Cooper Elementary School fifth grader Olivia Miller became the second recipient of the Heart of the District award at the township’s Nov. 14 board of education meeting.
The award was first granted in 2020 to Joel Fleisher, a retiree who worked at the New Jersey Department of Labor as supervisor of its welfare program and who made trips to Clara Barton Elementary twice a week to read to kindergarteners.
“The Heart of the District Award is periodically given to a Cherry Hill student or community member who demonstrates the heart of the Cherry Hill Public School district through upstanding character, devotion and caring that they may not be in the spotlight touches many and uplifts all,” Barbara Wilson, public information officer for the district, read from a document.
Although Miller’s teacher, Asia Brown, could not be in attendance, she did send remarks.
“Every day, Olivia arrives at school prepared and eager to learn,” Brown wrote. “She always maintains a positive attitude and demonstrates great perseverance, even during more complex activities. She displays respect and citizenship by helping others and ownership and compassion by being a great friend to classmates.”
Brown added that her student – among other things – acknowledges her mistakes and corrects them without being coerced, shows kindness and cooperation by collaborating with peers and helps younger kids at lunch and recess.
“Olivia always puts her best foot forward and displays outstanding character every day.”
Board members also highlighted grants the district has received and is approving, including a Trees for Schools Grant of $250,000 to fund buying trees, site planning, preparation watering and monitoring over a three-year period.
The district also approved a $26,000 grant from the New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development meant to “bring together employers, industry associations, labor unions, education institutions and workforce development partners to provide students, adult learners and workers with the education and career pathways they need to find new careers to earn competitive wages and to ensure that employers have access to a highly skilled innovative workforce to meet critical labor market needs.”
The district was also awarded a preschool expansion grant to cover at least 40% of new construction costs to add classrooms at Malberg Early Childhood Center and Kilmer Elementary School. The district had applied for $5.7 million, but awaits information on specific amounts.
“In total, that makes $9.5 million new funding to the district just in the past month,” said board member Adam Greenbaum.
To help improve communication with the community, the district will host an open and livestreamed dialogue at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30, at Malberg regarding the preschool grant. It’s a different format than what’s usually allowed for public comments, where residents speak but may not get a response from board members until a meeting is ended, if at all.
“We will provide family and community members information about the preschool program, what it is, what it looks like, our provider sites, transportation – all of your burning questions will either be answered or I will have my notebook and I will write them down and get answers as best as I can,” said board member Gina Winters.
She also apologized for the delay in the state announcement that came after a board meeting and before a packed committee meeting session.
“There was no way to do this quicker,” Winters explained. “But I’m hopeful that holding a preschool community meeting as its own meeting, as the topic deserves, and having a format that’s not like this, where we can have more of a dialogue with community members and especially families who are applying for preschool expansion spots, that that would be a great way for people to get information.”
The next board of education meeting will be on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 6:30 p.m.