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The Year in Review: Looking back at Deptford

A lot happened this year in Deptford Township. There were extensive events for residents and all manner of leadership changes for both council and the school district. What happened in 2022 is sure to affect how 2023 turns out.

Municipal news

The year kicked off with the Deptford reorganization meeting on Jan. 3 that featured new members of council: Ken Barnshaw, Bill Lamb, Wayne Love and Phil Schocklin. Mayor Paul Medany and Deputy Mayor Tom Hufnell were sworn in by former Senate President Steve Sweeney and Congressman Donald Norcross.

“Reorganizations are ceremonial,” Medany said in an interview with The Sun. “It’s an opportunity for council members to thank everybody for the service this past year, especially this past year with the pandemic and F-3 tornado and everything else that happened in Deptford.”

Medany reflected on the township’s state of affairs and what it faces ahead.

“It’s a never-ending list of things to accomplish, and tax stabilization is always our top priority,” he said. “Since the pandemic started, we have followed all the CDC guidelines and complied with all the governor’s executive orders. That’s what we’re going to continue to do. 

“We have to protect the health of our employees, and then hopefully, we can impart some of that knowledge on to our residents.”

Accomplishing what Medany described started at the Feb. 7 council meeting, where multiple ordinances were adopted to help improve equipment used in public works’ projects. They included an ordinance that would appropriate $200,000 from capital surplus for heavy equipment used in those projects and $450,000 from the capital improvement fund to improve the equipment.

The most expensive ordinance was a $2.5-million measure designated for the completion of various capital improvements and the purchase of more equipment.

School safety in the township became a concern after the May murder of 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and was discussed at a September council meeting. 

“We’re extremely passionate about school safety,” Medany insisted. “We want to make sure that when kids are dropped off at school by their parents, that they feel they’re in a safe place. School safety is a joint effort with the school district, but the schools take the lead on it.

“It is the school’s obligation to provide security officers,’’ he added. “School security and the council operate separately from one another. It is a very passionate subject. I have seven grandkids going to Deptford schools. 

“We’re working on school security every day,” Medany added. “It has to be a top priority. Back when I went to school, these things weren’t even thought of.”

The police department began regular patrols at Deptford High School at the start of the school year; the building also has six School Resource Officers at a time on standby.

“An SRO (school resource officer) is a direct employee of the township police department and is trained in that capacity,” Medany explained. “A school security guard is typically armed and permitted to carry a firearm in the school. Typically, security guards are retired police officers, but that is not a requirement. And importantly, security guards are not employed by the township police department; they are under the employ of the school district.”

To better keep people informed about happenings in town, Medany promised regular videos on the township’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.

“We talk about the different events that happen in Deptford and the different places in town,” he noted. “One time, we showed people the mall, and next, we’ll do a video on leaf collection with a schedule of pickups and what to do with leaves.”


The Deptford Township Board of Education opened the year with a reorganization meeting of its own on Jan. 5. Three available seats were filled by Mark L. Getsinger, Laura Newcomb and James P. McDevitt for three-year terms on the board. McDevitt was also named the board’s vice president and Joe McKenna president. 

The Deptford High School boys basketball team won its first playoff game in 11 years in March, when it defeated Timber Creek 57-48 in the first round of NJSIAA SJ Group 3 tournament. 

“It felt real good to get this win,” said senior Virgil Scruggs. “We came up short in the first round of the TCC last year and then we fell short again this year. We just want it more this year. We want to keep striving.”

Also in March, the board of education found itself embroiled in a dispute with the Gloucester County Institute of Technology (GCIT) over the Deptford school district’s refusal to pay for the tuition and transportation of GCIT students, a move the institute claimed could impact hundreds. The school has a selection process that chooses students who wish to attend the school. 

Stacy Gray, a Deptford board member, claimed that GCIT promotes a non-diverse setting, with a selection process that decreases 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 pointed out.

“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.”

A letter dated Feb. 7 went to school Superintendent Arthur Dietz, with board president McKenna insisting Deptford’s school district “is responsible for tuition and transportation costs of any resident student admitted to the county vocational school.” The board refused the demands.

“They’re a public school, they take public money and therefore should be a free education,” said Dietz.

The board drew fierce backlash from students and parents alike who voiced their concerns at the March board of ed meeting.

“This school district is disgraceful, and you should all be ashamed of yourselves,” student Justin Green said to the board. “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.”

Deptford Middle School underwent numerous renovations during the summer designed to improve the school, including 16 new classrooms to make the school viable for sixth grade students, new HVAC units and upgrades to windows. The high school also saw its own renovations, including the addition of an emergency generator and a unit ventilator for better air conditioning.

The high school’s new transitional learning academy, designed as a place for special needs students to learn, was “substantially completed” by August.

“All of our special needs students used to be relegated to the New Sharon building,” said Dietz. “It was built in the 1800s. It’s an old, dingy building where we used to put all of our special education students.

“It was wrong; it should never have happened,” he acknowledged. “We just built them a brand-new state-of-the-art facility at the high school called the transitional learning academy. So now our special needs students will be able to interact with all the different classes. They’ll be able to do the theater, the cooking class, they’ll be able to participate in everything at the high school.”

The district came under fire again at the beginning of the 2022-’23 school year over issues with township buses, which were increasingly late picking up students. A manpower shortage meant the rest of the drivers had to transport middle- and high-school students at the same time, leading to vehicle overcrowding.

“Normally (the transportation department) picks runs in August, which gives us time to test out the routes ourselves and figure out the best route,” said Melanie Jones, a former bus driver who left in early September. “But this year, they were not picked until Sept. 2.”

Jones also claimed that the issues originally stemmed from within the transportation department, whose leaders are from towns like Vineland and Galloway, not Deptford, and that the department when she left was a “hostile work environment”.

“The route I was given, for instance, had me going through Divine Drive,” Jones explained. “But Divine Drive is a dirt road and there is no way I can drive a bus through there. I had been a bus driver for about 10 years, and I know to avoid that road. But a newer driver doesn’t know that it’s a dirt road, and when they go down that road, (it) causes issues with time.

“The drivers are doing everything they can and they’re getting the blame,” she added. “There are so many issues going on inside the transportation department that it’s just unreal.”

“We’ve raised the starting wages with bus drivers, and we provide a bonus for those who show up for all 180 school days,” said Sal Randazzo, the board’s coordinator of communication.  “We’ve been able to get some people, but other schools are trying to get drivers from the same pool of people.

“They’re not putting more people on buses than they’re supposed to,” he maintained. “Kids are also going to have to move their bags to make room for others. The issues with transportation right now are something that needs to be addressed.

Parents made their voices heard at the September board of ed meeting, where 60 to 70 people  crowded the small room at the board building. The buses – as of December – are now running as they once did.

The year closed out for the school district as it bid farewell to Dietz at the December board meeting. He announced in October that he would retire in January, so the December session  was his last as superintendent.

“I have very special memories of things that you did for my children that I know other people would not do,” board member Stacy Gray noted. “You are a very special educator and leader. I’m just gonna miss you, because I have never seen a person that is not discouraged or walks away from a challenge. You have a lot of courage when you come to that.”

Dietz became superintendent in 2018 and helped guide the district through the pandemic. He was also responsible for many of the 2022 renovations in the district.

Events and goodwill

April saw the opening of a new exhibit at the American History Museum in Deptford that featured artifacts from the 1940s. It was one of many exhibits the museum had in 2022. 

A big thing in Deptford this year was the surge in popularity for pickleball, a  smaller-scaled version of tennis that has been accessible through the township recreation department. The township has held pickleball tournaments whose proceeds benefit the Deptford Veterans Funds.

“I did not know about it until I was introduced to it after I made contact with South Jersey pickleball,” said Deptford Recreation Director Charlie Kirchner. “We started out with seven people in the program and have over 250 people playing.”

The Deptford police department resurrected its Citizens Police Academy to give people a look  at some of its work. It ran from September to November.

In November, the township received the We Value Our Veterans Award for the first time from Gov. Phil Murphy on Veterans Day.

“We were extremely proud of all the work we put in,” said Medany. “It’s an award for the whole community. We hope it brings attention to veteran causes like health care.”

Deptford events in 2022 included National Night Out, a food truck festival and the Christmas tree lighting.

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