Initial findings revealed in Cherry Hill Public Schools 2020 initiative

At the board of education’s strategic planning committee meeting on Tuesday night, school administrators presented some of the input from community members in the “Cherry Hill Public Schools 2020: A Clear Vision for the Future” document.

If one were to look at the items community members suggested the Cherry Hill school district look at in “Cherry Hill Public Schools 2020: A Clear Vision for the Future,” they would get a glimpse at nearly every part of the district’s operation.

Community members suggested dozens of items to be focused on as the Cherry Hill Board of Education looks at revising its strategic plan in the coming months.

During the Cherry Hill Board of Education strategic planning committee’s meeting on Tuesday night, committee members and the public got a first look at the district’s initial presentation on the vision plan. The presentation was a compilation of the feedback the district received from members of the community during the fall.

One of the board of education’s major goals this school year was to establish a strategic plan identifying and categorizing the district’s needs. To do this, Cherry Hill Public Schools 2020 was launched, allowing all members of the Cherry Hill community to offer input on what they feel the district needs to focus on.

During the fall, community members were invited to fill out a form with six categories: facilities and infrastructure, materials/supplies/services, staffing, process and governance, finance and cost and other. Under these categories, community members listed items they felt the district could focus on in its new strategic plan.

Superintendent Joe Meloche said administrators compiled and analyzed the data once it was received. Items were then placed into one of the appropriate categories. Each idea in the presentation was labeled as either short-term — meaning the district is focusing on the items now or will be in the next couple years — or long-term, meaning the items are to be focused on as the 2020s approach and beyond.

Meloche said two items appeared most frequently on the community feedback forms. Many forms brought up the issue of full-day kindergarten and better unifying the district to eliminate an East versus West mentality. Full-day kindergarten appeared under the short-term discussion category while district unification was in the long-term category.

Another item appearing frequently was school organization. The district consists of the Barclay Early Childhood Center, 12 elementary schools, three middle schools and three high schools. Meloche said some felt it may be a good idea to revisit how the district’s schools are organized.

“It’s not the right way, it’s not the only way, it’s just the way that we do it,” Meloche said.

Meloche added school configuration has been a topic of discussion dating back to the 1990s.

In the area of technology, Meloche mentioned a number of forms suggested the implementing a one-to-one technology initiative. The item was listed as a short-term goal, and Meloche said a lot of discussion would have to take place to see how an initiative would be best implemented in the district.

In a discussion with recent Cherry Hill high school alumni, Meloche mentioned life and practical skills were something the kids felt should be emphasized in high school. This was included as a short-term goal in the policy.

Class size policy was a short-term item listed under staffing. Meloche said the district’s policy has been a talking point for a number of years and was mentioned on a number of forms.

“We are one of the last districts in this area with such stringent class size policies,” Meloche said.

Under facilities and infrastructure, assistant superintendent for business Lynn Shugars talked about making the look of the school buildings more appealing. Some items identified as short- and long-term goals included curb appeal and flooring replacement. A couple other short-term items were new paint, replacement of lockers and new playground equipment.

“These are things I feel would go a long way in increasing the appeal of the buildings,” Shugars said.

Long-term items included major projects such as the replacement of building systems such as HVAC and electrical, examining the sustainability of buildings and repaving of parking lots and black top areas. Board member Kathy Judge said she was happy to see the repaving item listed in the presentation.

Under finances, an item appearing under short- and long term goals was fair and full funding for the district. Meloche noted the items have been a talking point for many years, and he expects the conversation to continue for many years to come.

Other items appearing in the presentation included reevaluating contracted services, examining the district’s budgeting practice and expenditures, records management, hiring practices and substitute teachers.

Meloche noted the district couldn’t focus on everything in the initial presentation. The purpose was to highlight many of the areas the community wants to focus on. In the next couple months, the board of education committees will discuss each of the areas and refine the information and feedback collected.

“We can’t do everything that’s on there,” Meloche said.

The district’s plan is to have a final presentation ready to go in May. The strategic planning committee will hold a formal discussion on the document that month, and the full board is expected to vote on final adoption of the document at the May action meeting.

The initial presentation will be shown again at the board of education’s work session meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 10.