More than 40 residents and students in Cherry Hill decried forced transfers and reassignments of beloved teachers at the township’s April 26 board of education meeting.
Teachers were given notice of reassignments on April 13 as part of an annual process that happens before the open-transfer period, when teachers interested in other schools or positions can request a change.
“The hard part with that is that there’s really not a way to announce publicly that this is going to happen,” said Superintendent Dr. Joseph Meloche.
Meloche acknowledged that while forced transfers happen every year – internally in the same school or externally between schools – they were less frequent during the pandemic. But there are now more teachers being transferred at the secondary level.
“As a community, we spent a lot of time talking about change,” Meloche said. “It’s something we take very seriously. We look at each individual teacher, where each makes the most impact, not to take away the success, but to improve situations for all students at all schools.”
Because the transfers/reassignments have not been formally introduced to the board and are a personnel issue, Meloche said, the district is limited in what it can say about them, including which teachers are affected and the schools to which they will move.
But word of mouth and online petitions that explained certain situations enabled speakers at the meeting to talk in depth and oppose specific transfers, including those of Cherry Hill East AP history teacher Tom Rosenberg to Carusi Middle School and East math teacher Susan Nicolazzo-Dollarton to Cherry Hill West.
East 2010 graduate Margaret Gammie shared how Rosenberg’s passion and dedication for history inspired her to become a high-school history instructor herself and how his skills are particularly suited to AP classes and not those at the middle-school level.
West senior Kieran Corson described how one teacher burst into tears in the middle of class upon hearing she was being transferred after 22 years.
“At (Cherry Hill High School) West, our teachers are more than just educators or people who force us to do our homework or take tests,” Corson noted. “Our teachers are important people to us that impart the wisdom of all their years of teaching, of all the different things they’ve learned throughout their lives that they can show us through their education.”
East students who spoke previously with Meloche about the transfers acknowledged that while they understand reallocation of resources is necessary, the reassignments will have a negative impact on the community. They requested more communication and transparency on the topic moving forward, while student and government representative Aidan Rood said a walkout is being discussed as a protest.
Kim Achilly is an AP biology and human anatomy teacher at East who is being transferred to West.
“I built the AP bio program and the human anatomy program from the ground up,” Achilly said. “ … If you say those transfers are for me to bring those strengths to another school, that’s one thing, However, I’ve been told I won’t be part of those programs at (Cherry Hill High School) West.
“I’m being moved and placed into courses where I have no interest, no expertise and no passion.”
Meloche explained that the forced transfers originated with the administration and not with the board. He expects the transfers to be proposed in July, when the board can decide whether or not to vote on them.
The full board meeting is available on the school district’s YouTube channel. The next meeting will take place on May 10 at 6:30 p.m.