Students honored at BOE meeting

The power of friendship and kind-heartedness was recognized at the latest Washington Township Board of Education meeting.

Freshmen Alexis Thomson, Ryan Sullivan and Rosa Yurkow built a “Buddy Bench Activity Center” as a part of their Girl Scout Silver Award project. The trio was honored at the Oct. 29 meeting.

The bench, which was gifted to Thomson’s alma mater, Birches Elementary School, serves as a landmark place to provide common ground for students. According to Birches principal Jessica Rose, the bench can flip and rotate into a table top, allowing one side to be used for seating. Several stools are stored underneath with games, activities and books which can be used by students during recess or free time.

“This bench and benches like it are needed in school yards to offset the increasing number of elementary students that are dealing with anxiety, depression and loneliness,” Rose said.

In other news:

• A hiring event is scheduled for Nov. 12 from 2 to 8 p.m. at the Eileen Abbott Central Administration Building. Positions available are as follows: special education teachers, bus drivers, transportations assistants, custodians, substitute nurses, food services workers, student assistants and playground aides. For more information, visit wtps.org.

• Board of education president Julie Kozempel brought up solar during the new business portion of the meeting. She said the board’s engineer gave a presentation about solar energy a few years ago and the board rejected the idea at the time. Kozempel thinks now is a good time to revisit it.

“A lot has changed in the solar community,” she said. “There are car ports that can generate energy. Our electric bill is several hundred thousand dollars per month. I think it’s worth the effort to look into this again and put it into committee and see where we can go with it.”

Board member Ginny Murphy said part of the reason why solar was rejected a few years ago was the spacing issue. She requested spacing be a topic of conversation when solar goes to a committee meeting.

• Board member Karen Garrison challenged the board to potentially cut back on new initiatives for teachers.

“When I go to committee meetings, they have wonderful programs and they want us to implement them and they’re all fantastic,” she said. “I think there’s a point where you have to say, ‘We can’t do it all.’ What I’m looking at is from the teacher’s point of view. If practice makes perfect, we never give teachers enough time to practice and we’re throwing another thing at them.”

Garrison believes the initiative fatigue could negatively affect morale. By cutting back on new initiatives, or picking the best of the best, it could help monetarily while improving morale.

• The next board of education work session is scheduled for Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Eileen Abbott Central Administration Building. This meeting is open to the public.