The Mount Laurel Board of Education recognized student accomplishments, made a statement regarding ongoing negotiations with the Mount Laurel Education Association (MLEA) and approved a resolution to make the school district a “stigma-free” – all at its regular meeting on March 22.
The following students were recognized for their achievements in the 2021-’22 school year:
- Burlington County Principals and Supervisors Association 8th Grade Award: Christina Soule
- Burlington County School Boards Association 8th Grade Dialogue: Owen Boyle
- All South Jersey Orchestra: Erin Lee, Malia Marchlik, Gwendolyn Teske and Anushka Pal
- Olympic Conference Honors Band and All South Jersey Band: Jessica Yao, Kristen You and Zeppelin Metz.
School Superintendent George Rafferty thanked the students for their continued hard work, emphasizing the difficulties they’ve overcome amid the pandemic.
“I think it’s really exciting to take some time now to recognize some of the great things done by our student body,” he said. “Oftentimes, we hear about the negative impact that the pandemic has had on everyone, in particular students, so it’s nice to see that we have students that are doing so well.
“So thank you all, we’re very proud of you, keep up the great work.”
The board also approved the “stigma-free” zone resolution to support student mental health. Board President Danielle Stuffo read the board’s statement on the resolution.
“Mount Laurel Township School District is committed to creating public interest and open dialogue about stigmas, raising awareness of the disease of mental illness and creating a culture wherein residents who have the disease of mental illness feel supported by the community and feel free to seek treatment for the disease without fear of a stigma, so recovery can begin,” Stuffo read.
During the public portion of the meeting, several teachers voiced their concerns regarding ongoing negotiations between the board and their union, MLEA, with many of them citing increased staff workload as a result of staff shortages and added responsibilities caused by COVID.
Stuffo followed with a statement from the board on the matter.
“We want the public and employees to know that we appreciate, respect and value our schools and education you provide,” she read. “We recognize how our teachers move mountains every day for students. We especially know how hard you worked over the past two years.”
The statement also said a negotiations committee is working in good faith toward a fair and equitable settlement with the MLEA, while enabling the district to remain competitive in attracting new talent. Stuffo denied recent claims that the board had rejected terms for a tentative agreement with teachers and school staff.
“The board’s negotiation team offered to settle for a three-year term,” the statement said. “The association said that it could not accept the board’s offer and the next step was fact-finding with an impartial fact-finder. The settling percentages would have been consistent with the Burlington County average for a three-year term, with salary increases about 3 percent. The board regrets that the association declined the offer.”
In other news:
- The board presented its tentative 2022-’23 district budget; it can be viewed on the district’s website.
The board approved the 2022-2023 tentative budget resolution and the school calendar for that same time period.