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THOMAS A. COLEMAN, JR.,
SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS
856/769-0144, EXT. 22252 (firstname.lastname@example.org )
In 2012, we proposed to the voters the first phase of what we felt was much needed curricular-driven facility additions. The passing of that plan resulted in two new High School science labs, a new Middle School multi-purpose room, and an Early Childhood Learning Center that met the multi-faceted curricular needs of the district. The plan included updating the ag-science program, moving 5th grade from the Middle School to the Mary Shoemaker School, allowing for the Middle and High Schools to run independent autonomous schedules, and creating an educational setting geared towards early identification and intervention for our earliest learners. In 2012, our guiding refrain was to “Honor Our Past”, looking to build primarily within our existing building, thus preserving that historic structure, to “Confront Our Present” and implement emerging and needed curricular needs for the 21st Century, and “Embrace the Future” by creating facilities that would enable us to carry out that mission well into the foreseeable future. It paid significant and tangible dividends. At the High School, all of our 9th grade students are now able to take biology lab and thus position themselves to have the opportunity to take more advanced college prep science labs and the accompanying math classes than ever before. In addition, a state of the art ag-science lab has revitalized our time-honored program to such degree that we were chosen to host the National CASE (Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education) Institute for CASE teachers across the country. At the middle and elementary levels, we were able to implement a schedule that increased instructional time by 40 minutes per day. The dividends that have been reaped can be seen across our program PreK-12. Just this year we have seen more students in our PreK–5th grades at reading and math levels higher than ever before. Our Middle School has excelled in meeting the Focus School mandates and is considered a model school in that regard by the NJDOE. In addition, they have increased student independent reading so much so that they are being featured on the NJEA TV program “Classroom Close-up, NJ” in the fall. The High School has distinguished itself by having the highest cumulative average SAT scores in the southern region of our State and has been recognized by Inside Jersey magazine as an A+ school for the second year in a row.
But…as was mentioned during our meetings in 2012, that was only the first phase of addressing our needs. There remain daunting infrastructure needs that need to be addressed in a building that will celebrate its 100th birthday this upcoming year. Unlike phase I, which had no foreseeable prospect of State funding support, we knew that funding for the infrastructure needs was very likely and that we would wait for it to “go on sale”. Well, that has occurred with the State offering to fund 40% of projects like ours in the form of one-time ROD (Regular Operating District) grants that were announced in February. The proposed plan will be for a total of $19.8M, with the State funding $7.9M and the local share consisting of $11.9M. The scope of the work will entail a new HVAC system including air-conditioning, electrical upgrades, roof replacement, new windows and doors, new ADA-compliant auditorium seating, and renovated ADA-compliant restrooms. So the goal and purpose of the second phase of our initiative is to provide the much-needed restorations to our aging buildings, with State funding support, to ensure their viability and preservation, both physically and programmatically, well into the 21st Century. We will be providing more specific information in the upcoming months in the form of community and school meetings, media and print publications, and open house building tours, culminating with a public hearing on October 23, 2014.