Joseph F. Berenato
New lease for St. Joe?
Could have additional
‘number of renewals’
HAMMONTON—At the October 13 meeting of the Hammonton Board of Education, President Sam Mento III said that discussions were held within the Buildings and Grounds Committee regarding a potential new lease with St. Joseph Academy for the continued use of the former Hammonton Middle School.
“In order to do any type of long-term lease, we would have to go out to bid. Unlike William T. Capella field, where we were able to just enter into a shared-service agreement with the town, being that we are going to outside entities and not a town entity—but they are a tax-exempt entity—we are going to go out for a long-term bid,” Mento said.
Board solicitor William Donio clarified the matter further.
“It’s not a long-term lease. It’s a lease subject to certain terms that are proscribed by law, but with the opportunity to be renewal of that lease. That’s probably a better way to characterize it; it’s still going to be a same-term, but it will have the opportunity for a number of renewals to it,” Donio said.
“We’re going to task our solicitor with putting that together, obviously, and that’s going to go out to bid in the near future. If everything remains equal, we look to continue our working relationship with St. Joe Academy,” Mento said.
This was later codified in the meeting under Item No. 92, wherein the board approved to go out to bid for a new lease at the former Hammonton Middle School. An exhibit attached to the item said that the board of education “wishes to rescind its current lease with St. Joseph Academy in the interest of pursuing a longer term lease for the sake of financial and operational stability.”
“The Hammonton Board does hereby authorize the Business Administrator to go out for bid for a new lease by a public local educational agency, or non-profit organization duly organized and incorporated pursuant to the laws of the State of New Jersey, with all necessary licenses and approvals to operate a school with Junior/Senior High School grade level,” the exhibit said.
According to the language of the exhibit, the minimum bid would be $80,362 per year, as well as the costs of any repairs necessary to obtain a Continued Certificate of Occupancy if necessary. The lease has a term of five years, with the option to renew said lease five times.
Mento also addressed the recent issues associated with the repaving of School House Lane.
He said that the Buildings and Grounds Committee was set to meet with town representatives, including the town engineer, on October 14 to “get to the bottom of what’s really happening over there.”
“This building has been functioning for years and years and years. Now, there is a large infrastructure project happening just outside its doors, and suddenly we’re having a water problem, backing up, and septic. We’re going to get to the bottom of this in the next couple of days, and we hope to have this problem remediated in the very near future,” Mento said.
[See the town’s comments from the PWTC meeting on Page 10.]
The board also heard several presentations during the meeting. The first was given by Hammonton High School principal Thomas Ramsay regarding progress and updates at that institution.
“I’m real excited that we’re able to get back to normal. I’m real excited that we’re not teaching remotely. I’m real excited that we’re not running a hybrid schedule where kids are coming to school two days a week. I’m real excited that I get to see every kid’s face when they come into school, and I can see them smile and talk to them and know how they’re feeling,” Ramsay said.
Ramsay informed the board of expansions to the curriculum, including electives for musical theater and guitar playing, as well as additional AP courses and more.
Ramsay also discussed e-hallpass, the new virtual hall pass system. He thanked parents, faculty and students for making the transition to the system “seamless.”
“Why did we do it? We want to improve school security, first and foremost. Secondly, we want to maximize instructional time in the classroom; two reasons. If the bathrooms are full, I don’t want to see 10 kids waiting on line to use the bathroom when they could be in their English class—or they could be in their social studies class, or they could be in their math class, learning,” Ramsay said.
Regarding SAT scores, Ramsay said that Hammonton was among the top high schools in Atlantic County.
“The average SAT score at Hammonton High School is over 1100; to be exact, 1115. That is a dynamite SAT score,” Ramsay said.
Ramsay said that he was satisfied with other standardized test scores, as well.
“Even though we’ve had remote learning, even though we’ve had hybrid instruction, even though kids were only coming to school maybe for a half day for a certain period of time—all due to the governor’s orders at the time, and what we needed to do because of COVID—we’re right there with the state average, like we’ve always been,” Ramsay said.
This topic was expanded in detail during the presentation given by Assistant Superintendent of Schools Tammy Leonard, who discussed the 2022 New Jersey Student Learning Assessments (NJSLA) results.
Leonard said that the 2021-2022 school year marked a return to a “new normal, with masks, social-distancing, contact tracing and mandatory quarantines for close contacts.”
“Gradually, restrictions were lifted, and—after a two-year hiatus—in the spring of 2022, the administration of the NJSLA returned,” Leonard said.
Leonard said that the administration was apprehensive to see the results of the tests.
“I would compare it to preparing to step on the scale after three months of lockdown snacking. I’m happy to report that the news is much better than my weigh-in went,” Leonard said.
Leonard detailed the results for the district, noting that the percentage of students scoring at a proficient level in English Language Arts exceeded the state in grades three, six, seven and nine; in all grades, 48 percent of students tested as proficient, compared with the statewide number of 49 percent.
In mathematics, Hammonton matched the state in grade three and in Algebra I, and exceeded the state in grades four through eight and in Geometry. District wide, 39 percent tested proficient compared with 35 percent of statewide results.
“Given the unprecedented events of the last three years, the administration is excited to see these results,” Leonard said.
Leonard said that the data shows the efforts of teachers, students, parents, administrators and staff during the pandemic.
“With a much more normal year ahead of us, we are confident that we will continue to see growth and improvement,” Leonard said.
During her presentation, Leonard also provided data regarding test results for English Language Learners—noting that the value of the test is to learn individual student progress—and dynamic learning maps (DLM), which are given to students “with significant cognitive disabilities in lieu of the NJSLA.”
“The students who are assessed in this manner are engaged throughout the year in alternative curricula. Less than one percent of Hammonton students are eligible to take the DLM, and most of these students attend out-of-district placements,” Leonard said.
Leonard said that, because there are fewer than 10 students, test results can’t be shared in order to protect student privacy.
Leonard then gave a second presentation, regarding the annual school self-assessment under the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.
“Every year, the school safety team in each school uses a self-evaluation rubric to rate the efforts to ensure a positive school climate and investigate allegations of harassment, intimidation and bullying [HIB],” Leonard said.
Leonard said that ratings are assigned for HIB prevention programs, trainings, curriculum, anti-bullying personnel, and procedures for HIB reporting and investigation.
The maximum possible score, Leonard said, is 78. For the 2021-2022 school year, Leonard said that Hammonton High School scored 72, Hammonton Middle School scored 74, Warren E. Sooy Elementary School scored 76 and the Early Childhood Education Center scored 77.
During her report, Superintendent of Schools Robin Chieco thanked the parents who participated in the district’s in-person Back to School nights, and said that information regarding the opt-out procedures for the required changes to the districts health curriculum will be posted on the district website by the end of October.
“In addition, parents of children in grades two, five, six and eight will receive a robocall prior to the lessons being taught, so that they may review the materials and make an informed decision for their child, as these were the grade levels that are most impacted by the revised standards,” Chieco said.
Jacqui Foy, of 791 13th Street, addressed the board during the first public comment portion.
She said the purpose of her comments was to “discuss the dreaded dress code.”
“On September 19, my daughter was dress-coded. No big deal, right? Wrong. As I picked her up, I watched another student sign in late with her entire midriff hanging out. You would think she would be dress-coded. She wasn’t. It raises the question: is the district following the dress code for every student?” Foy said.
Foy said that she was informed by the superintendent that policing each student for violations of the dress code would be “impossible,” but Foy had a suggestion.
“What you can do is look at every student, males included, during the flag salute. It’s done every morning. Until you as a school board do better at having your own rules followed, I will not be enforcing the dress code for my children. You cannot pick and choose who you want to dress-code. You either follow it for every student, or you don’t follow it at all,” Foy said.
On a related matter, while presenting the Curriculum Committee report, board vice-president Linda Byrnes said that there is new wording in the school’s dress code policy regarding the length of dresses, skirts and shorts.
“It will be revised to read as, ‘shall be at least finger-tip in length when the arms are straight down the pupil’s side.’ That recognizes the different height and proportions of the human body on different individuals, and that should be more realistic to obtain,” Byrnes said.
Under the Solar Committee report, Board Member Kelli Fallon said that discussions were held regarding the installation of evergreen trees around the fence surrounding the high school’s solar array.
Fallon said that Board Member Luke Coia also joined the committee meeting, which was held on September 14, and he suggested moving the high school’s LED sign from its current location toward a standalone location closer to the White Horse Pike.
“There is money from the solar company for this purpose, for the purpose of landscaping, and the number that we have should cover trees and moving the sign. I think we can accomplish this, and I’d like to move forward with it,” Fallon said.
Mento presented the report from the Student Activities Committee for Thomas Attanasi, who was absent. He said that the district surveyed the student population as they did some years ago, which led to the high school’s varsity volleyball program.
“This last survey showed that there is a very large interest here in our high school, particularly with the girls, for lacrosse,” Mento said.
As such, Mento said, the Student Activities Committee recommended investigating the start of both boys and girls lacrosse.
“We’re very fortunate to have a new, world-class facility field out there—the turf field—that could very easily be used for a lacrosse program, both boys and girls. Being an artificial surface, it will not wear out,” Mento said.
The next step, Mento said, is for the board to investigate the financial feasibility of such a program.
Under the Finance Committee report, Board Member John Lyons said that board is working toward a contract for lights at the turf field.
“You can anticipate the board taking action, then going out to bid and awarding for lighting on that field, which will really give us an opportunity as we bring on lacrosse and some other alternatives in the community to have more people use it, because it’s here, and it can be used frequently, and we want to encourage that,” Lyons said.
Mento commented further, adding that the infrastructure for installing lights was placed prior to the field’s completion.
“We’re really 30 percent completed towards lights; it’s only just a matter now of installing the poles with the candle watt power that would be able to produce enough light for a varsity high school sport,” Mento said.
In other business, the board also resolved to:
• ratify the purchase order lists for July, August and September 2022 in the amount of $8,850,206.43
• approve the bill list for October 2022 in the amount of $1,791,073.82
• ratify the check lists for July, August and September 2022 in the amount of $2,293,595.52
• ratify the September 2022 payroll in the amount of $3,645,871.98
• approve a Capital Reserve withdrawal for installation of ADA ramp at Middle School: 10-307
Capital Reserve Withdrawal ($25,028) and 12-000-400-450 Construction Services $25,028
• approve a Capital Reserve withdrawal for Electrical Upgrade: 10-307 Capital Reserve
Withdrawal ($31,000) and 12-000-400-450 Construction Services $31,000
• approve a Maintenance Reserve withdrawal for installation of domestic hot water storage tanks at Middle School: 10-310 Maintenance Reserve Withdrawal ($20,231), 11-000-261-420 Maintenance Repair $9,174 and 11-000-261-610 Maintenance Supplies $11,057
• approve a contract with Northeast Plumbing Services for replacement domestic hot water storage tanks at Middle School in the amount $20,231 based on Ed Data co-op pricing.
• approve a contract with CJ Watson for installation of electric in the maintenance building in the amount $16,900 based on lowest quote.
• approve an agreement with NeurAbilities CNNH Neurohealth to complete various evaluations including neurological, neuro-developmental, and/or neuro-psychiatric required for students receiving special education services for the 2022-2023 school year.
• approve an agreement with First Children Services/REAL to provide education services for the 2022-2023 school year as needed.
• approve a contract with Hewitt Psychiatric, PC to provide psychiatric evaluations for the 2022-2023 school year as needed.
• approve a contract with Thomas O’Reilly, MD to provide psychiatric evaluations for the 2022-2023 school year as needed.
• approve a contract with Brookfield Schools to provide educational services for the 2022-2023 school year as needed.
• approve a contract with Atlantic County Special Services to provide itinerant/shared services for the 2022-2023 school year as needed.
• ratify the August and September 2022 Latchkey Program bank reconciliation.
• approve the disposal of the following antiquated equipment: 330 Acer Chromebooks, 21 charging carts, one wall charging unit, 80 computers and 500 chargers
• approve a letter of resignation from Kelly Ruggerio, district bus aide, effective September 6.
• approve a letter of resignation from Brittany Corti, early childhood center school
psychologist, effective on or before November 29.
• approve a letter of resignation as an early childhood center part-time cafeteria/playground aide from Jennifer Dear effective October 13. (Note: she is being hired as part-time personal care aide)
• approve an unpaid personal leave of absence for Jennifer Dear, early childhood center cafeteria/playground aide, from October 31 to November 4.
• approve an unpaid personal leave of absence for Cindy McBride, elementary school nurse, for October 11.
• approve an unpaid New Jersey Leave of Absence for Sarah Wood, district bus drive, from October 31, 2022 to January 23, 2023. (Note: she will be applying for family leave insurance)
• approve an unpaid New Jersey Leave of Absence for Steve Wooton, district grounds/bus driver, from November 14, 2022 to February 6, 2023. (Note: he will be applying for family leave insurance)
• approve a salary adjustment for the following personnel effective October 14: Esmirna Santiago, from NonDegree—$21,096 to Degree—$23,563
• approve a 15-hour field experience for Brooke Davis, a student from Camden County College in the early childhood center.
• approve a letter of resignation from Matthew Fasciglione, district custodian, effective September 13.
• approve a letter of resignation from Alec Pangia, high school part-time aide, effective September 21.
• approve a letter of resignation from David Fedga, district custodian, effective October 11.
• approve an unpaid personal leave of absence for Samantha Swetra, high school teacher, from October 5 to October 7.
• approve an unpaid personal leave of absence for Jessica Bitman, middle school teacher, from October 31 to November 17.
• approve an unpaid personal leave of absence for Anthony Ricca, high school part-time instructional aide, from September 20 to 23.
• approve an unpaid leave of absence for Nancy Romeo, district food service worker, from September 28 to October 1.
• approve an unpaid personal leave of absence for Sarah Zimmerman, middle school teacher, on November 4.
• approve the following personnel as the district translators for the 2022-2023 school year: Laura Escobar and Cristell Ramirez
• ratify a revision to charge 4.5 days of the district Mental Health Assistance Counselor summer hours to the local budget and the remainder to Federal Grant Funds.
• approve the revised salaries to be charged to the ESEA FY 23, ESSERII and Mental Health Grants.
• ratify additional hours for the following personnel to participate in curriculum development and revision: Thompson, Rebecca; add five additional hours of curriculum writing at $40/hour
• approve the following personnel to provide specialized instruction for after school hours for a classified student: Margaret Inemer to complete instruction after school hours at the rate of $50 per hour for the 22-23 school year.
• approve the salary adjustment of the site supervisor from $100/day to $150/day to better align with the roles and responsibilities of a supervisor during extracurricular events: Lori Scibilia, Steve Minchak, Kimberly Zuccarello and Michael DiStefano
• approve the following personnel for After School Student Supervision: Lisa DeKlerk and Kim Zuccarello (Back-up)
• approve the following personnel as high school extracurricular advisors for the 2022-2023 school year: Department Chair—World Language, Carmen O’Donnell; Mock Trial, Carolyn Edwards; Green Club, Mary Beth Sieminski; Choreographer Musical Production, Michelle Peterson
• approve an increase to fall football workers only as follows: Fall football workers, from $50/game to $100/game
• approve the payment of $200/per game for the following personnel to live stream the high school football games on an “as needed” basis: Brian Durar
• approve the following personnel as an additional high school fall worker for the 2022-2023 school year: Rebecca Gillis
• approve the following high school personnel to receive $100 for moving classrooms: Margaret Inemer
• approve a salary adjustment for the following personnel effective October 14: Audrey Griess, from BA+15—$69,609 to BA+30—$70,637
• 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):
—Alicia Grunewald, elementary school (replacement J.P.) elementary school teacher on or before October 31
—Alison Fedga, middle school (replacement J.M.) STEAM teacher effective October 17
—Julio Torres, high school (replacement E.D.) mathematics teacher effective on or before December 15
—Carol Capelli, high school part-time personal care aide effective October 17
—Marianyelz Rivera, high school part-time personal care aide effective October 17
—Adrianna Guevara, middle school (replacement K.J.) part-time bilingual aide
—Patrick Costa, middle school (replacement B.S.) part-time instructional aide effective October 17
—Caitlin Rowan, early childhood (replacement L.R.) part-time personal care aide effective October 17
—Jennifer Dear, early childhood part-time personal care aide effective October 14
—Hilda Olmos, early childhood part-time personal care aide
—Gabriela Bjorkquist, early childhood center part-time cafeteria/playground aide
—Abner Castillo, district full time bus driver effective October 14
—Substitute teacher(s) who have a teaching certificate: Trinity LaFreda
—Substitute teacher(s) who have a New Jersey substitute certificate: Marie Lamar-Williams, Kendra Hoffman, Elisabeth Johnson, Matthew Johnson, Nina Italiano and Alexis Gingrich
— Substitute teacher(s) who are applying for a New Jersey substitute certificate: Michael Henshaw, Lupita Reyes, Alyssa Lucca and Julia Jones
— Substitute bus driver(s)—$19/hour: William Jones
• ratify the submission of the CARES Emergency Relief Grant Final Expenditure Report
• ratify the submission of the FY2021-2022 Nonpublic Project Completion Report
• approve the submission of an amendment to the American Rescue Plan – ESSERIII to
reallocate budgeted fund to meet the student needs
• approve the submission of the gifted and talented report for the 2022-2023 school year
• approve the Annual HIB Self Assessment under the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act
• approve the formation of a high school girls’ flag football competitive club
• approve to realign the middle school intramural volleyball program from intramural to co-ed interscholastic
• affirm the Superintendent’s HIB recommendation as discussed at the prior month’s meeting
• approve the revision of the 2022-2023 school calendar: May 5, 2023 Single Session HS
Only/Prom – Teacher In-Service, ECEC, WES and Middle School full day
• approve the first reading of the following policies: P 2425 Emergency Virtual or Remote Instruction Program (M) Revised, R 2425 Emergency Virtual or Remote Instruction Program (M) New and P 5512 Harassment, Intimidation or Bullying (M) Revised
• approve a request from Alpha Delta Kappa to waive the use of facility fees for the use of the middle school for their monthly meeting.
• approve a request from N.J. Wrestling Officials Association to waive the use of facility and custodial fees for the use of the high school for their monthly meeting.
• approve a request to waive the use of facilities and custodial fees for the Tri-Vets of Hammonton for the use of the middle school
• approve letter of support of town of Hammonton’s application to the Transportation
Alternatives Set-Aside Program for Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Improvements to the Bellevue Avenue – Northwest Connector System.
The next board meeting is scheduled for November 3 at 7 p.m. in the Samuel A. Donio Memorial Library at Hammonton High School.