• Kristin Guglietti

School board OKs $61M budget


Educators of the Year Adam Preim, Teresa Christopher and Natalie Scaffidi (center) pose with the Hammonton Education Foundation (HEF) members HEF Chair of Fundraising and Initiatives Kevin Friel, HEF President Roseann Struble, HEF Vice President Lori Calderone and former President Joanne Pullia. (THG/Kristin Guglietti. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—The Hammonton Board of Education approved the school district budget for the 2021-2022 school year during the March 11 meeting. The total general fund budget is $55,646,313 with a local tax levy of $18,198,582.


The total special revenue fund budget is $3,279,066 with no levy; the total debt service fund is $2,311,173 with a local tax levy of $1,644,835.


The total budget for the 2021-2022 school year is $61,236,552 with a local tax levy total of $19,843,417.


“We will have a tax decrease this year. We did very well in state aid funding and other funding had come through, so we will be able to offer a tax decrease to our residents this year. We will have a full budget hearing in May and we will provide all the details of that at that time,” said Board Vice President Michael Pullia during the finance committee report.


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


There were two presentations during the meeting. The first presentation recognized the teachers and educational service professionals of the year. Board members, school principals and the Hammonton Education Foundation members congratulated high school English teacher, Adam Preim, middle school nurse, Kimberly Scavo, second grade teacher at the Warren E. Sooy Elementary School, Natalie Scaffidi and Early Childhood Education Center school nurse, Teresa Christopher.


Each educator of the year gave a speech in-person except for Scavo who gave her speech virtually.


After the speeches, Councilman Joseph Giralo and Atlantic County Fifth District Commissioner James Bertino gave the educators awards signed by County Executive Dennis Levinson.


Hammonton Education Foundation President Roseann Struble then thanked Superintendent of Schools Robin Chieco and the administration for allowing the Foundation to use facilities for fundraisers.


“The enormous and continuous support we receive from the board of education, school district, administration, faculty and the entire community has enabled the Hammonton Education Foundation to provide over $525,000 in grants throughout the years; $34,000 of these funds have been awarded to the teacher of the year recipients.


“The impact a teacher has on their students is remarkable. They help mold and shape our children and we are so grateful for their dedication and influence they provide. This year’s teacher of the year recipients are outstanding and the Hammonton School District is extremely fortunate to have them. It is with great pleasure and honor on behalf of the Hammonton Education Foundation to present each recipient of this year’s teach of the year with a $500 grant to spend in their classroom. Congratulations to all,” Struble said.


Next on the agenda was the Active Pure Technology presentation by David McDonough, the owner of General Chemical & Supply Inc. which is based in Moorestown, N.J.


“You can see No. 13 where we are spending a substantial amount of money and we thought this was a good opportunity to show the community one of the innovative initiatives that the Hammonton Board of Education has taken to create a safer and healthier environment in our schools for our students, faculty and staff,” Mento said.


Finance item No. 13 states, “Resolved that the Hammonton Board of Education approve to award contract to General Chemical & Supply, Inc. for the purchase of Active Pure Technology Air Purifying Machines in the amount $324,536.05 based on HCESC Cooperative pricing.”


During the finance committee report, Pullia said that money will get the district over 200 units.


“If we miss any rooms or we miss any spaces, we’ve authorized our business administrator [Barbara Prettyman] as Sam [Mento] said or the president said earlier. She has the ability to get another purchase order and get more of them so we will do 100 percent of every one of our buildings,” Pullia said.


General Chemical & Supply has been around since 1965 and McDonough said he purchased the company in October 2008.


“I started in 1998 in the commercial cleaning business. We actually started doing disinfecting and specializing disinfecting before disinfecting was cool,” McDonough said.


He said the company specializes in clean rooms, hospitals and schools as well as daily cleaning. His presentation focused on Active Pure Technology.


“Active Pure Technology was invented over 40 years ago from NASA, with the help of NASA. The reason why they invented this technology is because when the astronauts went into space, if one astronaut got sick, they all got sick,” McDonough said.


He said many schools, businesses and healthcare providers are leaning towards Active Pure Technology for cleaning the air and getting kids back into school.


“This is something that we can use forever and ever after this pandemic is behind us. We’re going to help keep the kids safer, keep the schools cleaner, keep the air cleaner and I’m going to show you all the different technology, how it works and why it works,” McDonough said.


He then grabbed a standard filter and talked about the problems with regular filters.


“The only problems with filters like this is like as viruses and germs are trying to go through like this is like water going through a spaghetti strainer. It will eventually work its way through, and now you’re pushing those viruses and germs right back out of here,” McDonough said.


He said another problem with standard filters is they don’t disinfect or kill germs in the air. He then talks about how Active Pure Technology works.


“The way this technology works is the air that you and I breathe, it runs through these machines right here and it goes to a patented system called the honeycomb matrix. As the air runs through the honeycomb matrix, it’s going through the honeycomb matrix and it takes the air that we are breathing and turns into positively charged molecules. As that air is changing to positively charge molecules, it comes out of here, comes out of the machine seeking anything that’s negatively charged. Mold, mildew, norovirus, coronavirus, staph infection, anything else that’s out here today,” he said.


According to McDonough, when the negative and positive meet in midair, they drop to the ground 200 times faster than gravity and within three minutes they mutate themselves, and this will reduce the SARS-CoV2 midair 99.99 percent of the time in three minutes or less.


McDonough brought three of the Active Pure Technology machines to the meeting. (Courtesy Photo)

McDonough brought three of the Active Pure Technology machines to the meeting. The small machine does up to 3,000 square feet with 10 feet of ceiling height. The large machine does 20,000 square feet. For a high school gymnasium, he said the school would need two of the large machines.


He said it takes seven hours for the large machine to fully charge a room and for the small machine, it takes seven and a half hours.


According to him, the company was called after September 11, 2001 to clean the air in the Pentagon because of all the VOCs and everything floating in the air.


“To this day, they actually have Active Pure Technology running through the Pentagon 24/7,” McDonough said.


Board member Barbara Berenato asked if the machines have filters in them.


McDonough said they do have an air filter in the back that should be vacuumed every 60 to 90 days. He also said the filters should be replaced and finds they can last 12-24 months.


Pullia asked when can the district expect delivery of the product.


“Obviously these things are in hot demand. The company is doing the best to get them out … Toms River, they needed them quickly—800 and some machines. They ordered on Tuesday; they’re getting theirs this Saturday. Same thing at the Trenton Board of Education. They ordered theirs on Monday. They’re getting theirs tomorrow, and they were over 500 machines,” McDonough said.


The last machine shown was a mini-mobile device, which is about the size of a smartphone. The machine is designed for 300 square feet.


“It’s something that I drive around with if I go to hotels or motels. Same exact technology right here. Plugs into your cigarette lighter or an outlet and I have it running in my office,” McDonough said.


Mento asked if the mobile device could accommodate school buses.


“No it’s not to be honest with you because of the cubic feet of the school bus and the problem with the school bus is there’s so much open air going back and forth,” McDonough said. “I’ve done some studies with it and I’ve done all my swab testings and as I went further and further back towards the seats, my swab testing didn’t come out to give me the results I was looking for unfortunately.”


Board member Raymond Scipione asked McDonough if they are going to make a mobile device for a school bus.


“Yes, they are. They’re making a device just like this [small machine]. Much smaller for school buses. Don’t know when it’s going to be coming out. Hopefully in the first and second quarter,” McDonough said.


The meeting then moved to committee reports.


During the sending and receiving report, Berenato thanked board member Kelli Fallon.


“I would just like to give a shout out to Mrs. Fallon for reaching out to MediLink to work with them to have our staff vaccinated with the COVID, and I thought that was a very recommendable thing for you to do and I hope that it comes to fruition and I’m sure that it will, so thank you for doing that,” Berenato said.


John Lyons from the solar committee said he doesn’t have an update, but the committee is anticipating equipment arriving shortly.


During the community relations report, Scipione said the start of spring sports will begin on April 1 with a projected full season and championships, which the school didn’t have last year.


Scipione also congratulated the Hammonton Middle School Spelling Bee winners: First Place Winner Jeremiah Bautista, eighth grade; Second Place Winner Sean Fudala, eighth grade; and Third Place Winner Max Bonnan, sixth grade.


Board member Thomas Attanasi didn’t have a report, but wanted to acknowledge the retirement of Lewis Testa, which was on the agenda.


“I just wanted to give a shout out to thank him for all his dedication and commitment to this district, his professionalism. I had the opportunity to teach him in the classroom, coach him on the football field. He’s been a class act since day one. Sad that he’s got to leave at this time, but I wish him a lot of health and happiness with his family moving forward,” Attanasi said.


During the meeting, Chieco gave an update on the school’s opening plan.


“Thank you to the parents that took the time to complete the spring 2021 survey that was posted last week. Although I would prefer to be able to open our schools for five full days of instruction, current conditions do not support this change,” Chieco said.


According to Chieco, 63 percent of the responses from the parent survey preferred five half days of instruction.


“On March 1 we increased Pre-K classes to five days per week. On March 8, we offer hybrid special education students the opportunity to attend four days. Cohort A and B 12th grade students will be permitted to return to four full days of instruction beginning on March 15. We want to ensure that as we increase attendance, we can maintain the safety standards that have kept our schools open for the majority of the school year,” Chieco said.


She said the district plans to institute the return of all Cohort A, B and C students to five half days of instruction beginning April 12.


“Unfortunately, we cannot offer five full days, as social distancing will be reduced in many areas such as classrooms, cafeterias and on buses. Lunch cannot be safely be served and will be provided as a grab-and-go option at the end of the school day,” Chieco said.


Chieco said she recognizes how the schedule change poses additional challenges for families.


“We have been in contact with AtlantiCare Hammonton Family Success Center regarding the aftercare program for our younger students. In addition a supervised study hall will be offered in our high school and middle school cafeterias for any student participating in spring athletic programs that may have difficulty returning for practice at 2:30,” Chieco said.


To bring students back for five half days, Chieco said the following mitigation measures will be provided: students K-5 will have desk shields, staff will receive KN95 masks, social distancing of three to six feet will be maintained as practicable and air purifying equipment will be purchased.


The meeting then moved to the first portion of public comment.


Before public comment, Solicitor Amy Houck of Cooper Levinson explained the guidelines to the public.


Houck said comments are limited to five minutes per person as per the board bylaw and they must be directed to the board president. In the last board meeting in February, the public was given three minutes.


“Once everyone has spoken, if someone would like to speak again they may have the opportunity to do so if there is time left. Public comment is a time to make a comment or statement to the board. It’s not a back and forth discussion. When your time is up, please leave the microphone and return to your seat. After your time is finished, if you asked a question, the board president will determine if your question can be answered now or if someone will get back to you based upon the nature or complexity of your question,” Houck said.


Jill Vivadelli was the first to speak during public comment. She has three children in the district—two in the middle school and one at Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School.


She said she’s disappointed after hearing the results of the survey.


“I think we all agree that the best decision for all students is to have everyone five days full in-person full days and that’s what’s needed for the students,” Vivadelli said.


She asked the board why the survey did not have five full days as an option.


“I understand you’re saying that you know you can’t accommodate that at this time, but you have not even reached out to the public to see what the interest would even be,” Vivadelli said.


To accommodate lunches for full days, Vivadelli suggested using tents.


“The spring is a wonderful time. The weather is warming up. I know it sounds like a crazy idea, but I think we all agree that we want our kids back in school five full days and I know lunches are the issue,” she said.


Vivadelli said five half days decreases instructional time by six hours per week for middle and high school students.


“Decreasing even more instructional time is very concerning to me as a parent,” she said.


Vivadelli said teachers will have to modify their lessons to fit the shorter periods, which decreases instructional time.


“My kids even commented ‘it’s going to take us like three days to take a test now.’” Vivadelli said.


She said she feels the district is “taking a step backward” by going from full days to half days.


“If you can’t move to five full days, have we thought about making that Wednesday a full day and having the kids, Cohort A, three full days a week and then the next Cohort three full days a week?” Vivadelli said.


The board made no comment 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:


• Approve a school district budget for the FY 2021-2022 School Year for submission to the county as follows: Total General Fund Budget $55,646,313 and Local Tax Levy of $18,198,582; Total Special Revenue Fund Budget $3,279,066; Total Debt Service Fund $2,311,173 and Local Tax Levy of $1,644,835; Total Budget $61,236,552 and Total Local 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 of $465,000 for required maintenance activities as reported in the comprehensive maintenance plan pursuant to NJAC 6A:26A-4.


• Ratify the purchase order lists for February 2021 in the amount of $262,591.33.


• Approve the bill list for March 2021 in the amount of $712,523.07.


• Ratify the check lists for February 2021 in the amount of $570,667.86.


• Ratify the February 2021 payroll in the amount of $3,384,450.11.


• Approve to Establish Maximum Expenditures for Professional Services 2021-2022. Be it resolved, that the Hammonton School District Board of Education set for the following professional services, maximum annual expenditures for the 2021-2022 budget: Legal $200,000; Audit $30,000; Architect $250,000; Medical Inspector $50,000; OT/PT/Speech $150,000; Beh./Educ. Consultant $150,000; and Nursing $300,000.


• Approve the renewal of the Milk, Dairy and Juice bid with HyPoint Dairy for the 2021-2022 school year. The firm vendor’s margin per unit is increasing 3.7 percent in all categories from the prior year, which is less than the change in the consumer food price index for the previous 12 months of 3.8 percent. Therefore, we are awarding this renewal contract in compliance with N.J.S.A. 18A:18A-42.


• Approve to award contract to General Chemical & Supply, Inc. for the purchase of ActivePure Technology Air Purifying Machines in the amount of $324,536.05 based on HCESC Cooperative pricing.


• Approve to award contract to McGraw Hill for Study Sync Core ELA Gr 6 books in the amount of $27,648 based on lowest quote.


• Approve Deborah Davila to complete bilingual evaluations for an as needed basis for the Child Study Team.


• Approve disposal of antiquated low circulation books located in the Media Center at the High School. Books will be offered to staff and students.


• Approve the authorization to bid choice school, charter school and non-public student transportation services for the 2021-2022 school year.


• Ratify the revised Security Aid Agreement with St. Joseph Academy. The items being purchased will be through Non-Public Security State Aid Funding.


• Approve the purchase of a 2 Flex Feeder Inserter and Power Line Inserter for the Warren E. Sooy Elementary School and Early Childhood Center in the amount of $7,046.35 based on N.J. State Contract Pricing.


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


• Be it resolved that the current contract of Superintendent Robin Chieco be and is hereby rescinded; and, be it resolved that Robin Chieco be and is hereby appointed as Superintendent of Schools for a term beginning July 1, 2021 and ending midnight June 30, 2024. The previous contract took effect on July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2022, so the new contract is a three-year extension. During the vote, Prettyman said if members were conflicted to abstain. Board members Attanasi, Berenato and Lyons abstained.


• Approve a letter of retirement from Lewis Testa, district English and Social Studies supervisor, effective August 1, 2021.


• Approve a letter of retirement for Robert Wilson, district maintenance worker, effective September 1, 2021.


• Approve a letter of resignation for Jennifer Maturano, high school part-time hall monitor, effective March 19, 2021.


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


• Ratify the submission of an amendment of the FY20 CARES application to reallocate funding to meet district needs in response to COVID-19.


“I would like to thank the board of education for your confidence and your renewal of my contract. I’ve basically dedicated my entire professional career to Hammonton. It’s been a second home to me. I taught for over 20 years and have been in administration for 13. It just feels like home and I really greatly appreciate you’re allowing me to continue to stay here,” Chieco said.


The next school board meeting will be held April 15 at 7 p.m. in the Samuel A. Donio Memorial Library.