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Technology, sustainability and character education evolve in Cherry Hill Schools over past 10 years.

Cherry Hill Public Schools Superintendent Joe Meloche has only been in his position for a little more than a month, but he has seen the transformation of the school district from many perspectives.

Ten years ago, Meloche was principal of Carusi Middle School. For the 2006–07 school year, he left Carusi to take over as principal of Cherry Hill High School West, where he remained for seven years. Since 2013, Meloche has worked in administration, first as the district’s director of curriculum, then as assistant superintendent beginning in 2014 and since August, as superintendent.

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As the years went by, Meloche witnessed changes in education and feels Cherry Hill schools were on the forefront of those changes.

The biggest change in Cherry Hill Public Schools was with technology. Meloche recalls how just a decade ago, every student didn’t have a laptop and objects such as overhead projectors were still essential teaching tools. Today, all of that has changed.

“The biggest change is the access to the volume of information that is available at students’ fingertips,” Meloche said.

Making changes in technology has been an ongoing process for Cherry Hill Public Schools. The school district has made investments in recent years on items such as Chromebooks, tablets and smartboards to bring state-of-the-art technology to the classroom.

However, acquiring technology is only one part of the process.

“We’ve worked with our instructional staff to better implement and incorporate technology to benefit students,” Meloche said. “We’re working with staff and using some of the tremendous experts we have in the district to train each other and how we teach.”

Keeping up with technology has been essential for the school district. Meloche talked of how the majority of students in the district today grew up in a world with technology some adults may not be familiar with.

“Education has to continuously be evolving,” he said. “The children that are arriving in the district in kindergarten were born in 2010. They don’t know a world without a tablet or smart TVs.”

The district has also made a number of changes in curriculum, especially at the high school level. College preparation has become an even larger focus at both high schools in the past decade.

“We’ve expanded the number of advanced placement classes at the high schools,” Meloche said. “We have some of the highest numbers of advanced placement classes in South Jersey at 21.”

Many of these AP classes have been structured in the same way classes at colleges such as Rowan, Rutgers and Penn are structured.

“We look at what students are expected to do at the collegiate level,” Meloche said.

“We want them to be successful from the outset. We want to make sure they have the academic skills.”

The district has improved on evaluating student performance in the past 10 years. Meloche said the school district has put an added focus on individual students rather than general test score reports.

“We’ve become experts on analyzing data and looking at students,” Meloche said. “We’re looking beyond state standardized assessments.”

Meloche believes individual student growth has improved because of the commitment of teachers and parents.

“We’ve always expected kids to hit at each grade level,” Meloche said. “The level of the instructional staff we’ve had and the commitment of the community has helped us to adapt with the times.”

Cherry Hill Public Schools has also debuted a number of initiatives in the past decade. The two Meloche feels were most important was the school’s work on character education and the launch of its sustainability initiative.

Character education was a focus in Cherry Hill Public Schools even before New Jersey’s anti-bullying law went into effect in 2011. From the development of programs to encourage an inclusive student body to putting a focus on key characteristics such as respect, accountability and active citizenship, Meloche feels the district has made large strides in character education.

“They are seen as programs that are added or extra, but they are part of what the schools are today,” Meloche said.

The district has been recognized nationally for its character education work. Since 2008, six Cherry Hill schools have been recognized as National Schools of Character.

Cherry Hill schools have also gotten lots of recognition for sustainability. Since receiving an endorsement from the board of education to increase sustainability education in 2012, all schools in the district have formed green teams, worked on creating green spaces inside and outside the school buildings and have worked on projects to help the environment.

Meloche said the increased focus on taking care of the planet has made the district’s focus on sustainability essential.

The district was just one of five in New Jersey to achieve the Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification in 2015. All schools in the district were granted at least a bronze certification, and Harte Elementary School received a silver certification.

Meloche believes the district’s successes in the last 10 years are the result of a community that cares about education. He feels the community has gotten more involved with the schools in past decade and expects that trend to continue into the future.

“We’re very fortunate that we have a community that values a quality education,” Meloche said. “It’s not just being in the classroom, it’s also beyond that. It’s clubs, it’s theater, it’s athletics, it’s field trips. We’ve seen many more family volunteers.”

Even though new technology, curriculum and initiatives are likely to be in store for Cherry Hill schools in the next 10 years, Meloche believes the involvement of the community won’t change.

“I’m excited about the district going forward for the next 10 years,” he said.

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