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  • Writer's pictureKristin Guglietti

No tax increase expected in BOE’s $70M budget


Kristin Guglietti/THG Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School Musical Theater Academy students performed scenes from A Cinderella Story: If the Shoe Fits! during the Hammonton Board of Education meeting on March 14 at the Samuel A. Donio Memorial Library.


HAMMONTON—The Hammonton Board of Education approved the school district budget for the 2024-2025 school year during the March 14 meeting. The total general fund budget is $64,336,080 with a local tax levy of $18,626,279.


The total special revenue fund budget is $3,839,008 with no levy; the total debt service fund is $2,026,282 with a local tax levy of $1,662,175.


The total budget for the 2024-2025 school year is $70,201,370 with a local tax levy total of $20,288,454.


Board President John Lyons called the meeting to order and all board members were present at the Samuel A. Donio Memorial Library.


During the Finance Committee Report, Lyons discussed the budget.


“The initial budget as presented does not raise taxes, does not lower them; it’s a zero budget. Our state aid figures we got a little over $100,000 more from state aid. Our ratable base, meaning houses and new buildings built in Hammonton that raised the tax base, went up about $138,000. On the expense side certainly contractual obligations with the teachers and the other bargain units, health care costs and in general inflation on the expense side of the budget and really increasing, but we’ll look at what we need to add. There’ll be discussion,” Lyons said.


Earlier in the meeting, Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School Principal Dr. Kristina Tigro gave a presentation on what’s happening at the elementary school.


Tigro said in February during American Heart Month 126 students participated in the Kids Heart Challenge.


“The students collectively raised an impressive sum of $19,324.85. I’m pleased to report that our school was the top fundraiser in Atlantic County for the American Heart Association for the second consecutive year,” Tigro said.


During her presentation, Tigro discussed the Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School Care Closet/Pantry, which was established last year through a Hammonton Education Foundation grant written by teachers Angela Cirillo and Nicole DeFelice.


The purpose of the Care Closet/Pantry is to support students and families in need within the school community.


“Funds from the grant have provided the initial resources needed to get the Care Closet up and running, but it’s the ongoing support from teachers, community members and service organizations like Kiwanis and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America that sustains its operation and allows it to prosper,” Tigro said.


Next, Tigro recognized the following students with NJSLA perfect scores in English language arts or math: Christian Jeffries, Sophia Kovack, Raymond Rodriguez-Zavala and Ethan Wilson.


During Read Across America Week, Tigro said 1,100 students and families attended Family Reading Night.


Tigro said Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School and the Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) along with a donation from Robert Capoferri raised over $4,000 during the Dollar Drive, which will be used to purchase books for students in need over the summer months.


During the meeting, Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School Musical Theater Academy Students performed scenes from A Cinderella Story: If the Shoe Fits!


After a short break, Board Vice President Luke Coia discussed the recent contributions from the All Sports Booster Club and Blue Diamond Club.


“These two organizations I think we mentioned last meeting have been very generous and donated tremendous amount of softball and baseball equipment,” Coia said.


Coia read a letter from Middle School Principal Kimberly Rudnesky which thanked the two clubs.


Next, Superintendent of Schools Robin Chieco gave a presentation on the Student Safety Data System and ESSA Identification of a School in Need of Targeted Support and Improvement for Hammonton High School.


The Student Safety Data System information is required to be reported twice a year.


The following is the Student Safety Data System Report for Period 1 2023-2024:


At the ECEC, there were three HIB (Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying) alleged incidents and three other incidents leading to removal.


At the Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School, there was one HIB confirmed incident, seven HIB alleged incidents and 15 other incidents leading to removal.


At the Hammonton Middle School, there were 10 incidents of violence, two incidents of vandalism, three incidents of substances, four HIB confirmed incidents, five HIB alleged incidents and 55 other incidents leading to removal.


At the Hammonton High School, there were 21 incidents of violence, three incidents of vandalism, five incidents of substances, seven HIB confirmed incidents, 21 HIB alleged incidents and 301 other incidents leading to removal.


Chieco said on Jan. 31, 2024 she received notification that Hammonton High School was identified as a school in need of targeted support and improvement.


“This designation was assigned due to consistently underperforming student subgroups of special education, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged for two years in a row in the areas of ELA and math proficiency, four and five-year graduation rates and chronic absenteeism,” Chieco said.


Chieco said school improvement award funding will be available to the high school to support the implementation of evidence-based interventions to provide targeted assistance to students.


During committee reports, board member Kelli Fallon said the Negotiations Committee met.

“We signed off on some ground rules and we’re going to have a couple dates to get started with actual negotiations,” Fallon said.


Board member Barbara Berenato said there is a new attendance policy that will be in effect to help keep students in school.


Berenato also said during her report that there is a middle school outreach program where the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office is going to send a police officer to the middle school to maintain a rapport with the students.


“I think it’s a good idea, so that the students get a positive idea of the police force. It’s not a SRO [School Resource Officer]; it’s an outreach program,” Berenato said.


After Berenato’s report, she recognized Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School teacher Adalgisa Lyons.


“John’s wife Adalgisa should be recognized. She actually performed the Heimlich maneuver and saved a child’s life,” Berenato said.


For the Buildings and Grounds Committee report, Coia said the school district purchased three new maintenance vehicles.


Coia said the construction for the ECEC expansion is on schedule.


“The roof concrete has been poured. We’re almost at the 30-day cure time where they’ll start putting the final finishes on the exterior. The building will soon be weather tight. This way they can start doing the fit and finishes on the inside, which they have already started the electric, HVAC and the fire protection on the inside of the building,” Coia said.


Board member Michael Pullia from the Superintendent Search Committee said another meeting is scheduled and they are going through the process of finding a new superintendent.


During public comment, Tiffany Scurry, middle school social worker, thanked the board for hiring her.


When it was time to vote for matters concerning finance, the board most notably voted to:


• Approve a school district budget for the FY 2024-2025 School Year for submission to the county as follows: Total General Fund Budget $64,336,080 and Local Tax Levy of $18,626,279; Total Special Revenue Fund Budget $3,839,008; Total Debt Service Fund $2,026,282 and Local Tax Levy of $1,662,175; Total Budget $70,201,370 and Total Local Tax Levy $20,288,454.


• Approve to include in the 2024-2025 Budget a Withdrawal from the Maintenance Reserve in accordance with NJAC 6A:23A-14.2(d) in the amount $140,730 or required maintenance activities as reported in the comprehensive maintenance plan pursuant to NJAC 6A:26A-4.


• Approve to include in the 2024-2025 Budget a Withdrawal from the Capital Reserve in accordance with NJAC 6A:23A-14.1(h) in the amount $266,186 for: Transfer to Debt Service Fund ($103,026) and SDA Assessment ($163,157).


• Ratify the purchase order lists for January 2024 in the amount of $215,676.20.


• Approve the bill list for March 2024 in the amount of $2,031,309.33.


Ratify the check lists for January, February and March 2024 in the amount of $1,377,627.84.


• Ratify the February 2024 payroll in the amount of $3,893,045.47.


• Authorize the Business Administrator to advertise for Competitive Contracts for Data Management and Assessment System.


• Authorize the Business Administrator to advertise for Competitive Contracts for Comprehensive In-School Therapeutic Program Services for students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.


• Authorize the Business Administrator to advertise for Competitive Contracts for Comprehensive In-School Therapeutic Program Services for students in grades six through 12.


• Approve a resolution awarding contract for intensive virtual tutoring services for elementary students. The board approves the award of contract to Varsity Tutors for Schools LLC, in the amount of $35 per tutoring session, not to exceed $154,000, for an all inclusive cost to provide tutoring services to elementary students.


• Approve the 2024-2025 New Jersey School Boards Association membership dues in the amount of $23,284.73.


• Approve a contract with Broad USA Inc. for the heating to cooling changeover for the High School Chiller in the amount of $3,345 based on lowest quote.


• Ratify the February 2024 Food Service expense list, bank reconciliation, accounts receivable as prepared by the Food Service Director.


• Authorize the Business Administrator to advertise for Requests for Proposals for Chapter 226 Nonpublic Nursing Services for the 2024-2025 school year.


• Ratify a one-year contract with GrapeSEED in the amount of $21,980 for an English language development program for bilingual classrooms. Contract is being awarded based on quote/rationale.


• Approve a request to reduce the fee to $23,000 for Gloucester County Services Migrant Program to use the middle school from June 24 to July 24, 2024.


• Approve a contract with the Atlantic County Special Services to provide itinerant/shared services for the 2023-2024 school year as needed.


• Approve to recycle/remove antiquated HP Servers and Switches located in the middle school.


• Approve to dispose of a wheelchair that is broken located in the high school.

• Ratify the January 2024 Latchkey Program bank reconciliation.


• Approve an agreement with Atlantic County Special Services School District for a Joint Transportation Agreement for the 2024-2025 school year.


• Approve the authorization to bid choice school, charter school and non-public student transportation services for the 2024-2025 school year.


• Next the board voted on matters concerning personnel. Most notably they resolved to:


• Approve a letter of retirement from Gerald Leeds, elementary school teacher, effective June 30, 2024.


• Approve a letter of resignation from Joanne D’Agostino, district bus driver, effective February 13, 2024.


• Approve a letter of resignation from Jena Braungart, early childhood center teacher, effective on or before April 27, 2024.


• Approve the following salary adjustment for the following personnel retroactive to February 12, 2024: Kerstin Kell – from Non-Degree - $21,929 to Degree - $24,395; Awilda Guzman – from Non-Degree - $21,929 to Degree - $24,395.


• Approve personnel to coordinate a virtual tutoring program funded by the Learning Acceleration High Impact Tutoring Grant.


• Approve personnel to the early childhood center I&RS for the 2023-2024 school year.


• Approve stipend adjustment for the elementary school summer band starting for the 2024-2025 school year.


• Approve a letter of retirement from Peter Christon, district food service driver, effective February 29, 2024.


• Approve a letter of retirement from Marisol Zingrone, high school part-time instructional aide, effective March 31,2024.


• Approve a letter of retirement from Diane Perrone-Smith, district custodian, effective June 30, 2024.


• Approve a letter of resignation from Lisa White, middle school part-time aide, effective March 8, 2024.


• Approve the salary adjustment for the following personnel effective March 15, 2024: Brian Gazzara – from BA+15 - $91,835 ($89,335+$2,500 long) to BA+30 - $93,155 ($90,655+$2,500 long); Kristina Gazzara – from MA+15 - $97,292 ($94,792+$2,500 long) to MA+45 - $100,197 ($97,697+$2,500 long).


• Approve a salary adjustment for the following middle school personnel effective February 20, 2024: Valerie Neall from 12-month clerk typist - $36,539 to 12-month secretary - $38,609.


• Approve personnel for the middle school intramural sports and coaching stipends for the 2024-2025 school year.


• Approve the assistance of the following personnel with payment of $150 for the middle school Strings Academy (pending fingerprints): Tamara DeMent-Gillece.


• 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):


Tiffany Scurry – middle school social worker on or before May 16, 2024.


Melissa Esposito – high school part-time athletic trainer on or before April 16, 2024.


Veymy Gutierrez – early childhood education center part-time instructional aide


Maria Castaneda – district full-time custodian


Substitute teacher who has a New Jersey substitute certificate:


Valerie Pagano


Substitute teachers who are applying for a New Jersey substitute certificate:


Brandon Jones


Dylan Scavo


Giancarlo Palmieri


Jenna DeLucca


Substitute food service worker(s) - $16/hour


Substitute custodian(s) - $16/hour


Substitute hall monitor(s) and cafeteria aide(s) - $16/hour


Substitute bus driver(s) - $20/hour


For programs, students and miscellaneous matters, the board most notably resolved to:


• The resolution and submission of the 2024-2025 One Year Preschool Program Budget.


• Approve the donation of flowers to the pre-K and kindergarten students for Mother’s Day.


• Approve to open high school student activities accounts for the Girls’ Lacrosse and Boys’ Lacrosse for the 2023-2024 school year.


• Affirm the Superintendent’s HIB recommendation as discussed at the prior month’s meeting.


• Approve 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:


Memorial Day Ceremony, John DeLucca, Tri Vets of Hammonton, at the middle school auditorium on May 27, 2024 at 9:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.


Hammonton Towne Drama Show Dates, Jenna DeLuca, Hammonton Towne Drama, at the Hammonton High School Performing Arts Center on August 8 to August 10, 2024 at 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and on August 11, 2024 at 8 to 12 p.m.


Academic Excellence Program, Michael Ryan, at the Hammonton High School Performing Arts Center on May 30, 2024 at 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.


For the addendum, the board most notably resolved to:


• Renew membership in the Atlantic and Cape May Counties Association of School Business Officials Joint Insurance Fund (ACCASBO JIF) for the three-year membership term commencing on July 1, 2024.


Approve to award contract for the purchase of unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel for school buses and district owned vehicles waiving any alleged defects and awarding the bid upon the terms and conditions set forth in bid specifications to Wendt, Inc. dba Al & Rich’s for the three-year period March 2024 through February 2027 in the amount of vendor cost plus 20 cent markup based on lowest bid.


• Approve a service contract with School Health for the AED Pluscare Advanced G5/wICPR package in the amount of $22,516.77 based on lowest quote.


• Approve additional architectural and engineering services for revisions to the existing ECEC building renovations in the amount of not to exceed $18,000.


• Approve the following personnel pending receipt of all necessary paperwork: Cecilia Alonso Ramirez – early childhood education center part-time bilingual aide.


All the items on the agenda were approved.


The board of education will have a special meeting on March 25 at 6 p.m. at the Samuel A. Donio Memorial Library to discuss the superintendent search and any other matters that come before the Board. Action may be taken and discussions will occur in executive or closed session where appropriate under the law.


The next regular school board meeting will be on April 25 at 7 p.m. at the Samuel A. Donio Memorial Library.


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