Masks to be optional
HAMMONTON—At the February 10 board of education meeting, Hammonton Superintendent of Schools Robin Chieco announced masks will be optional for students and staff effective March 7. The meeting started about 17 minutes late.
Board President Sam Mento III called the meeting to order and all board members were present at the Samuel A. Donio Memorial Library except Waterford Representative Al Pangia whose absence was excused by Mento.
On February 7, Governor Phil Murphy announced the school mask mandate will be lifted effective March 7. Beginning March 7, masks will be optional for students and staff in all buildings at the Hammonton School District.
“Beginning March 7, masks will be optional for students and staff in all buildings. Anyone choosing to wear a face covering will be permitted without limitation. Mitigation strategies of maintaining appropriate social distancing in classrooms, multiple daily cleaning of high-touch surfaces, hand sanitizing stations and in-room air purifiers will remain. The health, safety and well-being of our students and staff remain the main priority of the administration along with the board of education,” Chieco said.
Chieco said the district’s COVID-19 cases have “drastically decreased over the past several weeks.”
“With the removal of masks, the New Jersey Department of Health will be providing new guidance on quarantine and close contacts. Regardless of masking, parents are reminded to please keep your children at home if they are ill. This is the most effective means of protecting our schools,” Chieco said.
As a result of declining cases and reduced restrictions, many activities will resume including the Book Fair at the elementary schools, guest readers for Read Across America Week, class field trips, spring play and concert at the middle school, eighth grade dance and Great Adventure trip, Shrek musical production at the high school, senior class trip to Florida, Academic Excellence ceremony, Mr. Hammonton, the hop and prom.
“Our approach to surviving the COVID-19 crisis has been to methodically evaluate policies and procedures to ensure that our schools remain a safe learning environment for all of our children. Due to our diligence, we have been able to keep our doors open while other districts have closed or modified schedules. We all can agree that the best education is provided with students actively learning with their teacher in a classroom. Our commitment to providing the best education to the children of Hammonton remains firm, and we look forward to the exciting activities planned for the remainder of the school year. Please check the district and school websites and Facebook pages for information related to upcoming events. Thank you for continued support of our schools,” Chieco said.
During the meeting, there was a presentation recognizing the Governor’s Educators of the Year for the 2021-2022 school year. At the Hammonton School District, those educators included the following: English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher Christian Febles at the high school, seventh grade science, technology and engineering, arts and mathematics teacher Megan Goblirsch at the middle school, nurse Cindy McBride at Warren E. Sooy Elementary School (WES) and response to intervention (RTI) teacher Judy Rybacki at Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC). McBride was the only one who couldn’t attend the meeting, but she was still recognized and congratulated.
“I would just like to be the first to welcome and congratulate all the teachers of the year. It’s a tough job being a BOE member especially in these trying times, so I have to say it’s a real treat to have you here tonight. And I would like to acknowledge all of your accomplishments and successes in the classroom, so once again congratulations to our teachers of the year,” Mento said.
The Hammonton Education Foundation (HEF) President Roseann Struble presented a $500 grant to each educator to use in their classroom.
According to Struble, the HEF has provided $556,000 in grants throughout the years, and $36,000 of those funds have been awarded to the Educators of the Year recipients.
“The impact the teacher has on their students is remarkable. They help to mold and shape our students, and we are so grateful for the dedication and influence they provide. The recipients of this year’s teacher of the year award are outstanding, and the Hammonton School District is extremely fortunate to have them,” Struble said.
The board then moved to committee reports.
For committee reports, board member John Lyons gave the finance report.
“We’ll be installing new parking lot lights along the road—outdoor lights along the Road to Excellence in the high school parking lot. Those are high efficiency because of the programs incentives that are out there. The cost to the district is substantially lower than we had anticipated,” Lyons said.
The finance item Lyons is referring to is item No. 13, “Resolved that the Hammonton Board of Education approve to award a contract to Denney Energy Services for LED upgrade of the High School outdoor parking lot lights in the amount of $7,193 based on lowest quote.”
The finance committee also met and discussed with the town of Hammonton about adding a School Resource Officer (SRO).
“We’ve got two police officers full-time. We’ll be looking for trying to work with the town to come up with the number and budget for an additional officer potentially,” Lyons said.
Lyons said relative to next year’s budget, they are waiting for the governor’s state aid package.
“Certainly our business office and the administration are doing their job to put together a budget, put together their wish list that want to meet next year so that the board can consider. One thing to remember, again there’s a lot of news that goes out about school budgets. We have contracts here. We have contracts with teachers. We have contracts for healthcare and many other things. So for us, like most of us at home, inflation and contracts, our expenses are going up so we’re going to look to hope that the state will do its part and fund us appropriately so that we can continue to provide programs with variety,” Lyons said.
Next, board member Kelly Donio gave the community cohesion committee report.
“We are a new committee so we took some time to just really look at what the goal of our committee is. We are trying to take a look at some of the physical areas of each school and see how we can make improvements that would reflect the wonderful things that are happening inside the classroom and just really try to make enhancements to our school, the physical, the feeling, the overall community, so that we can continue and build on the wonderful traditions that exist in our school district,” Kelly Donio said.
Kelly Donio said the committee is going to do a field trip where they are going to visit the different buildings and make a list of suggestions.
“Something that I didn’t get a chance to talk about in closed session that I’m very excited about, the governor of New Jersey in the middle of January approved a law that at least one student representative be appointed to each board of education that includes a 9-12 grade level. So the student will be a student rep on the school board starting in the next school year. The student of course is not permitted to be in closed sessions, but I do think that it’s a wonderful addition to out board for next year and I think that could be a great voice for the student body to have in communication with our voice. I’m really looking forward to that. I talk a lot about my own personal experience, and as a big part of why I need to be a part of this board, my own high school we have student representatives for our school board, non-voting of course, but they were a great asset to our district and the positions were very well regarded. And so it was a great learning experience for them, so I’m very excited about that,” Kelly Donio said.
“How is that student chosen?” board member Barbara Berenato asked.
“I don’t think all the specifics are marked out for next year, but I just want to let you know that it has been made into law, so for next year,” Kelly Donio said.
“I remember there’s a point and time where our student representatives that went to town council there was a mayor and you know they said I was just wondering how that person got to be in that position,” Berenato said.
Kelly Donio also talked about a “possible partnership with the town and the school to work with the Channel 9 broadcast.”
“The other thing that we are working on for the cohesion committee is we have reached out to the mayor to work on a—to discuss a possible partnership with the town and the school to work with the Channel 9 broadcast and hopefully broadcast our school board meetings and possible other events, so that is going to take place in a few weeks,” Kelly Donio said.
Currently the board of education meetings are livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.
Board member Raymond Scipione gave the community relations report where he congratulated wrestling coach David Mauriello on his 300th career win on February 5 against St. Joseph Academy.
“Coach Mauriello has been the Blue Devils wrestling coach since 2005. I’d also like to congratulate the teachers of the year,” Scipione said.
Scipione said Family Reading Night will be held virtually on March 3.
“Family Reading Night will be held virtually on March 3 with interactive—you’re going to have to help me with this word—links and special treatment B-I-T-M-O-J-I, Bitmoji. There we go. Bitmoji links and a special treat and crafts as part of the celebration,” Scipione said.
Next, Berenato gave the safety committee report.
“We are revisiting as John [Lyons] had said, we are revisiting the possibility of having an SRO officer that will be housed between the WES and the ECEC,” Berenato said.
The safety committee also talked about drop-offs which “seem to be going very smoothly,” Berenato said.
“I would like to look into, and I don’t know if it’s possible, but the possibility of a new and easier access for some of the school buses that go for sports or picking people up at the high school near the gym. It’s very hard for them to manipulate that parking lot with cars there and trying to get in. They have to pull up and pull back if there are other cars there. There’s possibility from hitting the car and so on and so forth,” Berenato said.
Berenato suggested if it may be possible to look into removing some of the parking spaces so that the bus only has to go into the parking lot and go right towards the school and not try to maneuver around all the cars there.
Board member Kelli Fallon from the solar committee had no report, and she congratulated the educators of the year.
When it was time to vote for matters concerning finance, the board most notably resolved to:
• Ratify the purchase order lists for January 2022 in the amount of $725,501.
• Approve the bill list for February 2022 in the amount of $975,144.16.
• Ratify the check lists for January 2022 in the amount of $755,411.62.
• Ratify the January 2022 payroll in the amount of $3,712,413.38.
• Approve Rullo & Juillet Associates, Inc. as the Right To Know and PEOSH Hazard Communications Standard consultant for 2021-2022 school year in the amount of $6,002.
• Approve the 2022-2023 tuitions costs for sending districts. According to Business Administrator Barbara Prettyman, the costs are for Waterford $8,675,117 and for Folsom $299,294.
• Ratify the January 2022 Food Service expense list, bank reconciliation, accounts receivable as prepared by the Food Service Director.
• Approve to advertise for bids for milk, dairy and juice for the 2022-2023 school year.
• Approve to award a contract to Denney Energy Services for LED upgrade of the High School outdoor parking lot lights in the amount of $7,193 based on lowest quote.
Next the board voted on matters concerning personnel. Most notably they resolved to:
• Approve a letter of retirement from Karen Williams, high school teacher, effective June 30, 2022.
• Approve a letter of resignation from Julie Vincent, middle school part-time instructional aide, retroactive to February 1, 2022.
• Approve a letter of resignation from Klarisa Vazquez, high school part-time bilingual aide, effective February 13, 2022.
• Approve a letter of resignation from Russell Milazzo, high school part-time hall monitor, retroactive January 27, 2022.
• Approve Richard Cote as Special Assistant to the Business Administrator for Administration of winter renovation and upgrade district projects at a stipend of $5,648.
• Approve the revised salaries to be charged to the ESEA FY22, ESSERII and Mental Health Grants.
• Approve the following personnel for the middle school Title I After School SEL Program for the 2021-2022 school year: Teachers: Reggie Ramos and Shea Tower; Guidance/CST: Lisa DeKlerk and Kaitlyn McConomy; Subs: Megan Goblirsch, Brianna Galluccio and Janice Grasso; and Subs Guidance/CST: Jessica Sacco and Melanie McCloud. Financial Impact: $50 per hour each member for 20 sessions.
• Approve the following personnel for the high school Fellowship of Christian Athletes Club (FCA) for the 2021-2022 school year: Adam Preim as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Club Advisor (replacement for former advisor A.S.). Total Cost to the District: $1,605.
• Approve the following personnel for the high school spring coaching stipends for the 2021-2022 school year: Athletic Trainer Head ($2,342.33); Baseball Head ($7,027); Baseball Assistant ($4,685); Boy’s Tennis Head ($4,099); Boy’s Tennis Assistant (volunteer); Boy’s Track Head ($7,027); Boy’s Track Assistant ($4,685); Boy’s Volleyball Head ($7,027); Boy’s Volleyball Assistant ($4,685); Girl’s Track Head ($7,027); Girl’s Track Assistant ($4,685); Golf Head ($4,099); Golf Assistant (2,928); Softball Head ($7,027); Softball Assistant ($4,685); Strength Training Head ($3,439); Strength Training Assistant (volunteer); Weight Training Spring ($3,439); Weight Training Assistant (volunteer). Some of the personnel are volunteers.
• Approve the following replacement personnel for the middle school I&RS for the 2021-2022 school year: Maureen Anderson to replace S.M. for Middle School I&RS Team for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year. Financial Impact: $1,558.50.
• Approve the recommendation to split the middle school co-ed track team into a boys’ team and girls’ team with an additional head and assistant coach for the 2021-2022 school year. Financial Impact: one additional head coach $4,685 and one additional assistant coach $2,342. Total Cost to the District: $7,027.
• Approve the following personnel pending receipt of all necessary paperwork (current substitute pay schedule approved by the Board January 20, 2022: Regular County Substitute Certificate - $125 per day, Regular Standard State Teaching Certificate $150 per day; substitute nurse pay schedule approved by the Board October 14, 2021: School Nurse - $225 per day):
— Amanda Turner - early childhood center part-time personal care aide effective February 25, 2022
— Frances Butterline - elementary school part-time instructional aide effective February 11, 2022
— Daisy Gomez-Grimaldo - early childhood center part-time personal care aide
— Linda Martinelli - high school part-time hall monitor
— Nicole Novak - middle school (replacement V.N.) part-time entrance monitor
• Substitute teacher(s) who have a teaching certificate:
— Rebecca Gillis
— Philomena Leeds
• Substitute teacher(s) who have a New Jersey substitute certificate:
— Kelly Devine
— Laura Roldan
— Lora Nemeth
• Substitute teacher(s) who are applying for a New Jersey substitute certificate:
— Kimberly Smith-Bey
• Substitute food service worker(s) - $13/hr.:
— Naysha Plumey
• Substitute custodian(s) - $14/hr.:
— Rebecca Fedga
— Amy Walton
• Substitute hall monitor(s) and cafeteria aide(s) - $13/hr.:
• Substitute bus driver(s) - $17.50/hr.
For programs, students and miscellaneous matters, the board most notably resolved to:
• Approve to the submission of an amendment to the ESSER II Learning Acceleration Grant.
• Approve the resolution and submission of the 2021-2024 English Language Learner (ELL) three-Year Plan.
• Approve the submission of the Health and Safety Evaluation of School Buildings Statement of Assurance for the 2021-2022 school year.
• Affirm the Superintendent’s HIB recommendation as discussed at the prior month’s meeting.
• Approve a parent waiver for a Board of Education hearing for a high school student (A.M.V.).
• Approve for 2nd reading and adoption the district’s policy and regulation manuals that have been prepared by Strauss Esmay Associates.
• Approve a revision on the 2021-2022 school calendar of a delayed opening for 9th, 10th and 12th grade students while administering an assessment test on the 11th grade students: Delayed Opening - March 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18, 2022.
• Approve the 2022-2023 School Calendar.
• Approve a request from the Healthy Kids Running Series to waive the use of facilities fees for the use of the middle school fields on Sundays during the months of May and June 2022. Berenato voted no.
• 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 Certifications of Insurance unless noted otherwise: 2. Middle School a. Fields (1) Healthy Kids Running Series, Kristyn Byrnes-Frankel, Running Series, Sunday May 15 to June 19 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Board member Linda Byrnes abstained on item No. 55-2(a).
For the addendum, the board most notably resolved to:
• Approve a contract with Nevco for the purchase and installation of four scoreboards for the high school and two scoreboards for the middle school in the amount of $35,755.56 based on lowest quote.
• Approve the renewal of the competitive contract to LinkIt for a Data Management and Assessment System for the 2022-2023 school year. The renewal contract amount is $67,549 plus $1,500 a day for professional development training on the program and $1,800 a day for Intervention Manager professional development as needed. The renewal contract is an increase of 2.5 percent from the prior year, which is less than the quarterly change in the index rate for the preceding 12 months of 7 percent. Therefore, we are awarding this renewal contract in compliance with N.J.S.A. 18A:18A-42.
• Approve the bill list for February 2022 in the amount of $9,700.
For the second portion of public comment, Michael Oliveras spoke to the board. During public comment, each person gets three minutes to speak to the board.
“I appreciate the opportunity to speak before you this evening. I want to preface my comments in reference to the February 7 communication from the superintendent regarding the governor’s March 7 mandatory lifting of mandatory mask mandates. And you will find throughout my comments, my feelings, thoughts, desires and very extensive research is in stark contrast of every mandate that has been imposed within this school system and every other school system in our surroundings,” Oliveras said.
“I can assure you, every one of you, a reckoning is incoming, and this reckoning is relatively imminent. The COVID-19, notice my words, ‘plandemic’ is a farce, a hoax. That is to say that there was never a legitimate public health emergency, and I remind you my research is extremely extensive and thorough,” Oliveras said.
After nine minutes, board solicitor William Donio interrupted Oliveras’s speech and asked him to “wrap up.”
“Right now it’s actually been over five minutes … We’ll give you one more minute,” William Donio said.
“I just require three more minutes to finish. I’m halfway through. I don’t think it’s overly outrageous to allow me to finish my comments,” Oliveras said.
“I’m asking you to stop please because here’s the thing: when I allow the board of education to deviate from its rules, it applies to everybody. I run the risk of allowing the board of education to be accused that it’s only allowing people that it wants to hear from to violate its rules and not people it doesn’t look good … You’ve been way past your time,” William Donio said.
Mento gave Oliveras an additional minute to wrap up.
After Oliveras wrapped up his speech, he submitted his comments for the record.
The next school board meeting will be held March 10 at 7 p.m. at the Samuel A. Donio Memorial Library.