Schools plan $4.7M project
Additional classrooms to be added to ECEC
HAMMONTON—According to comments made by Hammonton Board of Education President Sam Mento III at the July 14 meeting of the Hammonton Board of Education, the board is planning to use $4.7 million in federal dollars rather than have a bond referendum for a project that would add additional classrooms at the Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC). During the July 14 board of education meeting, the finance item No. 11 relating to the project was modified.
Mento called the meeting to order and all board members were present at the Samuel A. Donio Memorial Library except for Folsom Representative John Thomas who was absent.
“Essentially what the board has decided to do with contracts is we’re going to pursue a small project, a smaller project. There is a plan that we have that will eventually be phased in over time for both the ECEC and the middle school. Right now what we’re looking to do, as many of you are aware, we’ve received some $4.7 million in ESSER [Elementary and Secondary School Relief] funds from the federal government,” Mento said.
Mento said the $4.7 million was a “use it or lose it type of funding.”
With the implementation of the full-day pre-K, the school was short on classrooms, according to Mento.
“The board has made a determination that we’re going to proceed with an addition of additional classrooms that will house permanently the pre-K or however we want to use those,” Mento said.
Mento said that if the district is able to afford it, the other part of the project would be to “continue to harden up that building where we would make some renovations to the location of the administrative office and that classroom when you first come in there.”
This project will be pursued during the next two school year budgets.
“It is our hope with surplus through years of good management from [business administrator] Barbara Prettyman we’ve built up a substantial surplus in our capital funds, our capital improvement fund, along with $4.7 million. And like I had said, earlier over the next two years we can utilize some money right out of the budget. So what does that mean? That means we are going ahead with a project with no additional cost to the taxpayers at this point in time,” Mento said.
Mento said in the future the board plans to revisit the bond referendum pertaining to the middle school upgrades, which includes the auditorium, gymnasium and bathrooms, as well as building an additional multi-purpose room, a full-size gym at the ECEC.
Board solicitor William Donio read finance item No.11 into the record:
“Whereas the board of education of the town of Hammonton and the county of Atlantic, New Jersey (the ‘Board’ when we’re referring to the governing body in the ‘School District’ when referring to the territorial boundaries governed thereby), seeks to implement school facility project consisting of additions and alterations to the Early Childhood Center.
“Whereas the board now seeks to take the initial steps forward to proceed with the planning authorization of the project.
“Now, therefore, be resolved by the board of education of the town of Hammonton the county of Atlantic, New Jersey as follows:
“Section 1. In accordance with the requirements of Section 6A:26-5.1 through 6A:26-5.3 of the New Jersey Administrative Code, the Board hereby authorizes the preparation of Schematic Plans and Educational Specifications, if required by Manders Merighi Portadin Farrell Architects. The architect in conjunction with the project, the Board further authorizes and directs the architect to submit same to the New Jersey Department of Education and to the Atlantic County Superintendent of Schools for review and approval. The board further authorizes and directs the submission of schematic plans to the planning board for its comment to the extent required by law.
“Section 2. In accordance with the requirements of Section 6A:26-2.3 of the New Jersey Administrative Code, the Board hereby ratifies any amendments to the Long Range Facilities Plan as necessary, to reflect the project and approve submissions of any such amendments to the New Jersey Department of Education.
“Section 3. In accordance with the requirements of Section 6A:26-3.2 New Jersey Administrative Code, the Board hereby ratifies the submission of the project application.
“Section 4. With respect to the Project, the Board hereby authorizes and directs the Board President, the Superintendent and the Business Administrator/Board Secretary, as applicable, to execute the schematic plans and educational specifications, the amendments to the Long Range Facilities Plan, the Project cost estimate sheets and all related project documents allowing submission of same to the New Jersey Department of Education.
“Section 5. The Board hereby authorizes and directs the Board President, Superintendent, Business Administrator/Board Secretary, the architect and such other professionals, as applicable, to take all action required to effectuate the project.
“This resolution shall take effect immediately,” William Donio said.
Item No. 11 was voted on and approved.
Finance items No. 12 and No. 13 were withdrawn later in the meeting according to Mento.
“As noted by Ms. Donio earlier we will be withdrawing numbers 12 and 13. I will now take a motion for items 14 through 40,” Mento said.
Those items were the following:
No.12: “Resolved by the Hammonton Board of Education approve to appoint Taylor Design Group as District Landscape Architect, on an as needed basis.”
No. 13: “Resolved by the Hammonton Board of Education approve to appoint Triad Associates as District Grant Consultants, on an as needed basis.”
Earlier in the meeting, board member Kelly Donio explained finance item No. 13.
“Basically, that is a resolution to vote on establishing a professional relationship with a grant consultant for a one-year period. That would not be expending any dollars at this time,” Kelly Donio said.
She said a grant consultant would maybe assess the district and look at areas where “we believe we” could use some additional funds and “there could be potential grants available.” The grant consultant would then help write the grant.
No. 13 was tabled so the board can meet with Triad Associates and get more information.
“Hopefully we’ll have them come and talk to everybody on the board and then we can choose whether or not we would like to establish that relationship,” Kelly Donio said.
Item No. 12 was also tabled so the board could get more information.
“Similarly, No. 12, the resolution for establishing a landscape architect, again, this is just establishing a relationship. We’ve also chosen to table that discussion to get more information and see what type of potential projects a landscape architect could do for our district. Again, no dollars are being expended just by establishing a relationship, but I do think that it would be to the benefit for our entire school board for people to feel more informed before they voted either for or against that,” Kelly Donio said.
Superintendent Robin Chieco gave her report during the meeting.
“Teachers are working diligently on curriculum revisions as seven content areas have newly developed standards that must be implemented in the 2022-2023 school year. As many of you are aware, the comprehensive health and physical education is one of these areas. I want to once again stress that as a district we will address these standards in a responsible manner as we are mandated by statute to implement,” Chieco said.
Information will be available to parents on the district website. In addition to back-to-school nights, Chieco, Assistant Superintendent Tammy Leonard and the new health and physical education supervisor will be available to address any parent concerns and provide additional information.
“As always parents will also be given the choice to opt out of specific lessons if desired. Transparency and open communications will be paramount as we navigate together through these changes as a community,” Chieco said.
Chieco thanked Marni Henry-Parks who resigned as health and physical education supervisor and athletic director.
“Ms. Parks came to us, which we opened this building in 2002, and has been a valuable member of our staff. No one has done more to support and promote our programs than Ms. Parks. I feel very confident in saying that no matter where she may go, she will always be our number-one Blue Devils fan. Personally, I’ve known Marni since she started in the district. She has been a colleague and a friend for many years. I wish her all the best and much success in her new position,” Chieco said.
Board member John Lyons gave an update on the turf project.
“You can see the turf has been laid and they’re doing the final touches on the area. We’re happy to say that we’re on schedule and things are progressing so that the ladies field hockey team can get out there just as soon as they can to begin to prepare for the season,” Lyons said.
Lyons also discussed the change order totaling $32,865.
“That breaks out in two ways. One is for conduit to set up lighting infrastructure for the field. So what that means is, when the board chose to move forward with the turf project, or also made a decision to should the board decide to put lights on that field, we wanted to have all the infrastructure in place and underground when we built the field. And so some of that specification did not make it into the original bid document, which required a change order, so they’re adding several hundred feet of conduit and some other material that’s needed in the amount of $21,945, so we’re asking for that tonight. The balance of the change order is $10,920. That is for asphalt and some site work around the field to clean up areas that need to be replaced because the layout feels much larger and the area has changed a little bit so we’ll be having that and getting that fixed up, so the board will look to vote on that tonight,” Lyons said.
During the community relations report, board member Raymond Scipione said the gate leading to the middle school track at William T. Capella Field was locked.
“The board will be reassessing if and when we will be reopening that for the public to use. Unfortunately, in a short period of time we’ve had a break -n to the concession stand and some property and field damage, so we will let everyone know what we decide to do. We’re going to meet as a board on that,” Scipione said.
Mento said the incident was not a break-in.
“According to Rick Cody, Mr. Cody the special assistant to the business administrator, what had happened out there—and we think it was little kids. You see the footprints, the small footprint and then what looked like they were throwing rocks at a steel door that fortunately they did not get through, but you saw you know what they tried to do,” Mento said.
Mento said the buildings and grounds committee discussed the incident, but they did not discuss locking the gate.
One option the district might potentially do is put a time block from dusk to dawn, Mento said.
Kelly Donio and board member Luke Coia agreed there should be discussion whether the track should be open or closed to the public.
While Kelly Donio said the track “should be open and be able to be used for all residents,” Coia said he doesn’t agree with “leaving it open 24 hours a day.”
“Since then [after the ribbon cutting ceremony] in less than a month, there has been numerous times that the police have been there. There’s been a barbecue out there. There’s been dogs doing their business on the field,” Coia said.
Kelly Donio asked Coia if he had a list and if any of the board members received an incident report list.
“I think you’re all about transparency and I agree with you. I think we should all be given the same information because I did not receive that information,” Kelly Donio said.
Lyons discussed one solution which would be using a lock with a timer, so the public would only have access after school hours from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“I think there’s a way forward. We just have to go to committee and figure it out,” Lyons said.
Mento said there will be an assessment over the next month and then there will be a clear decision at the next meeting or a public announcement.
“I agree with Ms. Donio to where when you have a couple bad apples unfortunately in this world, we can’t let them ruin it for everybody,” Mento said.
Board member Thomas Attanasi disagreed.
“Listen, I hear you Sam. We do something really good for the community and within a short period of time it gets vandalized. I was out there. I saw a barbecue take place where you got the pavilion down over there … I’m all in favor for giving to the community, but I’ll tell you what if we’re making a vote right now, keep it open or closed, I’m letting you know I’m keeping it closed,” Attanasi said.
Mento said the barbecue was outside the fence in the parking lot, so locking the gate wouldn’t stop that.
Board member Barbara Berenato from the safety committee said there’s only one way out of the field.
“Sitting watching flag football, I’m sitting there and I’m just looking around. I’m in front of the bleachers, not behind the bleachers. I’m thinking, ‘if that refreshment stand catches on fire or there’s some kind of an incident, there’s only one way out of there.’ We need other gates,” Berenato said.
The board will be assessing what’s happening in committee and then there will be a board vote regarding the track, Mento said.
On July 19, the Hammonton School District announced on social media and the district’s website that the middle school track “will be open to the public during the summer from 6:00 am until dusk.”
Berenato said she had a conversation with Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel who is looking into potential school resource officers for the Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School or the ECEC.
“We’re kind of just waiting for him to get back to us and let us know as far as cost,” Berenato said.
There was a swearing-in ceremony for one of the sending district representatives—Waterford representative Roe Hunter. She was sworn in by William Donio.
During public comment, former Waterford representative Al Pangia spoke to the board.
“I just wanted to take an opportunity to come down support my friend Roe. I know she’ll be a great asset to this board. She’s wonderful; we love her in Waterford and that’s why she’s here. We try to send the best people we can down here because you’re a tremendous group of people. For me, I can tell you that I’ve enjoyed the last five years here so much, and it went so fast,” Pangia said.
During Hunter’s report, she said Waterford started their new superintendent search.
“We’ve hired a committee or a consulting firm to assist with that. I believe that all of the applications are due on Friday [July 15], so we’re proceeding with that and trying to start that entire process,” Hunter said.
During the meeting, Leonard gave a presentation on the summary of violence, vandalism, substance abuse and harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) incidents for reporting period two, which is January 1, 2022 to June 30, 2022.
At the ECEC, there was one confirmed incident of HIB and five other incidents leading to removal. At Sooy Elementary School there were three incidents of violence, two incidents of vandalism, one confirmed incident of HIB, three alleged incidents of HIB and 14 other incidents leading to removal.
At the middle school, there were 10 incidents of violence, two incidents of vandalism, one incident of substances, one incident of weapons, four confirmed incidents of HIB and 76 other incidents leading to removal.
At the high school, there were 16 incidents of violence, one incident of vandalism, two incidents of substances, one incident of weapons, four confirmed incidents of HIB, eight alleged incidents of HIB and 322 other incidents leading to removal.
Leonard also presented the district and school HIB grades for the 2020-2021 school year as required by the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.
Grades are based on a self-assessment rubric that is completed annually by the Safety Team in each building. Ratings are assigned for HIB prevention programs, trainings, curriculum, anti-bullying personnel and procedures for HIB reporting and investigation. The maximum possible score is 78.
The following are the Hammonton School District’s scores: Hammonton High School – 72; Hammonton Middle School – 73; Sooy School – 71; ECEC – 75; and District Average Grade – 73.
During the meeting, the board discussed the possibility of having “non-binding conversations” regarding potentially replacing the school district’s existing fuel depot with a county fuel depot that could also be used by the district and the municipality. Currently the county is seeking to build the depot on the front lawn of the county building on S. Egg Harbor Road.
“I was contacted by [Atlantic County Fifth District] Commissioner [Jim] Bertino in reference to the fuel station. I’m sure many are aware there were some talks about a fuel station being placed right in front of the county building. Mr. Bertino and I had some conversations and what we’re going to do this evening is give our business administrator the authority to have conversations, non-binding conversations, with the county to see if our facility, our gas facility, would work to where the deal would be the county would come in completely replace the existing fuel depot and put in a new fuel depot for both the county vehicles and municipal governments such as the Hammonton police, potentially the fire department and this school district,” Mento said.
Mento said the conversation would be “advantageous” and could be a “substantial savings to the district.”
Item No. 92 was added to the addendum.
William Donio read item No. 92 into the record, which Mento said is about “entertaining conversations with the county for a shared service agreement for the fuel depot.”
“Yes, I asked the board of education to entertain a motion to approve the business administrator and such other administrative personnel to enter into non-binding discussions with county representatives to explore service agreement for refueling the vehicles at a board facility and report back to the board,” William Donio said.
After voting, Item No. 92 was approved.
William Donio thanked the board on behalf of the Samuel A. Donio Foundation, which held an award ceremony in the library named after his father.
“We’ve been doing this now for 22 years, and we’ve given over $650,000 in scholarships to students graduating from Hammonton [and] St. Joe. This year we enlarged it to ACIT [Atlantic County Institute of Technology] and St. Augustine,” William Donio said.
During the second portion of public comment, new hires Christopher Sacco, Alix Macri and Jena Braungart thanked the board.
Hunter abstained on everything during 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 May and June 2022 in the amount of $181,531.21.
• Ratify the purchase order lists for July 2022 in the amount of $37,945,808.79.
• Approve the bill list for June 2022 in the amount of $2,166,918.06.
• Ratify the check lists for May and June 2022 in the amount of $883,124.77.
• Ratify the check lists for July 2022 in the amount of $715,575.
• Ratify the June 2022 payroll in the amount of $4,046,782.42.
• Approve to award contract to Bob McCloskey Insurance through Berkley Life & Health Insurance Company for student accident insurance in the amount of $25,921.
• Approve a Capital Reserve Withdrawal for change order #01-3 associated with the High School Turf Field: Capital Reserve Withdrawal ($32,865); Construction Services ($32,865).
• Approve Change Order #01-3 for LandTek Group, Inc. for additional PVC Electrical Conduit for future field lighting and additional asphalt restoration along the existing driveway adjacent to the turf field in the amount of $32,865.
• Approve to award contract to Realtime Information Technology for Student Information System for school year 2022-2023 in the amount of $63,977.56 with the option to renew for four additional years at an increase of 2.5% per year.
• Approve a contract with Accurate Insulation, L.L.C. for rooftop insulation and repair of ductwork located at the Warren E. Sooy Elementary School in the amount of $15,500 based on lowest quote.
• Approve a contract with TriState HVAC Equipment LLC for HVAC repairs at the Middle School in the amount of $40,000 based on Omnia pricing.
• Approve to renew a service agreement with Johnson Controls for the fire and life safety systems in the district for the 2022-2023 school year in the amount of $19,536.72 based on # A83717 NJ State Pricing.
• Approve the 2022-2023 New Jersey School Boards Association membership dues in the amount of $16,526.20. Lyons voted no.
• Approve to dispose of antiquated unused library books located in the Warren E. Sooy Elementary School.
Next the board voted on matters concerning personnel. Most notably they resolved to:
• Approve a letter of resignation from Gianna Wyers, early childhood center part-time instructional aide, effective June 30, 2022.
• Approve a letter of resignation from Dana Grasso, elementary school teacher, on or before August 29, 2022.
• Approve the transfer and reduction of hours for the following personnel: Julie Evangelista from elementary school – 3.5 hours/day to early childhood center – 3.25 hours/day.
• Approve the following personnel for the early childhood center extracurricular stipends for the 2022- 2023 school year: STEM Learning Academy Instructors Krista Leach and Tara Merlino ($1,689 each); Art Club Coordinator Rebecca Petit ($1,689); Art Club Assistant Coordinator Amy D’Ambrosia ($1,079); Play Coordinator Amanda Oliva ($1,689) Play Assistant Coordinator Amy Heggan ($1,079); Spanish Club Advisor Nereida Rosado ($1,689); Spanish Club Assistant Advisor Elba Ortiz ($1,079); Yoga Club Advisor Stefanie Dooley ($1,689); Yoga Club Assistant Advisor Amanda Oliva ($1,079); Climate Committee Advisors Shannon Aumenta, Amy Heggan, Christine Garvey and Jennifer Aloisio (four advisors up to 10 hours each at $40/hour); Kind Kids Club (Student Leadership) Advisors Maria Sebastiano and Amanda Gilbert (two advisors up to 17 hours each at $50/hour); Community Communications Advisor Amy Heggan (one advisor up to 25 hours at $40/hour).
• Approve the following personnel for the early childhood center Intervention and Referral Services (I&RS) for the 2022-2023 school year: Gina Giralo, Katelyn Lidestri, Shannon Aumenta and Jennifer DiMarco ($3,117 each). Total Cost to the District: $12,468.
• Approve the following personnel for the early childhood center Curriculum and Instruction Coordinators (CIC) for the 2022-2023 school year: Courtney Thompson, Gina Giralo, Denise Long, Krista Leach, Tara Merlino and Paul Enuco (The stipend for CIC members is $2,500 each.).
• Approve the summer 2022 hours for the following elementary school part-time receptionist: Eudocia Rabiger – five hours/day for 15 days.
• Approve the following personnel for the elementary school extracurricular stipends for the 2022-2023 school year: Student Council Advisor Danielle Galletta ($1,748); Intervention & Referral Advisors (I&RS) Jorge Carde, Karen Viruet, Debra Schmidt and Gabrielle Attanasi ($3,117 each); Fifth Grade Safety Patrol Advisor Sandy Silipino ($1,748); A/V Coordinator (Sooy School and ECEC) Joe DeAnnuntis ($1,731); Grade 2 Cindy Rongone and Christine Reichert ($1,689 each); Grade 3 Kristen Silvesi and Matt Arena ($1,689 each); Grade 4 Adrienne Weiss and Katie Lutz ($1,689 each); Grade 5 Dawn Palermo and Deana Catania ($1,689 each); Grade 2 Theater Academy Head Amy Gollihur; Grade 2 Theater Academy Assistant Christine Reichert ($1,079); Grade 3 Theater Academy Head Diane Cullen ($1,689); Grade 3 Theater Academy Assistant Nicole Burnham ($1,079); Grade 4 Theater Academy Head Kristen Cavalucci ($1,689); Grade 4 Theater Academy Assistant Beth Bugdon ($1,079); Grade 5 Theater Academy Head Harriet D’Alonzo ($1,689); Grade 5 Theater Academy Assistant Deana Catania ($1,079); Kind Kids Club Natalie Scaffidi and Shauna Pezzato ($844.50 each); Art Club Advisor (Grades 2 and 3) Meagan Rieder ($1,689); Digital Tech Academy Jennifer Greco ($1,689); Renaissance Gina Silipena and Mary Baglivo ($1,000 each); Community Communications Jennifer Brittin ($2,000).
• Approve the clinical practice for the following students from Rowan University in the early childhood center and elementary school: Jessica Durso, Kahla Sargent and Jordan Cottrell.
• Approve the fieldwork for the following students from Stockton University in the early childhood center and elementary school: Kayla Rasmussen, Jacqueline Ford and Samantha Weikle.
• Approve a letter of retirement from Wendy Porretta, high school secretary, effective July 1, 2022.
• Approve a letter of resignation from Marni Parks, health and physical education supervisor and athletic director, effective on or before August 22, 2022.
• Approve a letter of resignation from Layne Cochran, middle school music teacher, effective on or before August 27, 2022.
• Approve a letter of resignation from Jillian Giacobbe, high school teacher, effective on or before September 7, 2022.
• Approve a letter of resignation from Robert Barbieri, high school part-time instructional aide, effective June 29, 2022.
• Approve the payment of $400 to Brian Durar to stream the middle school graduation and high school graduation videos for June 10 and June 13, 2022.
• Approve the salary adjustment for the following personnel effective September 1, 2022: Audrey Griess – from BA - $68,580 to BA+15 - $69,609.
• 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 - $125.00 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):
— Christopher Sacco – district (replacement M.P.) HPE Supervisor/Athletic Director on or September 15, 2022.
— Jena Braungart – early childhood center pre-K Disabled teacher effective for the 2022- 2023 school year.
— Katie Ferrara – elementary school (replacement D.G.) elementary teacher effective for the 2022-2023 school year.
— Alix Macri – middle school (replacement L.C.) music teacher effective for the 2022- 2023 school year.
— Denise Testa – high school (replacement M.H.) child study clerk typist effective July 11, 2022.
— Jessa Kelly – high school (replacement D.T.) part-time clerk typist effective September 1, 2022.
For programs, students and miscellaneous matters, the board most notably resolved to:
• Approve an application and resolution for dual use of educational space for the 2022-2023 school year.
• Approve the summary of the NJDOE Annual School Self-Assessment Under the Anti- Bullying Bill of Rights District and School Grades Report 2020-2021.
• Approve the summary of the Student Safety Data System Reporting Period 2 January 1, 2022 – June 30, 2022.
• Affirm the Superintendent’s HIB recommendation as discussed at the prior month’s meeting.
• Approve the revised and new policies and regulations for 2nd reading and adoption.
• Approve the abolishment of the following policies: Safety Plan for Healthcare Settings in School Building COVID-19 and School Sponsored Publications Need copy of policy.
• Approve the revised and new policies and regulations for 1st reading.
• Approve a request from New Jersey School Boards Association to waive all use of facilities/custodial fees for the use of the high school. Lyons voted no.
For the addendum, the board most notably resolved to:
• Approve to dispose/auction surplus school buses no longer needed by the district.
• Authorize the Business Administrator to advertise and conduct a public auction to sell surplus property approved for disposal.
The next school board meeting will be held August 25 at 7 p.m. at the Samuel A. Donio Memorial Library.
Gabe Donio contributed to this report.