The Voorhees board of education held a regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 23 that was expected to reveal the name of a new school superintendent. Instead, Board Vice President Rachel Van Aken announced her resignation.
Van Aken’s decision, effective immediately, comes after a two-year stint in the position.
“This decision comes with mixed emotions,” she said. “Happily, my family has decided to move [out of state] where we will now be closer to relatives. However, it is my dedication and service that made this decision so very difficult.
“It has been a challenging but yet rewarding experience,” Van Aken added. “It’s been my honor to serve the children of Voorhees township public schools.”
Van Aken also echoed a statement made at the meeting by Board President Monica Watson, who cited challenges the board has faced while navigating school closures and reopenings. Many residents have used the meetings as an opportunity to express ill will toward the district for its handling of the pandemic.
“While healthy debate and discussions on all topics are encouraged, there have been recent attempts to vilify board members,” Watson said. “That cannot be tolerated. We live together, we educate our children together …
“Do not allow your passion to cloud your judgment,” she added. “There is a way to have healthy discourse on controversial topics.”
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to challenge some of our community members to simply do better,” said Van Aken.
The meeting also saw the reelection of Dr. Scott Falk, who joined the board in 2020 but resigned. He will take an empty seat on the board that opened when its occupant was removed earlier this school year.
Watson also gave an update on the ongoing superintendent search. It is unknown if acting superintendent Michael Redfearn is a candidate for the position; the applicants are still confidential at this point.
“Our goal is to keep the public up to date,” Watson promised. “This search has taken place over a five-month period beginning in October and concluding with the selection of a final candidate on Jan. 29.
“This month [February] has involved contract negotiations, and tonight, [the board] will vote on the contract being sent to the Camden County executive board for review and approval,” she added.
The board has made it clear that the public’s input has been vital for the search process, along with the help of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates (HYA), a consulting search team.
“We appreciate how accommodating HYA has been during the process, offering online surveys, multiple interview times and conducting focus groups to accommodate residents’ schedules,” Watson noted.
“The information gathered from these interactions assisted the board in developing a leadership profile and selection criteria that match our community, meeting the unique needs of students,” she added.
An announcement date for the new superintendent has not been determined, but Voorhees residents can expect to know sometime this month.