New board leaders refocus on quality after initial COVID moves

President, V.P. want to make Medford education more well-rounded

Medford’s board of education had to make difficult decisions in 2020, but  despite pressure from the pandemic, its new leaders feel prepared to push forward in the new year.

The board elected Katherine Santamore, a member in her 10th term, as president. Heather Foster, who joined the board in 2019, was sworn in as vice president. Both are district teachers. Santamore teaches English at Rowan College at Burlington County and Camden County Community College and Foster teaches eighth grade in Moorestown. 

“We have quite a bit ahead of us,” Santamore said. “We’re very hopeful that things will get back to normal.”

Santamore joined the board 27 years ago because of concerns that the district didn’t have enough commitment to the arts. Now, as Medford’s drama program excels, her goal is to make sure every educational sphere grows. 

“Like the Girl Scouts said, ‘Good, better, best,’” Santamore noted.

She and Foster are proud of the things they’ve accomplished on the board, from building an educational fund to improving Medford’s standardized test scores.

“Being able to give back to the community was my main goal in running for a position on the BOE,” Foster said. “Our reputation of excellence is something that I am very proud of, and I am happy to be able to play a role in maintaining and, more importantly, continuing to improve what we have. 

“This investment in our children is invaluable.”

During the pandemic, Medford teachers have spoken out at board meetings, making passionate pleas to consider the safety of students and teachers before making reopening decisions. 

“It was very touching, seeing the little ones with the masks. It brings tears to your eyes,” Santamore revealed. “The parents have been so supportive, considering how difficult this system is for them. The parents and the teachers and administration are carrying this huge load. I don’t know how they do it.”

Parents of students in the Medford Township School District have spoken at several recent board meetings, asking members to reopen schools for five day, in person instruction. 

Foster said juggling high standards of education with regional and state health guidelines has been difficult for the board. Staff and student safety is her highest priority.

As the board begins to finalize its 2021 budget, Foster, who serves on the finance committee, looks forward to making the district’s resources work as efficiently as possible.

“Understanding the intricacies of school budgeting has been an extremely rewarding process,” she stated. “I am committed to ensuring that we provide a quality education that meets the individual needs of our diverse learners while maintaining responsible spending.”

Santamore looks forward to potential growth in the district as more homes are built in Medford. 

“We have high scores, we have theater, we have jazz, we have music,” she said. “We work in character development, and I think that’s admirable.

“I’m looking forward to things going back to normal, because we’re always on this trajectory. I just can’t wait to get back on that track of quality education.”