Board of Education buys books, sweeper
HAMMONTON—The Hammonton Board of Education approved the purchase of a new floor sweeper and textbooks during its April 15 meeting.
The purchase of an Advance SC1500 Stand on Auto Scrubber cost $8,007.85 based on ESCNJ cooperative pricing.
The board approved a contract with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the purchase of Grade K and Grade 1 Go Math books at a cost of $33,613.79. The board also approved to award contract to McGraw Hill for Study Sync Core ELA Grade 7 and Grade 8 books in the amount of $103,384.92 based on lowest quote.
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 Thomas Attanasi, Linda Byrnes and John Lyons who were excused.
Assistant Superintendent Tammy Leonard gave a presentation on the Student Safety Data System (SSDS). School districts are required to report to the N.J. Department of Education (NJDOE) any incidents of violence, alleged or confirmed harassment, intimidation or bullying (HBI), vandalism and alcohol or drug abuse. The information is reported to the Board of Education in a public hearing two times each year. This is the district’s first reporting period for the 2020-2021 school year.
According to Leonard and the SSDS report, there were no reportable incidents at the Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) and Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School (WES).
At the Hammonton Middle School there was one alleged and two confirmed incidents of HIB during the first reporting period and one other incident leading to suspension.
At the Hammonton High School there were two alleged incidents of HIB, three incidents of violence (including two fights and one assault) and eight other incidents leading to suspension.
There were no incidents of vandalism, substances and weapons at any of the schools according to the report.
Leonard said the information was submitted at the end of January.
The meeting then moved to committee reports. For the sending and receiving committee, board member Barbara Berenato said an agreement between Waterford and Hammonton is being reviewed by the school district’s solicitor because “there were some slight changes in Waterford’s part of the agreement.”
Board Vice President Michael Pullia then gave the finance committee report.
“Ms. [Barbara] Prettyman is finalizing the budget details. The budget hearing will be May 6. That’s our next regular board meeting, and that meeting we’ll have the budget hearing to formally introduce the budget. The budget will have a decrease in taxes. She’s just going through all—there’s a lot of things coming in from the federal government and everything and finalizing everything,” he said.
After the finance committee report, board member Raymond Scipione gave the community relations report.
“The spring seasons have begun practice on April 1 to include baseball, softball, boys tennis, golf, boys volleyball and boys and girls track and field. Spring season is the only full season this year and to also compete in the state tournament. Games competitions will begin April 21 and end June 21. Our coaches and athletes are excited to compete after missing their season last year,” Scipione said.
Scipione said the district is preparing for the following upcoming events as it enters fourth marking period: the middle school Geography Bee held on April 21 via Zoom, senior prom on June 4, senior awards on June 10 and graduations on June 15 and 16.
“WES and ECEC are also planning for their field days, so we’re getting back to a little normalcy here,” he said.
After the community relations report, Waterford District Representative Al Pangia said Waterford is working on the budget.
“We received some additional grant money, which was nice. Looks like probably due zero tax increase, which is nice. Also, we’re looking at getting some additional classroom space modules put on to the Atco School because it looks like our enrollment is going up, so that’s good,” Pangia said.
Board member Erica Polito gave the school culture report.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone for doing a great job during the first few days back in school five days a week. I’m happy that most of the students are back and looking forward and hopeful that this is the beginning to getting back to a more traditional school life for everyone. And lastly, best wishes to our upcoming retirees,” Polito said.
Next, board member Kelli Fallon gave the safety committee report. The committee met on April 14 at the middle school where they discussed morning and afternoon drop off and pickup procedures with building principal Dr. Michael Nolan.
“For the afternoon pickup, to make less congestion on Liberty Street, parents pick up their students along Liberty Street and we rerouted a few buses so they are no longer waiting in the middle of Liberty Street to make the left into the front loop. And also officer O’Neal crosses students right there in front of the school so it increased his visibility and less congestion and I mean that’s what I like, a productive conversation with ideas that cost nothing and make a big difference,” Fallon said.
The safety committee also approved a Hammonton School Safety Policy. According to Fallon, the Hammonton District was awarded two certificates of excellence from the Atlantic and Cape May Counties Association of School Business Officials Joint Insurance Fund.
“One was for recognition for average days to report a claim within 24 hours that was outstanding performance in that which is important, and also maintaining a loss ratio below 50 percent for 2019-2020,” she said.
Mento then gave the negotiations report as well as the buildings and grounds report.
“From buildings and grounds, I would just first like to lead off by expressing our gratitude and appreciation to our custodial staff for doing such a good job here keeping the school clean and sanitized. It’s just not like your normal pick up a piece of chewing gum type stuff that we’re dealing with anymore with this COVID virus. It is very serious, and we do appreciate all the hard work that they’re putting in,” Mento said.
Mento also expressed his appreciation for the cafeteria aid staff and cafeteria workers for preparing student lunches.
“I would encourage parents to let their children know that these meals are available to all students, and I know sometimes they might feel funny going there and getting the lunch and taking it home, but that’s what it’s there for,” Mento said.
The meals are free to all children under the age of 18 who reside in Hammonton.
During the meeting, Mento acknowledged Berenato and the passing of her sister, Sue Ann Sbarra.
“It’s very sad when you lose a family member and thank you for making it out to the meeting tonight. I know you were very close, and our thoughts and prayers. Mine personally are with you and your family along with the entire board so we’re very very sorry for your loss,” he said.
Berenato said the donations received were made to the Barbara Ann Sbarra Softball Award.
“That scholarship has been given out for the last 20 years and I just can’t believe it’s been that long but thank you,” Berenato said.
After committee reports, Superintendent of Schools Robin Chieco gave an update for the public.
“Despite the longer drop-off and pickup times experienced on our first day back with our cohorts A, B and C together, the April 12 return went very well. The hallways and classrooms finally looked normal and students seemed genuinely excited to see their friends,” Chieco said.
According to Chieco, current enrollment for the high school is approximately 45 percent; middle school: 60 percent; and WES and ECEC are both around 70 percent.
“When cohort R students that completed their request by March 31 to return on the [April] 26 arrive at school, each building will increase by approximately 10 percent,” she said.
Chieco also said the number of COVID-19 cases remain higher than in previous months.
“Since returning from spring break, we’ve had 20 positive cases and 68 individuals excluded. This past week we’ve had four students identified as close contacts due to less than six feet of social distancing on buses and in classrooms as per state guidelines,” Chieco said.
During her update, Chieco mentioned new English language arts, math and science programs that will be offered for various grade levels thanks to an increase of funding.
“We will also be offering a credit recovery program for our English language arts and math students at the high school this summer. In addition, we are looking to add professional and paraprofessional positions to support the increases in services that we know will be required for the new school year,” Chieco said.
More details on the programs will be given at the next board of education meeting on May 6.
The meeting then moved on to public comment.
Jessica Capella asked the board if the district plans on doing another survey to “assess the community’s willingness to have three different educational options.” Those three options being all remote, maintaining the current plan or resuming five full days.
“At this time, we still have to see how the system we put in place is going to proceed. I don’t foresee a new survey coming in the next few weeks,” Chieco said.
Capella then asked if there will be a survey before the end of the year.
“I’m not sure why we would do a survey at the end of the school year,” Chieco said.
“I mean a survey to go back to five full days before the end of the year,” Capella said.
Chieco said she doesn’t know if they would have time to be able to put a survey together.
“Right now, as I said, the cases are up and I can’t put students closer than six feet in the cafeteria, so at this point we can’t change anything. We’re trying to see how the cases are moving and right now our case counts are high, so until those cases go down we really can’t make any additional changes,” Chieco said.
While finishing up her public comment, Capella said if anyone tuning in to the livestream would like the school district to open five full days to reach out to her directly.
Mento shared his thoughts after the first public comment portion of the meeting was closed.
“We don’t need a survey to tell us that people want to go back to school five days a week like we’ve been doing for the last 150 years. What we’re doing is the best we can with the rules that are placed upon us by the state who funds the school. That’s where we’re at,” Mento said.
The board then moved to the voting portion of the meeting.
When it was time to vote for matters concerning finance, the board most notably voted to:
• Ratify the purchase order lists for March 2021 in the amount of $651,720.26.
• Approve the bill list for April 2021 in the amount of $1,130,129.01.
• Ratify the check lists for March and April 2021 in the amount of $1,969,849.51.
• Ratify the March 2021 payroll in the amount of $3,345,561.49.
• Ratify the March 2021 General Fund and Special Revenue Fund Expense Account Adjustments which include Appropriation Transfers.
• Approve the purchase of an Advance SC1500 Stand On Auto Scrubber in the amount of $8,007.85 based on ESCNJ cooperative pricing.
• Approve a contract with Cerebral Palsy from July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022 to perform Assistive Technology Evaluation Services.
• Approve to dispose of antiquated and outdated administrative materials located in the high school.
• Approve a contract with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the purchase of Grade K and Grade 1 Go Math books at a cost of $33,613.79.
• Approve a contract with J. Wilhelm Roofing Co. to repair the EPDM roof at the Warren E. Sooy Elementary School in the amount of $18,440 based on lowest quote.
Next the board voted on matters concerning personnel. Most notably they resolved to:
• Approve the termination of AnaKaren Rivera-Medina due to lack of credentials.
• Approve a letter of retirement for William Jones, district bus driver, effective April 17, 2021.
• Approve a letter of retirement for Judy Roselli, elementary school part-time personal care aide, effective July 1, 2021.
• Approve a letter of resignation from Melissa Sabat, district bus aide, effective April 16, 2021.
• Approve a letter of retirement for Linda Scully, middle school teacher, effective July 1, 2021.
• Approve a letter of resignation from Brittany Biglin, middle school teacher, effective April 16, 2021.
• Approve a letter of resignation from Patricia Chiofalo, high school part-time personal care aide, effective April 12, 2021.
• Approve a letter of resignation from Matthew Johnson, high school part-time personal care aide, effective April 22, 2021. Amendment effective date April 14, 2021.
• Approve the following high school personnel to provide additional after school instruction for the 2020-2021 school year: Marissa Brannau, Anna Van Sant and Tami Schaffer to complete instruction after school hours at the rate of $50 per hour. Rationale: To provide additional instruction to students who have demonstrated a significant regression and/or lack of progress during the COVID-19 pandemic. A required Google form was completed to determine the need for instruction. Funds were provided by the CARES Act.
• Approve the job coach job description.
• Approve additional hours for the following high school cafeteria aides for the 2020-2021 school year retroactive to March 22, 2021: An additional 2.25 hours per day for Carol Galone and Russ Milazzo to assist with lavatory/elevator supervision prior to their work in the cafeteria for the remainder of the school year retroactive March 22, 2021. Rationale: Lavatory/Elevator Supervision due to J.M. resignation. Financial Impact: Additional hours – from 3.5 hr/day to 5.75 hr/day. Budget Source: 2020-2021 Regular Budget.
• 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): Alli Voigt – middle school (replacement B.B.) teacher effective April 16, 2021; Nancy Briones – district (replacement J.R.) full time custodian effective April 16, 2021; Educoia Rabiger – elementary school (replacement M.N.) part-time receptionist retroactive April 7, 2021. Substitute teacher(s) who have a New Jersey substitute certificate: Bronson Deckert, Isabella Cabibbo and Rachel Denker. Substitute teacher(s) who have applied for a New Jersey substitute certificate: Charles J. Santilli. Substitute hall monitor(s) and cafeteria aide(s) - $12.80/hr: Jacob Maturano.
For programs and miscellaneous matters, the board most notably resolved to:
• Ratify the resolution and submission of the revised budget for the 2021-2022 One Year Preschool Program. (Program is in district office for your perusal.)
• Approve the following books for the high school reading program for the summer of 2021: The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson, Allies by Alan Gratz, The Pearl by John Steinbeck and Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka.
• Approve the establishing of a high school memorial scholarship account in the name of The Earle Edward Patton Math Achievement Award starting with the 2020-2021 school year.
• Approve the extension of the 2020-2021 school calendar due to a snow day: June 11, 14, 15 and 16 – Single Sessions. June 17 – Teacher Close Out.
Next, the board approved the following finance items on the addendum:
• Approve an agreement with Phoenix Advisors, LLC for Continuing Disclosure Agent Services for the 2021-2022 fiscal year at a cost of $1,000 plus $250/event.
• Approve to award contract to McGraw Hill for Study Sync Core ELA Grade 7 and Grade 8 books in the amount of $103,384.92 based on lowest quote.
• Approve travel expenditure resolution.
• Authorize the Business Administrator to advertise for Competitive Contracts for Data Management and Assessment System.
For personnel items on the addendum, the board most notably resolved to:
• Approve a letter of resignation from Elisabeth Johnson, elementary school part-time cafeteria/playground aide as of April 23, 2021.
• Approve a letter of resignation from Jeffrey Long, high school part-time hall monitor, effective June 30, 2021.
Lastly, the board voted on programs, students and miscellaneous item No. 64:
• 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: 1. Middle School a. Tennis Courts (1) Lori’s Wellness Loft, Pickleball Project, Wednesday, May 5 to July 28, 2021; 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
The next school board meeting will be held May 6 at 7 p.m. at the Samuel A. Donio Memorial Library.