Tuckerton School Thankful Board of Education Switched Health Insurance

Nov 29, 2017

Tuckerton School Administrator and Superintendent Janet Gangemi told the board of education it made the right decision when switching last year from the state plan for district employees’ health insurance to the Central Jersey Health Insurance Fund. The state plan is going up 17 percent this year, while the renewal costs for CJHIF, a consortium, are “barely going up at all,” she said.

The grand total increase is just $6,552, she said, compared to an increase of $227,464 if the district had stayed with the state plan.

The cost for one year is $774,332, but it would have been over $1 million.

“All in all, it was a really good move,” Gangemi said.

“Wow, thank you!” said Board President Trisha Horner at the Nov. 27 meeting.

The school also passed its audit with “no findings,” said auditor Richard Hellenbrecht from Robert A. Hulsart and Co. “There were no recommendations again this year; all went very well. I talked with someone from the office this summer to look at all the (construction) vouchers, and the fund balance is in good shape. The district is in great shape, and the building looks great.”

As part of her report, Gangemi gave an update on the progress of school construction.

The school has received its temporary certificate of occupancy from Tuckerton borough’s construction office for the Tech (computer) lab, the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) lab and the gymnasium. The custodial staff is in the process of building a LEGO wall and putting books on the shelves in the media center.

Furniture for the media center is coming this week. Workers are finishing up the brickface on the new stair tower, which contains a lift, and the pavement outside. The tower should be completed by the end of December.

The project is running over budget in a couple of areas, she said, due to unforeseen problems. “When we opened up the ceilings, we had to bundle wire and complete fire caulking that were not part of the original bid. That cost an additional $40,000. This can come out of our capital budget that we replenished in June with $500,000.

“A steel lintel had to be erected between the media center and the new STEAM lab that cost $17,000.”

Horner added that the building is so old (cornerstone 1926) that when the construction team removed the counter in the main office, they found the floor sloped 4 or 5 inches from one end to the other, and in the teacher’s room, two different floors – the old 1926 and the 1995 addition – differed by 2 inches. “These were things we couldn’t have known,” she said.

Once the new stairwell tower is completed with the stair lift that goes to the second floor, plus the elevator that goes from the gym to the first floor, the building will be completely Americans With Disabilities Act accessible.

Gangemi hopes to have an open house to invite the community to view the new rooms and main entrance on Jan. 24. Details are yet to be worked out.

Board member Alison Sanford said her children were very excited when the gym was reopened, and Principal Siobhan Grayson said on Oct. 31, the playground opened with all new equipment. “We had a fire drill, and the kids were taken over to the ribbon cutting at the playground, so they were so excited.”

A PTA Holiday store with affordable gifts kids can buy has opened outside the gym area, she added.

Gangemi gave the second part of her Every Student Succeeds Act report. In September she did a presentation on PARCC testing that was done in the third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grades last spring that showed the students are not where the school would like them to be in terms of proficiency in English Language skills and math but were making progress in all grades, with the exception of ELS in the third-grade. However, the school has met the goals set for it by the state, and even exceeded them.

The district has many children coming to the school in kindergarten who have not attended preschool, so they have to catch up to those students who already have learned their colors, numbers and in some cases can write their letters. “These are things they should know entering kindergarten. It’s not like when we went to kindergarten; there’s no nap time, either,” said Gangemi.

“There is something the state targets called student growth percentile, which is actually chronic absenteeism versus the state average of 8 percent; we are at 3 percent, so I am happy to say we have made tremendous strides in that.”

Gangemi said she would be attending a conference this coming month on the impacts of poverty on learning. “There are some emotions that have to be taught: patience, delayed gratification, optimism and empathy. And some families, for whatever reason, are not able to do these things. So it increasingly becomes our job. We do all that, and educate the students – which we do – but it’s obvious that preschool is critical.”

The board said goodbye to board member Cindy Witbeck, retiring from the board after 14 years. “She has been a big asset to the board,” said Horner. “I’ve enjoyed working with you, and you should be proud of everything you’ve done.”

New board member Renee Gioiello will take over the two years of Witbeck’s un-expired term.

There is no board meeting in December. The reorganization meeting is Jan. 2 at 5 p.m., and a regular meeting of the new board is on Monday, Jan. 29, at 4 p.m.

Pat Johnson

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

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