Little Egg Harbor Plans Outdoor Classroom

Donations Sought to Add to Frog Pond Elementary School
Sep 20, 2017

The Little Egg Harbor Board of Education voted to hire Spiezle Architectural Group of Trenton for $2,200 to do preliminary sketches and estimate the cost to build and equip an outdoor classroom at the Frog Pond Elementary School.

The outdoor classroom would be available to students and staff for their studies, said Business Administrator Nicholas Brown. Most of the money, $1,800, comes from the Color Runs event held the last few years – an account that was since closed.

Once the school has a list of items needed, they will ask for donations from the community, said Brown at the Sept. 18 board meeting.

The board will spend $110,228 for two police officers to be stationed in the George J. Mitchell Elementary and the Frog Pond schools. The officer in the Mitchell school will also police the Early Childhood Learning Center. The board obtained the Class 1 officers for a reduced rate from the Little Egg Harbor Police Department, said Schools Superintendent Dr. Melissa McCooley.

In a move to reduce health insurance costs, the district has switched from the State Health Benefits Plan to Horizon Direct Access15. The district would have had to pay an additional $600,000 to stay with the state plan. By switching, it will save $125,000, said Brown. “This is not a direct savings, but an avoided cost,” he said.

The local teachers union has approved the change, said McCooley.

McCooley gave a presentation on last year’s Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System (EVVRS) report with a hope that this year, teachers and staff will further refine their reports with regards to what constitutes a “fight.” There were 10 reported instances of violence or fights in the Mitchell School and nine reported in the Frog Pond School during the 2016-17 school year.

According to the NJ Department of Education, a fight is “mutual engagement in a physical confrontation that may result in bodily injury to either party. Does not include a verbal confrontation or a minor confrontation, such as a shoving match. Each participant must be classified as an offender.”

McCooley gave one example of an incident last year, where a student was having a problem and a paraprofessional staff member intervened and was hurt, “a little bit,” as a result.

“We need to consider the age and appropriate behavior going forward,” she suggested.

“I believe we have been erring on the side of caution in our reporting.”

Most of the fights occurred in the cafeteria or on a bus. Jacqueline Truzzolino, director of elementary education, has already taken proactive measures this school year by riding buses with the students and patrolling the lunchroom, said the superintendent.

There were two instances of weapons confiscated, one in each elementary school. “And these could be a pocket knife,” she noted.

Also last year, there were four instances of vandalism: one in the Mitchell school and three in Frog Pond. There were no reports of substance abuse or HIB (harassment, intimidation or bullying).

The actions taken resulted in six out-of-school suspensions, 20 detentions and 18 lesser actions that could include talking with parents or counseling.

The previous year there were 31 reported incidents, and last school year there were 25.

McCooley noted the district continues to be focused on combating HIB, and has adopted character education, an anti-bullying Stars program and district-wide HIB staff training.

On another topic, McCooley complimented the custodial, support, transportation, and secretary staffs for preparing the school for the new school year. “The school was spotless and the rooms were all very welcoming,” she said. Back-to-School Nights were well attended, she remarked.

McCooley will again institute her “Sit with Sup” informal meetings this year, where parents or citizens are invited to talk with her in her office. The first will be on Sept. 20 at 1 p.m.

Parents are also invited to two workshops at the Frog Pond Media Center. The first is a “Parent Report Card Presentation” on Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 6 p.m. to review the new standards-based report cards. The second is a “Basic Skills Parent Night and Pizza Dinner” on Tuesday, Oct. 10 at 6 p.m., to give ways in which parents/guardians can help students improve their academic success. Children are welcome to attend. Parents are asked to RSVP to the board office.

This year, a sixth-grade student representative from each school will give a report of what’s happening at every board meeting and students of the month will be celebrated.

The board accepted a donation of $2,195 from the Great Bay Regional Police Athletic League for drug prevention educational material for the fourth-, fifth- and sixth- grades; and $1,000 from the Manahawkin Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Ram to supply Chromebooks.

— Pat Johnson

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