A heated exchange between Deptford board of education members at their Jan. 4 reorganization meeting overshadowed swearing-in ceremonies and recognition of a past board member’s work.
The meeting was proceeding normally when board President Joe McKenna – who was appointed to his role at the session – began reading the personnel section, asking for the recommendation of the acting superintendent for approval of that section.
That’s when board member Stacy Gray took issue with items from that section, she alleged were removed from an earlier draft of the meeting agenda.
“I just want the board to know that I disagree with pulling those items, because they are detrimental to the academic advancement of our students,” she said. “Basic skill teachers need to be in every elementary building. There has been a COVID slide of learning, in addition to normal interventions that need to happen, especially in those years.
“Good Intent (Elementary) School has not had a single basic skills teacher,” Gray added. “From my 30 years of experience in education, I can tell you right now, presently in a (grades) three to six building, we have five. They have not one. We all received an email from a parent who was very upset, rightly so. I was not aware there was not a basic skills instructor in that building. If we’re approving other personnel items, I don’t understand why this is not there.”
Fellow board member Linda Rosser had similar concerns.
“We are here to provide educational opportunities for all our students,” she observed. “From our most advanced to our most needy. I spent many hours working with one of my grandchildren, with reading, and I do understand from talking with teachers recently that children are starting to catch up.”
The parent who sent the email referred to by Gray, Rose Tucker, was at the meeting and spoke during its public comment section.
“My biggest concern is not only about my student,” she noted. “There are other students that have qualified or identified as needing BSI (basic skills instruction). Their parents have not been notified. They did not know we didn’t have it.”
Her comments were noted by McKenna, and after Rosser finished speaking, things began to heat up. Gray demanded to know why her question was not getting answered right away, while McKenna wanted to focus on the meeting agenda. Eventually, Gray got her answer: It was revealed that acting superintendent Kevin Kanauss had pulled the issue from the agenda.
“I was asked to pull it from the agenda,” said Kanauss, who was then asked if the action was requested by the personnel committee. Eventually, McKenna had to use his gavel to restore order.
The board then recognized Ruth Logue’s service: Her term ended at the end of 2022 and her family was there to witness the moment. Two board members, Carol Gioia and Ed Kalinowski, were sworn in by Mayor Paul Medany; they won their seats in the November election.
A third individual, Frank Scambia, was also elected to the board but was not able to attend the meeting. He will be sworn in at the next board session.