Among subjects at the Deptford board of education’s regular meeting on March 29 was a current dispute between the school district and the Gloucester County Institute of Technology (GCIT), as the former’s refusal to pay for the transportation and tuition of students who enroll in the county vocational program is set to impact hundreds.
While GCIT is a public school, students have to apply in order to be accepted into one of its vocational programs. Board member Stacy Gray noted that, saying the school not only promotes a non-diverse setting, but has a selection process that decreases township diversity statistics.
“Even though they told me it’s a blind process, I told them that they need to review the process that would affect students from not attending, because the population is not reflective of the demographic in the county, and the process they’re using goes against closing the achievement gap,” Gray said.
“Perhaps if they had a different process, then they would have seats filled in the school that would be more reflective of our county population.”
In a Feb. 7 letter from the Department of Education addressed to Superintendent Arthur Dietz and board of education President Joseph McKenna, it was stated that Deptford’s school district “is responsible for tuition and transportation costs of any resident student admitted to the county vocational school.”
But the board of education is continuing its refusal, including Dietz, to whom the letter was addressed.
“They’re a public school, they take public money, and therefore should be a free education,” he said.
There was public backlash during the meeting, with the board facing multiple parents and students who expressed their concerns.
“This school district is disgraceful, and you should all be ashamed of yourselves,” student Justin Green said, referring to the district’s minimal response to the Department of Education letter. “The acceptance process is blind; GCIT does not know what school the students applying there are from.”
“So I’ll tell you what I’m worried about: I’m worried about the students that are accepted into programs that you intend to withhold money from,” he continued, addressing the board. “Based on the letter you sent out to scare them, they now have to make a decision on whether to go to the school they were accepted into, or stay in a school district with a school board that focuses more on competition between two schools than on the education of our students.”
Parents of middle-schoolers also were concerned that they would not be able to afford GCIT without the district’s funding. The board assured them they do not expect parents to pay out of pocket for their child’s education, no matter which school their child attends.
The board said its intention is for GCIT to receive funding elsewhere, alluding to the $12 million grant GCIT received in September from the Secure Our Children’s Bond Act.
The next Deptford school board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 12.