GLOUCESTER CITY NJ (March 21, 2017)--Gloucester City parents who have
children enrolled in the before, after or summer program were notified on March 17 by Superintendent Joseph Rafferty that the B.E.S.T. program will cease to exist on Friday, March 31 at the end of the day. There will be no alternative program offered by the city school district. Rafferty told parents to make arrangements to have their child “dropped off and picked up at the regular school and start times.”
A CNBNews OPRA request revealed that there were 37 Pre-K students enrolled in the program locally along with 33 school age students. According to Margaret McDonnell, School Administrator the district did not receive any written notice that the program was being dissolved. “The Superintendent learned that the program was ending through a phone message or a county meeting.”
NJ.com reported the Educational Information & Resource Center, (ERIC) which runs the program loss over the last three years $3.7 million. The executive director of ERIC is David Lindenmuth.
Lindenmuth attributed the losses to a combination of past bad business practices and programs that didn't work out as planned.
The EIRC is a state-created local education agency formed to serve school districts and municipalities as a resource and conduit to help them accomplish their goals, explained Lindenmuth, who joined the agency last August.
The program received state funds until about 2010 but has relied since then on payments from school districts for services provided, as well as grants. That loss of state funds only added to the agency's financial challenges, Lindenmuth said.
When asked how much did the program cost Gloucester City McDonnell said nothing. “The service was not provided or funded by the school district.”
Asked how many local school employees will no longer have a job, McDonnell said, “The program is run by ERIC with their own employees. Gloucester City school district does not employ the staff of the B.E.S.T. program and so will not lose employees due to the ending of it.”
While the EIRC serves the entire state, including some colleges, its location, based at Camden County College, Blackwood, means the core of its services is delivered in South Jersey. The EIRC was previously based at the South Jersey Technology Park at Rowan University but moved to Blackwood last year.
Lindenmuth hopes that the state Department of Education can step in to restructure the organization so that its mission can continue in some form in the future.
The state Department of Education had little to say about the situation.
"The NJDOE have been in contact with the EIRC regarding their situation, and we will continue to monitor the situation going forward," a spokesman told NJ.com
The Gloucester City Board of Education at its March 16 meeting approved the 2018 budget submission totaling $47,626,183. The total of last year's budget was $47,627,539 or $1,356 more. At this time it is not known how much residents will pay to support the budget. Last year for a home assessed $180,000, the estimated tax showed an annual change of $31.97 per year, which equates to about $2.66 per month. The Board approved the payment of bills for March totaling $3,988,171. Of that amount, $3,878,639 went towards employees salaries and health benefits.