School spirit ran high at the Gloucester Township Public Schools Board of Education meeting on April 26, as teachers cheered on fellow educators who received Educator of the Year awards. Eleven teachers and four educational-service professionals across the school district received the awards from Gov. Phil Murphy. Angel Santiago, a teacher at Loring Flemming Elementary School, was named New Jersey State Teacher of the Year for 2020-2021.
Teachers who received the award last year but were unable to be recognized because of COVID will receive their awards in the classroom.
Board member Brian Hammel described the scene at the meeting during closing remarks.
“It’s really good to see the seats filled up; this is probably the largest group we’ve had for a meeting in quite some time,” he said.
Following the award distribution, Business Administrator Janice Grassia launched into a presentation of the district’s budget for the 2021-’22 school year. She reported that there would be no increase in the tax rate for the year; it will remain at 1.1734. Though the school tax levy and the net taxable valuation have also increased, the school tax rate has remained the same.
Grassia discussed budget achievements from last year, including full availability of Chromebooks for preschool through eighth grade and the expansion of the preschool program from 140 to 320 students, both funded by state aid. She also cited budget goals for 2021-’22 that include installing new security vestibules at elementary schools, continuing the replacement of aging fire alarms in school buildings, resurfacing the parking lot at Glendora Elementary School, maintaining all existing programs for district students from kindergarten through eighth grade, expanding after-school and summer programs to address learning gaps and developing a new math curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grade.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, discussions mainly centered on a resolution for the school district to join the Schools Health Insurance Fund (SHIF). Superintendent John Bilodeau said the move would make the district the 84th to be part of SHIF. In doing so, the district would switch from the 10 health-insurance plans offered by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield to a system where there is a choice between Aetna and AmeriHealth, with some 20 plans to choose from.
“Our expectation is that our monthly rates for employees would be advantageous compared to what the current rates are,” Bilodeau explained.
Although the plans are comparable, the superintendent has not yet seen the price-rate comparison between the different plans. As a whole, joining the SHIF will save the district money, and could potentially save employees money on their health insurance as well. Bilodeau also assured people that if the district doesn’t like the SHIF plan, they have 90 days to leave it.
In January, the School Employees’ Health Benefits Plan (SEHBP) began to offer three new plans. Joining the SHIF means township educators will have to review and compare insurance plans for the second time this year.
The resolution passed unanimously.
In other news:
- Policy items 9.3 B were tabled for further reading at the request of board member Jennifer O’Donnell.
The following teachers were recognized as Educator of the Year:
- Kim Camardo, Chews Elementary School
- Maryanna Capone, Erial Elementary School
- Kellie Rutter, J.W. Lilley Elementary School
- James Bellows, Loring Flemming Elementary School
- Noreen Palcko, Glendora Elementary School
- Renee Meland, Gloucester Township Elementary School
- Mary Lesch, Union Valley Elementary School
- Talease “Tammi” Jackson, CW Lewis Middle School
- Michelle Gasparovic, Glen Landing Middle School
- Trish Wagner, Ann Mullen Middle School.
The next board session has been rescheduled from May 17 to May 24 at Ann A. Mullen Middle School. The regular meeting will begin at 7 p.m.