As we prepare for 2019, let’s take a look back at some of the top moments from this past year in our schools, in the community and in Gloucester Township.
Another year is coming to a close, and Gloucester Township residents have plenty to look back on from the municipal and school levels, as well as community events.
Let’s take a look back at some of the top moments from this past year:
Timber Creek high jumper breaks meet record and becomes NJSIAA Group 3 Champion
At the Ocean Breeze Invitational track competition in Staten Island, Timber Creek Regional High School sophomore Tierra Hooker did not know she had broken a meet record until a few moments after she landed a five-foot, 10-inch jump.
In fact, it was actually the second record the 15-year-old beat at that weekend competition in late January.
“I started visualizing myself clearing it instead of just rushing into the bar,” Tierra recalled. “I closed my eyes and just stepped back and went for it.”
The surreal moment led to her beating 23 other athletes in the girls high jump varsity red group.
The event’s roaring spectators couldn’t believe it, but Hooker had just recently returned from a lengthy illness that cost her the first full month of the indoor winter track season.
Leading up to Ocean Breeze, Hooker was averaging about five-feet, six-inches at each meet, kindling even more emotion as she nearly jumped six feet in the air.
“The most challenging part was definitely coming back, because when I was out a month, I was out of shape,” Hooker said. “I had to catch up to everyone.”
Following Ocean Breeze, Hooker would once again surprise even herself, as she clinched first place in high jump at the Feb. 17 NJSIAA Group 3 Championships, where she jumped five-feet, six-inches.
Throughout the rest of her high school career, Hooker hoped to participate in more events, meets and, eventually, other track and field activities.
Although she wants to delve back into sprints and hurdles, Hooker will always see herself as a high jumper.
Congressman Norcross hosts school safety forum at Highland Regional High School
In February, police, students, educators and politicians, including Mayer and Congressman Donald Norcross, conducted a roundtable discussion about the local, state and federal approaches to school security.
In light of the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., the panel, which included the chiefs of police and superintendents of both Gloucester and Washington townships, spent an hour not only recognizing the spectrum of issues encompassed in this national crisis but also brainstorming solutions.
“Somehow, given what our country is going through and the amount of times we’ve been through this — this seems different,” Norcross said. “But, it should not be different.”
As the discussion proceeded, a recurring topic was, amid heightened police presence, how a school can still feel like a sanctuary of learning. With nationwide debates about arming teachers, the welcoming nature of schools can be comprised.
“There’s a real delicate balance between creating a loving, emotionally charged, happy environment for our children where they get to love and grow,” said Joe Bollendorf, superintendent of the Washing Township Public Schools. “We’re building prisons in order to keep them safe. … I’m not about building prisons to teach our kids. I think that school needs to be a place where we celebrate happiness.”
Gloucester Township Public Schools pass resolution for $4.8 million roof
The Gloucester Township Public Schools Board of Education voted to approve the installation of a $4,769,099 roof for Ann A. Mullen Middle School earlier this year.
The capital project, which was a part of the 2018–2019 school budget, came from the district’s capital reserve account and did not increase local taxes, according to the district.
The resolution was passed in March after initially being tabled in February due to residents’ concerns.
The district said it had planned to purchase a new roof since around 2013, as the building, which is the largest in the district, had faced a series of issues, including nearly 86 leaks, according to Superintendent John Bilodeau.
One major concern was the costs of the removal and replacement of the roof’s solar panels, which were installed in 2013. According to the project overview, the removal and replacement of the panels cost $275,800. In 2013, the solar panel company deemed the roof suitable for installation, according to Bilodeau.