Cherry Hill Board of Education adopts Cherry Hill 2020 plan

The plan outlines the process Cherry Hill Public Schools will go through ahead of a planned bond referendum in October of 2018.

The Cherry Hill Board of Education capped off its final meeting of 2017 with a look ahead to the years to come as it adopted its Cherry Hill 2020: A Clear Vision for the Future plan. After more than a year of discussion, the Cherry Hill Board of Education approved the plan at its meeting on Dec. 19.

The plan was based off months of work that began with the release of a Cherry Hill Public Schools 2020 survey late in 2016. For much of 2017, district officials have parsed through a number of items it could potentially include in a possible bond referendum in 2018. The board decided not to move forward with some items, such as the creation of a sixth grade center. Other ideas, such as full-day kindergarten, are being pursued, but were separated from the planned bond referendum.

On Dec. 5, Assistant Superintendent for Business Lynn Shugars and district architect John Middleton presented a long list of potential projects for the district’s planned bond referendum at the board’s committee of the whole meeting. The presentation also went over the various deadlines if the district wanted to pursue a referendum in 2018.

The adopted plan includes a number of elements. The plan begins with the district’s mission statement and statement of beliefs. The board revised both of those at the start of the Cherry Hill 2020 process in mid-2016.

The plan then discusses the reasons the district is pursuing a bond referendum. Following that is a general breakdown of the possible projects the 2018 referendum could include, details the timeline for the referendum process and establishes the date for the district’s referendum, which is being planned for Oct. 2.

“This is the culmination of the last 18 months of work,” Superintendent Joe Meloche said. “The adoption of this plan is what will guide us into the work that’s going to be done to construct the referendum.”

The plan does not include what specific projects will be included in the referendum or a specific cost for the projects. Meloche said the next step will be selecting specific projects in January and February. To hold the bond referendum in October, the district must submit project applications to the state Department of Education in March.

Prior to the vote, board member Kathy Judge asked Meloche why the district decided to hold the bond referendum on Oct. 2 instead of on the general election date one month later.

“We truly want everyone in the community to focus on this,” Meloche said about the date. “There’s so much critical work that has to be done in our facilities, we don’t want it to be lost in a whole bunch of other stuff that’s going on. I want the community talking about the referendum.”

Eight of the nine board members voted to adopt the plan. Board member Edward Wang abstained from the vote. During discussion of the plan, he questioned why the plan was focused entirely on facility upgrades and the referendum.

“I still think that in the vision, we should have other aspects…instead of just facilities when we’re talking about the future development of our schools,” Wang said. “The earlier version that I saw had other aspects.”

Meloche said a number of items from the Cherry Hill Public Schools 2020 survey are being looked at, but outside of the scope of the strategic plan.

“Pieces that were part of the discussion included curricular revisions and staffing,” Meloche said. “Some of those are not part of the large-scale plan, they’re part of the annual work that is done in the school district.”

For more information on Cherry Hill Public Schools 2020, visit www.chclc.org/board-of-education/2020-vision.