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Meeting Develops Into Heated Discussion Between Teacher and Bellmawr Board of Education

 

By Chris Concannon

Gloucester City News

  Drainco Tower Ad The Bellmawr Board of Education moved to withhold a pay increment, following a somewhat heated dialogue with Special Education Teacher Karen Metzger at their March 24 meeting.

  Originally scheduled for March 17, Mrs. Metzger had requested a public hearing to answer several allegations against her stemming from her first arriving in the school district in 1989.

  After waiting for her to arrive, the Board moved to close the hearing at 6:20 p.m. and move into Executive Session. Officially, Metzger did not arrive with her attorney until about 6:45 p.m.

  Allegations involved in the matter, which Metzger described as a “litany of charges,” included several incidents of lesson plan filing violations, chronic absences/lateness, as well as an issue with the cleanliness of her classroom.

  Also, complaints against her have also been received from parents. Metzger is currently assigned to Bellmawr Park School.

  As the meeting moved into the workshop portion, her attorney, Mr. Daly, questioned if the Board knew of his client’s disability.

  A spirited discussion followed regarding her being under the care of a physician, for an undisclosed illness. It was revealed that Metzger has since been released from that doctor’s care.

  She informed the Board that she is in contact with the EEOC to discuss a potential lawsuit against them.

  Board Solicitor Ron Sahli asked her and her attorney to present those charges, relative to her claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

  Metzger then contended certain teachers have also been late, but were apparently not reprimanded – which led to her claim that they were treated more fairly than her.

  She also claimed that Principal Elizabeth Calabria does not have a lateness policy, and believes she is being discriminated against because of her age.

  Superintendent Annette Castiglione pointed out several teachers, past and present, who are comparable in age.

  Mr. Sahli asked if anyone else has joined Metzger in her potential suit, to which she replied, “No, I’m not sure if I am filing the suit.”

  He also noted that, after speaking with the EEOC office in Philadelphia (PA), no one had come forward as of that date.

  Metzger went on to allege that some of the claims against her were untrue.

  In sidebar comments regarding the case, Mrs. Calabria stated that lesson plans have to be filed no later than Friday afternoons, and Ms. Castiglione further noted that, contractually, every teacher has preparation time.

  The latter comment speaks to Mrs. Metzger’s claim that she does not have enough time to prepare her lesson plans during the week.

  Her hearing was then re-closed, with the Board moving to withhold her increment (pay raise) for this year.

  Prior to presenting the annual budget for Board approval, Castiglione com-mented on several revisions to the District’s official policies, as well as suggesting a new policy for the use of physical restraint, in an emergency situation.

  She also stated that Bellmawr will become a “school of choice,” under newly adopted school choice provisions in New Jersey. This will afford students from outside the District, to attend Bellmawr schools if they choose.

  In other business, the Superintendent presented the 2011-2012 budget in the amount of $13,918,398, and the Board voted to adopt it.

  Voters will vote on the proposed budget during the School Election April 27.

  Following the budget’s adoption, Board President Jamie Casey read a proclamation, recognizing recent volunteers.

  A presentation was then made with pre-school students, who were accompanied by their teachers.

  Jeff Brickner gave the March “Board Award” to Bellmawr Park School Student Joey Fischer for his ongoing service project, called “Hugs for the Holidays.”

  Each year, Fischer collects Teddy bears, which are then distributed to youngsters at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) who have to spend Christmas in the hospital.

  Fisher, with the help of his school family, collected 216 bears this past Christmas season. The enterprising and conscientious young student is the son of longtime residents Linda and Sonny Fischer.

  School reports were then given by the following students:

  Bellmawr Park, Randy Washington, Grade 4; Eth-el M. Burke, Jacob Durham, Grade 4; and Bell Oaks, Allison Mac Lean, Grade 8.

  The Superintendent then handed out the March Staff Awards to the following:

  Bellmawr Park, Kathy Filipek; Ethel M. Burke, Kathleen McCarthy; and Bell Oaks, Florencia Hirsch.

  Castiglione then read her Superintendent’s Report, which covered an update on the Math Coach, along with a multi-sports camp proposal, suspensions at Bell Oaks, and enrollment figures as of the end of February.

  The Board then awarded a bus transportation contract to H.A. DeHart Transportation for transporting the softball and baseball teams to their away games.

  The DeHart bid of $1,720 won out over one received from Bellmawr-based Holcomb Bus of $2,750.  A bid request from T & L Transportation of Gibbsboro was not received.

  They, the Board renewed the food service contract with NutriServ Food Management Inc., at a flat fee of $23,053.20, for the 2011-2012 school year.

  Fundraising requests were then approved for the following: Bell Oaks PTO for the All-Purpose Room, to prepare for the 8th Grade Dance on June 8; and Bellmawr Baseball for the Essex Avenue tee-ball field from March 21t through June 18.

  The Board then approved a $300 per-team fee for use of the Anderson Avenue ball field, a measure that had been tabled from an earlier meeting.

  The following teams have been approved for the field, and have submitted their own insurance certifications, as per a Board man-date:

  Maynard’s, Sundays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Dominic’s Tavern, Tuesdays, 6 to 9 p.m.; Victor’s Pub, Wed-nesdays, 6 to 9:00 p.m.; Sheriff’s Department, Thursdays, 6 to 9 p.m.; and Gibbsboro Softball, Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  The Nicholas J. Parisi Memorial Scholarship Foundation was also approved for use of the field on Saturday July 23, for the annual softball tournament.

  Field trips were also approved for the following: Bell Oaks Peer Mediators, under the direction of Mrs. Holt, to the Ronald Mc Donald House in Camden City on April 20; Bellmawr Park Kindergarten class, for a trip to Storybook Land on May 6; Bell Oaks 5th Grade class, for a trip to Independence Hall in Philadelphia on May 24; E.M. Burke 3rd Grade class, for a trip to the Read House and Garden in Delaware on May 31; E.M. Burke Kindergarten class, for a trip to the Philadelphia Zoo on June 1; and Bell Oaks 8th Grade trip to Lake Garrison (NJ) on June 10.

  There is no cost to the District for these trips, with the exception of one bus needed for Mrs. Holt’s trip with her peer mediators.

  All other business on the evening’s agenda was approved, with the following of note:

  The Board accepted the retirement of Mrs. Joyce Maher, a 4th Grade teacher at Bellmawr Park School.

 Mrs. Calabria said Maher has had such an impact on her students that several of them have stayed in touch, even into their college years via email.

  The Principal also said that Maher was a former candidate for Teacher of the Year, and that she embraced the District’s smart board technology even in the twilight of her teaching years.

  She closed her adulation of her departing educator (her retirement will be effective July 1st) by stating that she is “sad to see her go.”

  For information, including the proposed budget, contact the District office at (856) 931-6298, or at bellmawrschools.org.

 

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