CHPS reflects on 2019 ‘state of the district’

With 2019 winding down, Cherry Hill Public School officials took time to reflect at last Tuesday’s board of education meeting.

Barbara Wilson, the district’s public information officer, delivered the annual State of the District presentation, an overview of where the district currently stands as well as plans for the road ahead.

Each year, the district publishes a State of the District booklet that takes a deep dive into the district’s demographics, graduation rates, test scores and other factors. The booklet is available online at the Cherry Hill Public Schools’ website, but the district also distributes copies to town hall, the Cherry Hill Public Library and local real estate offices. 

Wilson provided a condensed overview of the booklet’s highlights at the board meeting. As the 11th largest school district in the state, Cherry Hill schools are also one of the largest employers in the community, with approximately 1,700 staff across 19 schools and 20 buildings. There are currently 11,004 students enrolled.

The district’s demographics have seen some slight shifts since 2016, according to Wilson. The numbers from the annual New Jersey Schools Performance Report indicate the district’s Hispanic population has increased from 11 to 13 percent and the Asian population  from 17 to 18 percent, while the white population has decreased from 61 to 57 percent.  African-American and multi-racial populations have remained unchanged at 8 percent and 4 percent respectively. 

The native languages spoken by district students have also seen a decrease, from 72 native languages to 69. But the number of bilingual students has increased from 2,274 to 2,283 and the number of English language learners went from 383 to 416. 

In terms of academic achievement, the district has a 94 percent graduation rate as of 2018, above the state average of 91 percent. Average SAT scores were above the state average of 542 in reading and writing and 543 in math, with Cherry Hill students averaging 576 in reading and writing and 578 in math.

The district currently offers 21 Advanced Placement courses that Wilson called “phenomenal” compared with surrounding districts. This fall, 10 students were National Merit semifinalists and 41 were National Merit commended students. 

As it stands, Cherry Hill Public Schools have the National District of Character designation through 2023, and several individual schools in the district have been named National Schools of Character, with some even earning the title multiple times.

Wilson said one of the biggest points of pride for the district this year was the implementation of full-day kindergarten, the culmination of a year’s work. On a district-wide level, other notable recent initiatives have included pursuit of fair funding, this year’s safety and security forum and broadening of the district’s communications tools. 

The district has a variety of capital reserve projects slated for the 2019-2020 school year:  the Cherry Hill High School East auditorium wall project, roofing at several schools, the East masonry wall project, security renovations at both East and West, field improvements and stage accessibility projects. 

Wilson reported that the district this year is carrying out the recommendations of the district ad hoc committee. 

“We’ve invited the community in to our research and planning process to address our most pressing needs,” Wilson said of the committee. 

In response, board President Eric Goodwin said the state of the district reflected “great results.” 

“I think we should really be proud as a district of where we’re at,” he added.

The next Cherry Hill Board of Education meeting will be at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 17, in the Malberg Administration Building.