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Haddonfield superintendent addresses substitute teacher shortages

Staff dress policy, bias-related acts regulation also addressed

After several rounds of discussion, the Haddonfield Board of Education introduced a revised dressing and grooming policy for staffers on first reading at its Dec. 8 meeting.

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The new policy is intentionally broader with regard to what is allowed and recommends that teachers dress professionally. In an effort to increase transparency, three new regulations were also listed on the agenda for review by the board, even though they don’t vote on or approve them. 

They included a regulation on adopting textbooks that outlines recommended procedures for how they should be selected. A textbook selection committee would first be formed by the principal with board approval. The new committee would then examine potential textbooks over the summer. 

The regulation notes that each committee member should submit his or her evaluation of a book to the principal or chairperson before completing a form that would go to the superintendent.  The form would then be forwarded to the board of education’s curriculum committee to discuss  whether the book in question should be approved.

“Language was added to clarify that no textbook will be implemented before the board approves it,” explained Lynn Hoag, chair of the policy committee.

During his meeting report, Assistant Superintendent Gino Priolo reviewed the process for piloting, picking and implementing a new math curriculum for 2024. He also announced this year’s Governor’s Educator of the Year and Educational Support Persons of the Year. The latter included the following staff members:

  • Michele Barranger, Haddonfield Middle School nurse
  • Steve Fluharty, Haddonfield Memorial High School counselor
  • Leigh Anne Gaffney, Central, grade 3
  • Mary Hall, Tatem, grade 5
  • Sophie Nelson, media specialist, Elizabeth Haddon and Tatem
  • Barbara O’Shaughnessy, central educational assistant
  • Daneen Scott, middle-school special education
  • Ron Smith, high-school science faculty
  • Miranda Yaniak, Elizabeth Haddon, grade 3

During his report, school Superintendent Chuck Klaus explained a resolution on the district bias policy and addressed the shortage of substitute teachers locally and nationwide. As discussed at prior board meetings, there is an updated bias-related acts policy that would require the district to report such acts to the police – without exception.

“(However,) the law enforcement MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) gives the superintendent discretion based on the severity and nature of the act, so they are in conflict,” Klaus explained.  

The resolution gives Klaus the authority to speak on behalf of the district and potentially challenge the statute.

“This is what we believe, that fundamentally that statute that says ‘Call the police on children’ is wrong,’” the superintendent added.

The substitute teacher shortage Klaus addressed has been caused by strong demand since COVID that has not abated.

“Finding a leave-of-absence person right now is nearly impossible, because teaching jobs are available, so nobody’s going to work for a leave-of-absence job if they can find permanent work somewhere else,” Klaus pointed out. “Complicating that even further is that the certification process is very challenging.”

He noted that some of the challenges are financial because “teachers are leaving districts to go for the raise.”

“A big part of our budget every year is breakage,” Klaus said, defining the term. “ … When people retire, they’re making X amount, top of the scale. We hire someone right out of college, their salary is $20,000 less. 

“That breakage from people helps pay bills,” he added. “We don’t have breakage. We’re going to have to offer people more money, which is a budget issue, which is bad, and it’s also an issue because I’ve been here for 12 years, and you’re paying them as much as me …  So it’s also a morale thing.”

The board also thanked member David Sieddell – who will not run for reelection – for his nine years of service. He will be replaced next month by Mike Nuckols.

During the meeting’s public comment, Haddonfield resident Dr. Susan Hoch advocated teaching about transgender students from a biological point of view, based on research that shows the brain reflects the gender with which an individual is identified.

The next board of education meeting is Jan. 5 at 7 p.m.


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