The Mount Laurel Fire Department (MLFD) commended Parkway Elementary School and its community at the Feb. 28 board of education meeting, where members also cited a Fleetwood Elementary music teacher.
Before the presentations, Superintendent Dr. George Rafferty reminded parents that the district is accepting applications for its free, full-day pre-K program through Wednesday, March 15.
Rafferty explained that since the district does not currently have the classroom capacity to serve every possible kindergarten student, a lottery will be put in place for the preschool program.
“If selected, (your child) will be the lucky recipient of free, full-day preschool from September through June of the next school year,” Rafferty said. “We’re excited about that, and we look forward to our second school year being able to offer free, full day pre-K to our community.”
Larry Fox, deputy chief of operations for the fire department, and Brian McVey, its fire marshal, presented a certificate of commendation to Parkway students and staff for their efforts during a fire at the school on Dec. 22.
“On behalf of the board, I just want to say how much we appreciate all you do for us,” Rafferty said to the fire department. “You’re there when we need you at our most dire time. You keep us safe, serve our community very gallantly and bravely, and put your life on the line for all of us, and we really appreciate that.”
Fox explained that the situation was the most serious school fire he’s experienced at the department, though no one was injured.
“The fire at Parkway was a significant event,” he noted. “In my 25 years with the fire department, we’ve never had an incident that substantial at a school.”
Fox cited Parkway students and staff for promptly evacuating after the fire started.
“All of the time and energy we’ve spent being community partners and educating the kids and teachers worked,” Fox remarked. “I can’t tell you how pleased I was reflecting back on it.”
The fire department presented Parkway with a Class 7 award, given to an agency the department believes has exhibited exemplary behavior. Lou Conti, principal of Parkway, accepted the award on behalf of the school and expressed his gratitude to the fire department.
“I cannot thank you enough,” he said. “Everyone was running out of the building as your crew was going into it. So, I want to thank you for keeping everyone safe and maintaining open lines of communication with myself, Dr. Rafferty, and (School Business Administrator Robert) Wachter that day.
“It really was a true team effort,” Conti added. “The students and staff rose to the occasion and it made me so proud. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for keeping everyone safe.”
Dr. Melissa “Missy” Strong, a master music teacher at Fleetwood Elementary, was cited by the board for her New Jersey Music Education Association’s (NJMEA) 2023 Master Music Teacher Award.
“The award is such a distinct honor,” Rafferty explained. “We’re proud of you for many reasons, because we have the opportunity to work with you every day, so we know how lucky we are to have you teach our students.
“Being recognized by the (NJMEA) shows that we are not the only ones that know how grateful we are to have you with us to teach music and make a difference in the lives of our students,” he added. So tonight, we’d like to recognize you for earning the distinguished award and to just let you and our board know what great people we have in Mount Laurel.
“We really appreciate you and are so proud. Congratulations.”
The next board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 28, at Harrington Middle School.