The Cherry Hill board of education has approved the recommendation to move Russell Knight Elementary School students to Rosa Middle School rather than Carusi Middle.
The move was approved on second reading. But a number of parents spoke out against the change, citing further inequities between the three schools due to Knight being the most economically and academically advantaged Carusi sending school, and because the move would put Rosa closer to capacity than Carusi.
Two residents, however, spoke in support of the changes, acknowledging that there weren’t many good options but that action needed to be taken to move forward.
“I know this is a really tough issue for the board,” said resident Pat McCargo, whose children and grandchildren attended district schools. “It always has been, but my concern is that the rhetoric is making it with racial overtones and that really upsets me, and it makes (Cherry Hill High School) West sound like it is a substandard school. And I can assure you it is not.”
Board member Corrien Elmore Stratton shared McCargo’s sentiments.
The issue was addressed again at the meeting during Superintendent Dr. Joseph Meloche’s comments, when he acknowledged that the district had more schools on the west side of town in the 1970s and ‘80s, but they were closed due to low enrollment. The Hinchman Elementary School site, for instance, is where AristaCare senior housing sits today.
“Of all the schools that have been closed, I so wish we still owned Hinchman Elementary School,” Meloche said. “ … Everything on that west side of Cherry Hill, where there is not another school that exists, that impacts what enrollment looks like.
“There is always going to be a difference among the middle schools and elementary schools in terms of what it looks like,” he added. “We are never going to have schools that are going to be identical mirrored images unless we move children every single year. That’s not real, that’s not practical, that’s not healthy to go through.”
During public comments, four students from Kilmer Elementary School addressed the March resignation of Principal Dr. Scott Hogan, while parents praised him for bringing a liveliness and positivity to Kilmer in his short time there. But it was also noted that Kilmer has had seven principals since 2008. According to Public Information Officer Barbara Wilson, the reasons for the departures are personal, so the district would not comment on that.
“When a new principal comes in, there is a time of transition where a relationship of trust needs to be developed,” said Kristi Badran, president of Kilmer’s PTA. “We have not had that chance in the four years that I have been there to establish that amount of trust.”
In other news:
- The board heard Start Strong test results that showed a general decrease in the number of students needing strong support in math across all grade levels, with the exception of geometry and seventh grade.
- An update on the 2023-’24 district budget showed a breakdown of about 53 percent for salaries; 2 percent for capital projects; 20 percent for benefits; and 25 percent for other items, mainly transportation expenses.
- Kindergarten registration is now open, with one day for each school to have in person sign-ups at the Arthur Lewis Administration Building. Visit the chclc.org website for details on dates and times.
- A board committee meeting on the areas of policy and legislation and curriculum and instruction will be held Feb. 6, from 6 to 8 p.m. A business and facilities and strategic planning session will be held on Feb. 7, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The meetings will all be held at the administration building.
The next board of education session will be Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 6:30 p.m.