At next month’s board of education meeting, members could make a decision that would permanently change district classrooms.
The board will be able to vote on privatizing the Tabernacle district’s paraprofessionals, a discussion that has caused parents, teachers and residents to protest at every board meeting since February. A required 90 day notice to the education association expires in the middle of this month.
At a May 10 meeting, several Tabernacle teachers and staffers spoke against privatization. Nicole Langton, a paraprofessional, told the board Tabernacle is her “family.”
“We treat every student like our own,” she said. “We celebrate their triumphs, offer support and comfort on the bad days, make lasting relationships and are able to watch them grow.
“You will not get the same from an outsourced company that brings people with no connection to Tabernacle or its students,” Langton added.
Ashley Kimble, a first grade teacher, grew up in Tabernacle. She said privatizing paraprofessionals would hinder the district’s success.
“Our schools have changed in many ways. We have had high administrative turnover, budget cuts and COVID,” she noted. “This board will soon decide our path. Let’s spend the money wisely and save our paras’ jobs.
“Our story and Tabernacle is not over. It’s just beginning.”
Budget cuts caused by state aid decreases and lower enrollment have forced the board to make difficult decisions, like consolidating school buildings. Privatizing paraprofessionals would allow the district to save money for other line items.
The district passed the 2021-‘22 budget at its April meeting; it includes a tax hike of one half-cent per dollar of property value. For the average assessed home in Tabernacle, that means taxes would increase by about $14 a year.
The budget does not account for the privatization of paraprofessionals, though the board has not yet made a decision.
Also at the May meeting was a presentation by Tabernacle’s green team, a group of staff members who work to make schools more sustainable. Tabernacle Elementary School is one of 23 in the state and the only one in Burlington County to receive a silver sustainability certificate from Sustainable New Jersey, the highest ranking given to schools. Olsen Middle School is certified bronze and the green team reported it will recertify the school this year.
The team recently received a grant for a portable hydroponic system and will purchase outdoor seating made from recycled soda tabs the group collected this year.
“We’re really excited about all the things we’re working on, and can’t wait to see what else has to come,” said Collaboratory teacher Brittany Murro, who serves on the team.
The next board of education meeting will be held on June 21 at 7 p.m.