By Leigh Anne Hubbs
The Mt. Ephraim Board of Education voted 6-1 to stop charging for preschool during last week’s meeting.
Under state law, districts are required to provide free preschool for special education students.
The main reason members suggested to discontinue charging tuition was because there were 42 students enrolled in 2009-10, and only 13 this year. Of those 13, only five are regular education students that are paying tuition.
Board members said the rate of $3,260 for five days a week of half-day preschool is not competitive with other preschools/day cares in the area.
But, they disagreed on whether or not to lower the tuition, or to remove it all together in order to encourage enrollment.
One parent said more preschoolers might have en-rolled if payments were monthly instead of quarterly. Nonetheless, as of September 13, preschool was free again and seats were to be assigned through a lottery if there are more students than vacancies.
In other news, member Carl Ingram told the Board that his nephew Jim Green is part of the Reconnaissance and Interdiction Detachment (RAID) program through the U.S. Army.
NJ RAID is a section of the Counter Drug Program which supports drug demand reduction and does helicopter visits as part of Drug Awareness programs.
In order to land the helicopter behind Kershaw Middle School, Green will need a letter of permission from Chief of Police Edward Dobleman and Superintendent Joseph Rafferty.
Rafferty said he will review the plans with the district's insurance company. But, even if the helicopter is not permitted to land at one of the schools, he will find a way to make this event happen.
Members agreed this free assembly would be a great experience for the students, and James Pacetti suggested they make a “law enforcement day” out of it.
During the public forum, a parent asked the Board why the spring breaks for Mount Ephraim and Audubon are not the same week?
Mount Ephraim is the week after Easter, and Audubon is the week before.
The parent highlighted the potential for holiday travel conflicts, and also that the School Board election is during Mount Ephraim's spring break, which means a higher number of voters may be out of town.
Rafferty said he will discuss the school calendar with the Board.
Members announced the resignation of the following employees: PDD Paraprofessionals Jo Bradley and Joan Greenwood, and Supervisor of Special Services Kimberly Seifring, who will be replaced by Amy Francis at a prorated salary of $80,000.
Arielle Bates has been approved to cover Dawn Reilly's school psychologist position while she is on maternity leave.
Bates will be paid $276.40 per day, and will not receive benefits.
Nicole Alibrando has been approved to be the Lead Staff Member for the Shining Star Program at a rate of $20 per hour for 12 1/2 hours per week.
For a stipend of $1,000 for the school year, the Board okayed Terri Brunick as the substitute caller.
Christina Ayusa, Denise Guldin, Arielle Bates and Dolores Raube were approved as substitute teachers at a rate of $80 per day.
The next meeting will be Monday, October 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Kershaw School's Media Center.