HomeMoorestown NewsMoorestown school officials host town hall

Moorestown school officials host town hall

Tensions rise as parents address communication issues.

CHRISTINE HARKINSON/The Sun: The Community House of Moorestown was the site of a heated town-hall discussion between Superintendent of Schools Michael Volpe and community members on April 12.

Moorestown’s school Superintendent Michael Volpe and school board President Maurice Weeks held a town hall at the Community House of Moorestown on April 12 that focused on communication issues but was neither livestreamed nor recorded.

High-school seniors Laila Rehman and Colin Llewellyn facilitated the evening and Weeks, who is in his fifth year with the board, explained what he and Volpe hoped to accomplish by having an event such as a town hall to open lines of communication.

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“I think there are areas where we work well with the community, but I think there are things we can do better,” he said. “Certainly, the events of the last two years (have) shown more of a light on that. Frankly, there was a schism in our community, one unlike any I’ve seen in the 46 years that I’ve been here.”

“We want to continue to do things that give the community an opportunity to engage in a dialogue with the board,” he added. “ … To hear thoughts, hear our feelings about things, our processes, better understand all of that. In my term in leadership, those are the things I want to focus on.”

But discussions between the two men and the community quickly became heated.

“You guys dance and pat each other on the back all the time,” said resident Bill Blanche. “What you’re not addressing is what we, the public school, not government school … what we want for our kids.”

Resident Marcella Clark explained how she felt it was unfair that submitted questions for the event were prescreened.

“I did not like that, and it was obvious that if I asked something that you don’t like, you weren’t going to answer it,” she said. “I did not like that, that they were cherry-picked questions, and that bothered me.”

Clark also said she didn’t like having to submit questions ahead of time.

“To me, that’s a fixed game,” she noted. “I don’t think that’s fair, because that’s not a real town hall meeting, if all the questions are preplanned. That’s unfair to the residents.”

Volpe addressed concerns parents may have about student-learning standards and adopted curriculum guides that were approved by the state in 2020 and can be found at mtps.com.

“We are a public school,” the superintendent said. “We teach the New Jersey student-learning standards. We don’t make them, the state does. But we can interpret how they are delivered to students and we have done that effectively.”

Volpe went on to explain two school board policies, one of which deals with controversial issues. That policy says such issues can be taught, but should allow for parent input. The second policy allows parents to contact a school principal if they object to the teaching of a particular subject and to request an alternative.

He also addressed how the school district and the community can work together moving forward.

“If you haven’t had your questions answered and you want a one-on-one meeting with me, shoot me an email,” Volpe said. “If the phone (is) not working, my email address is there (and) that works, too.

“ … I will sit down with you and I will answer your questions.”

Volpe can be reached at mvolpe@mtps.us.

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