George J. Mitchell Elementary School Principal Retiring

Jan 24, 2018
Photo by: supplied

George J. Mitchell Elementary School Principal Debbie Gianuzzi will retire in June after 27 years in education, seven spent as the principal of the GJM School. The announcement came during the Jan. 22 Little Egg Harbor Board of Education meeting.

Only one board member, James Becker, thanked Gianuzzi for her dedication to the school and congratulated her on her retirement.

After the meeting Gianuzzi said she would probably continue working in education but had no immediate plans. She taught for 12 years in the Brooklyn School District and served as an assistant principal there.

Also retiring are two teachers: Mrs. Diane Roberts, district world language teacher after 30 years in the district, and Mrs. Cynthia Kennedy, basic skills teacher at the Frog Pond School after 28 years. George J. Mitchell custodian Michael Lentini is retiring after 14 years.

The BOE is beginning teacher negotiations this week with the NJEA. Newly elected board member John Bellone (who had served on the board previously for many years) was put on the negotiating committee with board President August Daleo and Donald Moncrief. Other members of the board are conflicted and cannot negotiate as they have immediate family who are teachers and members of the NJEA.

Results of the 2016-17 New Jersey School Performance reports were good, said Superintendent Melissa McCooley. “I’m proud of the progress we are making. We are absolutely on track according to PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a state standardized test).” Summaries of both the Frog Pond and George J. Mitchell schools show students are progressing in English and math while students in the GJM are excelling in math.

Both schools need improvement in chronic absenteeism, defined as missing more than 18 days of school or being tardy a number of days that then translates to absenteeism.

Frog Pond has 685 students in a K-6 program, with a student to teacher ratio of 11-to-1; 18 percent of students have a disability, and 48 percent are economically disadvantaged. In the GJM school, 593 students are in the K-6 program, with an 11-to-1 ratio of teachers to students; 20 percent of students have a disability, and 42 percent are economically disadvantaged.

Both schools can boast of technology advantages. Frog Pond has eight Chromebook carts, two computer labs and over 50 iPads for student use; GJM says technology is part of the daily school work, including teacher interactive boards and Chromebooks.

Frog Pond has instituted a Good Egg Program that recognizes students for positive behaviors and character traits. George J. Mitchell’s highlights include curriculum programs: Balanced Literacy, GoMath and Next Gen Science Standards. Student activities include chorus, band, safety patrol, student government and community service.

McCooley read her self-assessment of goals she had proposed to the board, including more opportunities for after-school activities: a school Halloween dance, chess club, kickball games, Green Team activities. Also, a grant for a Kids’ Yoga class after school at the Mitchell School is being funded by an $800 AtlantiCare School Wellness grant.

Another goal is to engage parents and community members in school life: Over 250 people came to an open house, and a program called “Lunch Buddy,” where parents, grandparents, aunt or uncles can contact the school and then have lunch in the cafeteria with their children has been very successful, with over 200 participants in each school, said McCooley.

She is reviewing data and remediation plans for another goal to cope with discipline issues that stem from interactions between boys and girls, and a goal for a pilot plan to enhance the social and emotional aspects of student health will be presented in May.

Security at the George J. Mitchell and the Robert J. Wood Early Childhood Center is being upgraded. The board voted to spend $30,589 from the school’s emergency reserve for security cameras at George Mitchell and a $14,150 Head Start grant will pay for cameras at the center.

The board used a $10,646 state ROD grant to purchase a new TECHXTEND projector for the Frog Pond School.

The board and the public were treated to a video compiled by Frog Pond Principal Troy Henderson’s 19-year-old son, Alex. To the beat of “Be Our Guest” from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” students, teachers and administrators from all three schools invited parents and the public to attend a free spaghetti dinner on Feb. 6 from 6 to 8 to celebrate the accomplishments of the schools. Each school (including the Robert C. Wood Early Childhood Center) will show a short video about itself in the Frog Pond Elementary multi-purpose room. To RSVP, call 609-296-1719, extension 2013.

The school presentation on the Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying policy (HIB) was postponed because of the Jan. 4 snowstorm but will be held on Monday, Jan. 29 ,at 7 p.m. in the Frog Pond School multi-purpose room.

The 2018-19 budget process is ongoing, said McCooley. The board office is finalizing its projections of salaries and benefits with the finance committee and hopes to hold a public meeting and comment period on a proposed budget in March with a final budget ready by April for a May approval.

The next board of education meeting is Feb. 27 at 6 p.m.

— Pat Johnson

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