At Board of Education Meeting, a Return to Normalcy
In advance of the school year, one parent expressed relief that the meeting was conflict-free.
For the first time since April, the Collingswood Board of Education held a speedy, largely procedural and sparsely attended public meeting Monday night.
There were no TV cameras, no emotional testimonials, no opaque allegations of wrongdoing. Elected officials outnumbered the crowd by a factor of nearly two to one. By comparison, it was almost ... boring.
And all that was just fine with Collingswood parent Nicole Powers.
“All the good we have here in our schools, I just felt so disheartened when I left here the last board meeting," she said. "This is not Collingswood. It disheartened me to see that this was what was displayed to the media when we have so much going on here."
Powers praised the board in general and Garfield School administrator Karen Principato specifically for their efforts to help keep her son up to speed with his educational requirements while he battled chronic illness last year.
"I’m not sure if we have a couple bad apples or we don’t," she said. "There’s so much good in our school district. I’m glad we’re back to the regular board meetings.
"That circus, I don’t know who it benefited, I don’t know who it was for, but I’m glad it’s over," Powers said.
Improving test scores, launching media academy, evaluating teachers
The biggest item on the lengthy agenda Monday night was that the district would be rolling out new aspects of its continuing literacy project in keeping with the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
Collingswood Superintendent Scott Oswald said the district would be supplementing its Readers' Workshop program with the launch of a corresponding Writers' Workshop.
"I previewed not-quite-the-final product a couple weeks ago, and it was outstanding," Oswald said.
The district also announced a handful of safety-net initiatives designed to give its struggling high school students a bit more support in improving test scores. Oswald called it a support program "to help those students who are struggling in their benchmarks gain more success."
The biggest of these projects is its three-year contract with the Camden County College-based Transition to College Program, which is designed to curb the number of high-school dropouts in the county. Every student enrolled in this program will cost the district $8,000 per year.
"If we have a student who is on the verge of dropping out of public school, this allows that student to gain not only high school credits to graduate, but some college credits along the way," Oswald said.
The board also received state approval for its 21st-Century Mass Media Academy public school choice project, which will pick up 10 incoming freshmen and 10 sophomore applicants in its first year.
Finally, the board announced that it had selected the company Teachscape to manage the rollout of its teacher evaluation pilot project, for which Collingswood was the lead grant award recipient in a collective bid package that includes the Merchantville and Audubon school districts.
Teachscape will earn $87,491 for its management of the project; the total amount awarded in the grant is $110,000.
Other items of note from Monday night's meeting:
- The board will hear a presentation from its financial auditor at its September 24 meeting.
- In its ever-expanding shared-services agreement with the Oaklyn public school system, the two districts will share the services of a child psychologist for the upcoming school year.
- The board swore in its student representatives for the coming school year: Ellie O'Neill of Collingswood, Jessica Super of Oaklyn and Anthony Sturgis of Woodlynne.
- No field trips this year for elementary school students* have yet been submitted to the Board for approval.
*CORRECTION: An earlier draft of this story incorrectly reported that the elementary schools would not be taking field trips in 2012-13, when they had not in fact submitted trips yet to the Board for approval in time for the Monday night meeting.