Voorhees BOE approves keyboards for all students

Board also discusses transportation fixes, potential lunch menu changes

The Voorhees Township Board of Education met Wednesday, Sept. 25 at Osage Elementary School to discuss new initiatives within the district through various programs.

At the top of the meeting, Supervisor of Special Projects Susan Donnelly made the board aware of a thank you note received from three English as Second Language teachers within the district after the board approved a new program to be used within the schools.

“They had a wonderful training with National Geographic,” said Donnelly. “It had been 14 years since the ESL department received an upgrade.”

Board Secretary and Business Administrator Helen Haley reported the district had a relatively “smooth opening” in transporting students to schools with bus routes being mostly on time. According to Haley, some routes were put out to bid to ensure better coverage for all students, as transportation issues via buses were a reported problem last year. This year, the board instituted a way of being able to penalize a bus company that does not complete its route to the contract’s specifications.

“This year, we also incorporated fines in our bid package,” said Haley. “If there is a no-show, no-call, they get fined $1,000 and the per diem rate; we have enforced that, we consider that a breach in contract … so that has seemed to work out pretty well as an incentive to call if [a bus company] is going to be late.”

Haley also reported the district has a new food services director, who is currently looking to change menu items slightly to add additional hot meals as well as more variety.

Superintendent of Schools David Gentile stated during his report that the district would be purchasing keyboards for all students that can be attached to their iPads. Gentile says the idea came from his previous introductory meetings with parents and the community in the beginning of September.

“In listening to the parents at the open meetings that I’ve held and also talking as we go, we want students to be able to type better and exposed to keyboarding more often,” said Gentile. “This will also allow us to shorten the length of time we have to spend on state testing; instead of a five-week window, we can get it down to around three-weeks and spend less time away from the classroom.”

The purchase of the 1,125 keyboards for students comes with a cost of $46,800. Earlier this year, the board was able to sell older iPad’s for over $100,000, helping to offset the cost.

Donnelly also gave a short presentation regarding the School Self Assessment for the Anti-Bullying Bill of Right Act. Through the five buildings, the district grade was averaged to be 76.2 out of 78 total points, which will be submitted to the state Department of Education.

“A common theme that we noticed that each school has themselves one less point in was training in the areas of support for students with harassment, intimidation and bullying,” said Donnelly. “Not for our anti-bullying specialists, but it was for our School Climate and Safety Teams. So professional development for our School Climate and Safety Teams seems to be a concern at each of the schools.”

Lastly, a motion was tabled by the board that would have approved a feasibility study to be conducted regarding the potential of turning the current Board Administration Building into an Early Childhood Education Center.

“The board has carefully been watching class size numbers over the last several years and, as they rise, is looking to be proactive to avoid crowding,” said Gentile, in a statement to The Sun. “The idea of redistricting has been raised by some as a possible option. Last night’s item was my request to look into another alternative.

“The alternative would include creating a full-day kindergarten program for the district, among other actions,” added Gentile.

Gentile added that the board decided it best to hold the item for a future work session to openly discuss the potential of such an alternative, thus giving the board and public ample time to hear the proposal and ask questions.