Stafford Students Get a Glimpse of School Board Service on ‘Appreciation Night’

Jan 23, 2019

For a brief portion of the Stafford Township Board of Education meeting on Jan. 17, Gerald Simonelli’s voice seemed to change a bit. It wasn’t that he was struck with emotion or had suddenly become ill. It was just different, more high-pitched than anything.

“It was really fun,” said Leo Staub, who performed admirably in his role as student board member for the evening, which included being Simonelli’s ventriloquist for most agenda items that required his vote. “It was pretty cool. He’s a nice guy. He told me what he wanted to say, and I said it.”

Young Staub joined Intermediate schoolmates Kathleen Brennan, Bernard Rutkowski, Maxx Jauch, Joey Spina, Trip Henderson, Maddy Boyd, Kayla Riley, Lucais Romo, Luke Piszar, Sophia Cozzone, Maliah Gonzales, Abigail Grimm and Mary Sauchelli on the stage inside the Stafford Township Arts Center on “Board Appreciation Night” to get a glimpse into what it’s really like being part of the district’s overseeing body.

“It’s a tough job, but very fun to do in the long run,” said Boyd, who had the privilege of sitting center stage with newly appointed board President Walter Jauch, who at the outset of the meeting joined his son, Maxx, to lead the flag salute. “It’s tough making the decisions because you know it’s going to affect so many people and you just want to make the right one.”

Prior to the meeting, each student had an interview assignment with one of the board members and during the meeting reported their findings to the public. The student leaders and their school board cohorts were presented with certificates of appreciation for their efforts.

“It’s definitely not as easy as it looks,” Staub said. “It takes a lot of courage to be up there, and this gave me a lot of inspiration. I’d love to try this out someday.”

Boyd also expects she may seriously consider a run at a school board seat in the future.

“Maybe after I explore a career, it might be something I’ll come back to do,” she said. “I enjoy being in Stafford and it’s a great district, so it would be good to come back and be a part of this.”

Of course, it can’t be ruled out that one of the student leaders may someday sit in Superintendent George Chidiac’s seat, and with it take on the additional responsibilities that come with the position – one of which during the meeting was reporting to the public the current progression of several things and goals for the district.

“Each year, as teachers and administrators, we try to build upon our board of education and district goals with a theme and focus for the year,” Chidiac said. “This year, we put an emphasis on our makerspaces, mindfulness areas and social and emotional learning.”

During his annual report, Chidiac outlined the board and district goals, how they were being met and what still needs to be accomplished. He first referenced the $10.1-million referendum of 2016 and the progress of those projects.

“We’re in the third year of the referendum, and all items soon will be completed,” he said. “We still have a few open items – our mechanical and plumbing improvements at some of our buildings, the McKinley bathroom improvements and the McKinley interior door project. Those are items we’re looking into so we can complete the referendum projects.”

He said the board also is investigating some future building improvement projects. A few of the possibilities being discussed include the installation of emergency generators at the Intermediate, McKinley and Oxycocus schools, the replacement of exhaust and pipe insulation at Ocean Acres and the construction of a district bus garage.

Chidiac also reported that the Stafford Township Administrator Association contract negotiations are scheduled to begin soon, since the current contract is set to expire in June.

As for district goals, Chidiac outlined five key items – integration of technology that matches the curriculum district-wide, implementation of  “Next Generation” science standards, continuing to provide a “least restrictive environment” for the district’s special education students, the continued support and implementation of its language arts curriculum, and continued implementation of an improved math curriculum.

“We continue to be on the cutting edge with our programs, curriculum and services,” Chidiac said. “We’re very proud of the direction our district is going.”

— David Biggy

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