Lenape school district will fight to restore state funding

Birnbohm to meet with state treasury department in coming weeks

The Lenape Regional High School District is facing more scheduled state aid cuts this school year, but Superintendent Carol Birnbohm will continue the fight to maintain funding.

“It defies logic that our elected officials will blindly continue to schedule cuts to schools,” she said at a board of education meeting on Jan. 20.

Last year, the state cut funding for the district by more than 4 percent, a decrease of more than $1 million. As the district prepares a budget for the 2021-’22 school year, it has to consider unforeseen costs accumulated from the pandemic.

Birnbohm will meet with the New Jersey Treasury Department soon to discuss the struggles Lenape Regional faces.

“Billions of dollars are being provided to other industries in the form of bailouts, incentives and tax relief,” Birnbohm told the board. “It is a no-brainer, really, in a year where we need our government officials to allocate more resources for students.”

During the meeting, Marlton resident John Jenks asked the board to consider bringing back students for five-day instruction, claiming no one  under 17 had died from COVID.

“Summarizing science, COVID is not a concern for kids,” he noted. “Numerous researchers have shown that virtual and remote learning is substandard education. I just wonder how people can sleep at night knowing this.”

He also suggested the board investigate how COVID has impacted adult employees.

“That’s really what we need to know: What is the teacher or the school employee morbidity rate?” Jenks asked. “What is an acceptable morbidity rate for those working at the school?”

Birnbohm responded, noting the district has brought back struggling student populations, like English as a second language learners; special needs students; and the district’s Transition to Adulthood program. 

“I appreciate your passion for education for our students,” she told Jenks. “I’m not sure if you are aware, we are back in school. We’re working within the regulations that are provided to us, and we will continue to advocate for bringing our students back as safely as possible.”

Birnbohm announced the district is identifying students who are struggling during the pandemic to offer them additional academic support.

“We recognize that the pandemic has made it more difficult for students to maintain their performance levels,” she explained. “There are a number of other students who are struggling socially, emotionally and academically. We are eager for the day we can bring back all of our students.”

Also at the meeting, Secretary Constance L. Stewart recognized district  members as part of School Board Recognition Month, enacted this year by the state school board.

“We’re really truly very lucky that Lenape Regional High School District has such dedicated members,” Birnbohm acknowledged.

The board celebrated the work of students at Lenape who collected more than 1,000 toys to donate to Toys for Tots last month. At Cherokee, 14 students were accepted into local schools during an instant decision day, and each student received between $3,000 and $28,000 in scholarships.

Shawnee television broadcasting teacher Brian Pistone was recognized for his partnership with Medford Memorial Middle School’s television program to create how-to videos for students. Seneca teacher Rebecca Ellis and Kevin Dybalski were praised for their work creating a four-year automotive technology certification program.