The Mount Laurel Township Board of Education presented an overview of its updated curriculum, announced the district’s eligibility for the state’s Preschool Expansion Grant (PEG), and introduced the new principal of Thomas E. Harrington Middle School, all at its August meeting.
The district’s revisions to the 2022-‘23 curriculum include changes to the social studies curriculum in grades K-8, which had not been updated since 2014. First grade social studies students will welcome a new student to their class from a foreign country and will be required to research cultures, traditions and customs in order to give that classmate a sense of belonging.
In seventh and eighth grades, social studies students will learn about contributions from the LGBTQ community throughout U.S. history. That integration will directly support the state Department of Education LGBTQ and Disabilities mandate for middle school, adding the inclusive curriculum to encourage diverse perspectives.
The full curriculum will be available to view on the district’s website within the coming weeks.
Superintendent George Rafferty’s district updates were highlighted by the announcement of a grant application for preschool funding, noted as the Preschool Expansion Grant (PEG).
“We’re very excited that we were notified by the department of education that Mount Laurel is eligible for preschool funding,” Rafferty said. “It is a grant, but the fact that we were notified that we were eligible to apply for it puts us in a very strong position to secure funding that will enable us to offer universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds in Mount Laurel.”
If awarded the grant, the district would begin to build resources and programs this year. The board has already submitted the application and will find out if funding has been awarded on Sept. 6.
Rafferty also introduced Drew Besler as the new principal of Thomas E. Harrington Middle School.
“(The board is) very happy and pleased that we reached the point in our summer with a successful candidate for principal of our middle school,” the superintendent said.
Besler has a bachelor’s in secondary education from LaSalle University and a master’s in educational leadership and administration from Rider University. He has been involved with public education for 20 years, 14 of them teaching English and coaching football at Ewing High School. He then served as assistant principal at Pemberton Township High School.
Besler empathized his gratitude at being selected and said he hopes to build rapport within the town.
“I don’t think you’ll really ever understand how appreciative I am for this opportunity,” he said. “But I promise to model that every single day when I walk into that building.
“I want to make as many relationships with the community, students and staff (as possible),” Besler added. “I cannot thank you enough.”
The next board of education meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at Harrington.