidance counselor at ECEC).
“I have seen this board asked to complete an eighth grade math problem right here in front of masses of people. Well the only math problem I’m interested in is this: if it takes 13 Hammonton staff members to ensure the success and progress of two little Castone boys, then how much Hammonton wine does it take to thank those same staff members for what they’ve done during this pandemic? I think we all know that the answer is there is no limit,” Castone said.
During the meeting, Mento, Councilman Joseph Giralo and the board of education recognized AtlantiCare, Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers (SJFMC) and MediLink RxCare for their help with administering COVID-19 vaccinations for the Hammonton School District and their families. Tricia Donio and Christine Guzman and from AtlantiCare; SJFMC COO Esther Carpenter and SJFMC Executive Assistant to the CEO Bernadette Andrews; and Nikoleta Tzaferos and Sandy Tzaferos from MediLink Rx Care received awards.
Mento said the district now has almost all 300 of their staff back except for four who have medical needs; the vaccinations helped return 3,000 students back to in-person learning.
“Your kindness and commitment to the school district will not be forgotten,” Mento said.
Later in the meeting, Scipione motioned, seconded by Byrnes to vote for finance items five through 26. The board most notably voted to:
• Approve the Board Minutes of April 15, 2021 (Open & Closed Sessions). Thomas Attanasi abstained.
• Approve the bill list for May 2021 in the amount of $614,291.56.
• Ratify the check lists for April 2021 in the amount of $735,888.90.
• Ratify the April 2021 payroll in the amount of $3,435,246.20.
• Approve appointing M.L.R. Risk Management, LLC as its RMC. Pullia abstained because it’s under discussion.
• Approve to award Professional Service Contract for NJ DOT Drug/Alcohol Testing and Compliance with Atlantic Investigations from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022.
• Approve to award Professional contract for medical inspector to Stephen A. Nurkiewicz, MD for the 2021-2022 school year in the amount of $26,500 plus exam and testing fees. Lyons voted no.
Approve the 2021-2022 nursing services agreement with Preferred Home Health Care & Nursing Services in the amount of $45 per hour for One-On-One LPN and $55 per hour for One-On-One RN and for Substitute RN.
Approve the 2021-2022 nursing services agreement with Maxim in the amount of $45 per hour for LPN.
• Approve a contract with ERA, Inc. to provide physical, occupational, speech and language therapy services from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022 at a cost of $20 per unit (15 minute intervals).
• Approve to award Professional Service Contract for Auditing Services for the 2020-2021 school year with Raymond Colavita, CPA of Nightlinger, Colavita & Volpa in the amount of $19,700. Lyons voted no.
• Approve to award Professional Service Contract for School Policy and Regulation Consulting Services for the 2021-2022 school year with Strauss Esmay Associates, LLP in the amount of $13,000. Pullia said this is an ongoing contract that’ll go on from year to year.
• Approve an agreement with Atlantic County Special Services School District for a Joint Transportation Agreement for the 2021-2022 school year.
• Approve Camden County Educational Services Commission General Service Contract for general services for the 2021-2022 school year.
• Approve to donate an outdated; no longer supported ID printer/PC to the Hammonton Police Department.
• Approve a contract with Enterprise Car Sales for purchase of 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT Wagon in the amount of $21,898 plus MVC fees based on lowest quote.
• Approve a contract with Hoover Truck & Bus Centers for purchase of 2022 Model Year 54 Passenger Blue Bird Vision school bus in the amount of $103,655.01 based on ESCNJ 20/21-33.
Next the board voted on matters concerning personnel. Most notably they resolved to:
• Approve a salary adjustment for the following personnel effective May 7, 2021: Amanda Gilbert - from BA - $55,500 to BA + 15 - $56,333.
• Approve student teaching for Alyssa Sheehy, a student from Stockton University, at the elementary school.
• Approve a letter of retirement from Evelyn Lopez, middle school part-time hall monitor, effective June 17, 2021.
• Approve a letter of resignation from Nancy Briones, district custodian, effective April 21, 2021.
• Approve the job description of Mental Health Assistance Counselor.
• Approve the following personnel to complete supplemental instruction after school hours: Tami Schaffer at the rate of $50 per hour. Funds were provided by the CARES Act.
• Approve the following high school personnel for teaching the Advanced Placement courses for the 2020-2021 school year: Carolyn Edwards, Kristin Ceraso, Jonathan Wilson (two different courses), Ryan Entress, Amanda Casazza, Kristen Silvesti, AJ Siscone, Daniel O’Malley, David Barbagallo and Jillian Giacobbe.
• Approve additional high school paid coaching positions for the 2021-2022 school year (additional of one coach for each of the following): field hockey, football, girls volleyball, boys volleyball and golf.
• Approve the reemployment of the certified staff for the 2021-2022 school year. Berenato abstained because of her relatives that work in the district. “There’s no way I would not approve the employment of our staff,” she said. Lyons also abstained.
• Approve Richard Cote as Special Assistant to the Business Administrator for Administration of summer 2021 renovation and upgrade district projects at a stipend of $6,949.
• Approve the summer 2021 hours for the following guidance counselors and school nurses: High School Guidance Counselors (16 days each): Jason Bendig, Joseph R. Martino, Cynthia Pierce, Nadine Ryan and Anna Warburton; Middle School Guidance Counselors (11 days each): Lisa DeKlerk and Colleen Roccia; WES/ECEC Guidance Counselors (14 days each): Katelyn D’Errico and Debra Schmidt; District SAC (5 days): Luisa Carvalho; High School Nurses (100 total hours): Christine Haines (50 hours) and Jennifer Chappine (50 hours); Middle School Nurse (40 hours): Kimberly Scavo; and ECEC Nurse (20 hours): Teresa Christopher.
• Approve the following high school personnel to perform the task of Title I Parent Engagement Outreach for high school summer reading 2021: Kristen Ceraso with stipend of $800, FICA of $61.20 for a total of $861.20; Tracy Angelozzi with stipend of $800, FICA of $61.20 for a total of $861.20. Total stipend amount: $1,600. Total FICA: $122.40. Total Cost: $1,722.40. Total Cost Federal Funds under ESSA. No local funds are involved.
Approve the following personnel pending receipt of all necessary paperwork (current substitute pay schedule approved by the Board December 10, 2015: Regular County Substitute Certificate - $90 per day, Regular Standard State Teaching Certificate - $100 per day; substitute nurse pay schedule approved by the Board May 9, 2013: School Nurse - $200 per day): Substitute teacher(s) who have a New Jersey substitute certificate: Frank Mazzeo. Substitute food service worker(s) - $12.80/hour; Substitute custodian(s): $14/hour; Substitute hall monitor(s) and cafeteria aide(s) - $12.80/hour; Substitute bus driver(s)- $16.50/hour.
• Approve student teaching for Emily Pavesi, a student from Rowan University, in the early childhood center and high school.
For programs, students and miscellaneous matters, the board most notably resolved to:
• Approve a request to waive all the use of facilities/custodial fees for Healthy Kids Running Series for the use of the middle school fields from May to June 2021. Byrnes abstained.
• Ratify the following Use of Facilities Requests, which were approved subject to receipt of all necessary documentation and reviewed by the Risk Management Consultant, who has approved all Certificates of Insurance unless noted otherwise: High School Gyms: High School Basketball, Joseph Martino, Clinic, Monday to Friday, June 21 to August 10, 2021, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Monday to Friday, July 12 to August 6, 2021; 8 a.m. to 1:10 p.m.; and St. Joseph Academy Fields: Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society, Louis Pantalone, Fireworks, Friday, July 16, 2021; 10 a.m. to 11 :55 p.m.
Next, the board approved the following programs, students and miscellaneous item on the addendum:
Approve the resubmission of the School Security Grant application for the 2020-2021 school year in the amount of $196,901 and acknowledge the availability of local funds if the cost estimate exceeds the grant allowance.
Before closing the meeting, Pullia mentioned texts he received from parents.
“They [parents] want to know when they’re getting their refund on the trip. We discussed it might be until June. Is there any way we can speed that process up so these kids could use these monies for the prom and some of these other wonderful events we have planned this year?” Pullia said.
The board then voted for the district to “provide a 100 percent refund immediately” while they wait for funds to come back from the travel agency. It was approved.
The next school board meeting will be held June 3 at 7 p.m. at the Samuel A. Donio Memorial Library.