HomePalmyra NewsLocal government, school district share 2018 plans

Local government, school district share 2018 plans

The Sun sat down with Mayor Michelle Arnold and Palmyra School District’s Valerie Still to find out what’s slated for the new year

The coming of the new year means different things to different people, and in Palmyra, transitioning into 2018 marks continued progress for the school district and local government.

At the Jan. 6 reorganization meeting, Councilmembers-elect Gina Tait and Brandon Allmond will be sworn into office for three-year terms, and the board will announce its annual appointments. Tait was re-elected Nov. 7, while Allmond is a newcomer to public office.

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Allmond was temporarily appointed to Council President Tim Howard’s seat for December while Howard filled the seat of Shelby Tucker, who resigned from her unexpired term in December 2016.The seat was previously filled by Frank Cosky, who lost re-election in November.

With the completion of the park at the waterfront in 2017, which acts as borough’s promenade, Mayor Michelle Arnold and the council are excited to put a recent parks grant to good use in the new year. The township engineer will process the grant information and begin improvements to Grove Park after reorganization, Arnold said.

Arnold began holding bi-monthly “neighborhood chats” in December, which she plans to continue into 2018. She hopes this renewed focus on community outreach and communication will facilitate civic participation and keep residents updated. Each chat will be held at a different location, such as a local business, place of worship or organization.

“It gives people an opportunity to come out and talk about whatever they want to talk about, any concerns that they have, any questions,” Arnold said. “It’s different than a public meeting, where you have to sit through all the official stuff to get a chance to speak. People are sometimes intimidated to do that in a formal setting. This is informal and one-on-one.”

The Mayors Wellness Campaign kicks off in January, and it will see Palmyra compete with other New Jersey municipalities to improve the health of the community. The campaign is part of New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute’s statewide initiative in partnership with the NJ League of Municipalities, aiming to promote health across youth, senior, employee and community populations.

In recognition of the importance of sustainability in improving public health, the MWC also partners with Sustainable Jersey to support the campaign. Arnold said once the cold weather breaks, Palmyra residents of all ages and abilities can participate in a number of community activities in the surrounding parks.

At the forefront of Arnold’s 2018 agenda is redevelopment, which has been a top priority for her entire term as mayor. She plans to continue tackling dilapidated, abandoned properties and cleaning up public spaces.

The Palmyra school district has a few plans of its own for 2018. Valerie Still, the communications officer for the district, said in an effort to combat poor state rankings that stem from standardized test scores, Superintendent Brian McBride is determined to carve a path to student achievement, community, sustainability and enrichment.

The strategic plan developed in 2017 outlines four specific goals: maximize academic achievement, strengthen relations with surrounding communities and local business partners, increase revenue, programs, technology, staffing and facilities and educate the “whole student” through mentorship, volunteerism and the Renaissance Program.

“We’ve had some problems in the past with standardized testing and the resulting ratings, but they really don’t reflect what our school district is,” Still said. “It’s hard to tear down those perceptions, but when you come to the school and talk to our students and see what’s going on, there’s a lot happening that’s moving in the right direction.”

While the major district events are still in the planning stages, Still said everyone is looking forward to announcing the dates for PantherCon, a ComicCon-style gathering that students, staff and families will attend decked out in Palmyra Panther gear and school spirit come February.

The Clarence B. Jones Institute, which was spearheaded by Still and is now up and running, will hold a student leadership conference in April to commemorate the the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death. The event will act as the inaugural event for the institute, which is partnering with the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Educational Leadership.


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