Though the 2000-2001 school year was nearly at an end at the time of its June 19 meeting, the PW Board of Education was already looking ahead to the next school year, discussing potential class size, inspections of buildings for safety, and announcing many changes in District personnel. In addition, two outgoing school board members, Alan Baer and Dean Nardone, were formally recognized and thanked for their service.
Baer and Nardone were lauded by BOE President Richard Sussman and Superintendent Dr. Albert Inserra. Sussman said that Nardone was "a prime motivating force in reopening Salem" as well as serving on many committees; he thanked both outgoing BOE members for their hard work. "It is hard to find a higher form of volunteerism than serving on the board," said Inserra. "From the beginning, it was easy to tell they were people who would rise above the fray and do the right thing, in the very best interest of the kids. I thank them from the bottom of my heart."
Also thanked were the outgoing HSA and PTA presidents. "We are starting a new tradition tonight," Sussman said, referring to the formal recognition of these leaders by the BOE. "They have worked hard and really helped the board," he said. Those recognized included Corrinne Manzione, Debbie Bluver, Lisa Davidoff, Jeanne Talcott, Ellen Fox, Marie Young, Anne Marie Kaufman, and Michelle Tashman.
The school board focused next on a preliminary discussion of the number of classes that at this time, will be needed at elementary levels come fall. It was made clear, however, that no lasting decisions would be made until the end of the summer, when final enrollment figures were available. The Superintendent shared that elementary enrollment figures as of June were below projections, especially for kindergartners. Secondary enrollment was "at or above projections," Dr. Inserra said. A new team was created for Weber Middle School, as well as a third self-contained special education class at Daly. Schreiber enrollment, thus far, is approximately 1250 students.
Nardone expressed his hope that the school board would address class size as a policy issue; it would help give direction to the administration. Agreeing, Dr. Inserra also urged caution, saying this was a progress report only and as a result, "We might come back to you, and say we are staffing differently because of new enrollment numbers." Apparently, the number of sections or classes currently foreseen are still within the board's parameters.
The BOE shifted from classroom size to building safety. Following State Education Dept. requirements, JMOA Engineering consultants conducted safety inspections of the physical facilities last fall. The ratings given range from failure/nonfunctioning, to unsatisfactory, with satisfactory (needing routine maintenance) next, and finally, a rating of excellent (no remediation needed.) Commenting, "as a whole, the district is well-maintained," the JMOA representative reported a satisfactory rating for the district, with the exception of Salem School. Work has been done to improve the physical facilities since the survey, it was reported. The school board voted to "receive" the report, instead "accept" it, which was the original wording.
Also adopted was Emergency Response Plan, which concerns itself with student and staff safety. This extensive plan included prevention, training, and some new policies. There are also building teams, with plans for dismissal, shelter, evacuation, and response to hazards. Referring to two recent bomb threats, one at Schreiber H.S. and the second at Weber Middle School, Dr. Inserra explained that "the protocols at that time were not what we have now...We learned something from them ...We need to do better to ensure the safety of people in our schools and communicating with parents."
Retiring Assistant Superintendent Ann Israel was heartily thanked for her tremendous efforts, and success, in hiring personnel to fill a large number of positions. During community comments, more than one person noted, with sadness, the retirement of John Salerno, supervisor of grounds. Parent and SEPTA President Larry Greenstein observed that while the District had always kept kindergarten class size small, it now seemed that it had grown to more than 20, perhaps 25 or 26. Referring to the satisfactory rating given the district by JMOA, Mr. Greenstein asked that the details be shared with the public.
The board of education has scheduled meeting for Tuesday, Aug. 14, at 8:00 at Schreiber H.S.