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Closing Of St. Mary’s School Top 2011 Story | Gloucester City News

by Albert Countryman Jr.

Gloucester City News

The closing of St. Mary Elementary School in Gloucester City, the oldest in the Camden Diocese, was the top story of 2011.

 Also, the economy continued in its downturn, making it an extremely rough year on businesses and individuals in Gloucester City, Bellmawr, Brooklawn, Mount Ephraim and Westiville

The Year in Review for 2011 is as follows:


6 - The future of the new middle school in Gloucester may hinge upon arguments in the NJ Supreme Court this week. Although 70 houses and businesses were demolished and the soil remediated, the area between Jersey Avenue, Market Street, and Fourth and Fifth streets remains a huge empty field in the middle of Gloucester City.

Brooklawn Presents Award to Outgoing Mayor Soubasis; “It’s been a long, good journey,” said outgoing mayor John Soubasis, as he received a plaque honoring him from Brooklawn Council members during December’s meeting.

Re-elected mayor Russell Welsh, Councilman William Packer and Councilwoman Colleen Archer all took their seats on the governing body after taking the oaths of their office during the Westville re-organization meeting January 2.

13 – Deacon Frank Crosson of St. Mary’s Church gave the invocation, following the Pledge of Allegiance, during the 142nd annual Gloucester City Council re-organization meeting. With his family standing by, re-elected Mayor William P. James was sworn into office by State Senator Donald Norcross (D-5).

Re-elected council members, John Hutchinson, 1st Ward; Bruce Perry, 2nd Ward; and Kellie Ferry, 3rd Ward, received their oaths of office from various Camden County officials including Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr., Assemblyman Angel Fuentes and County Sheriff Chuck Billingham.

Theresa Branella was sworn into the office of Mayor of Brooklawn by State Senator Donald Norcross (D-5) during the Borough Council re-organization meeting January 3.

Mayor Branella, with her mother and brother by her side, received a standing ovation following the ceremony.

20 – The City of Gloucester has determined that Water and Sewer Rates must be increased for supplying portable water, as well as maintaining the conveyance of its wastewater.

Camden County is moving to establish a regionalized police and fire department to reduce public safety costs while continuing to provide protection for county citizens.

January is School Board Recognition Month in New Jersey, which the Gloucester City Board of Education noted during last week’s meeting.

27 – The Board of Freeholders proposal to create a countywide police and fire department will have major ramifications here, and throughout the state.

By unanimous vote, the Gloucester City Planning/Zoning Board hired Barbara J. Fegley to replace Larry Waetzman of Waetzman Consulting Group as Gloucester City’s City Planner during last week’s meeting.

As more and more towns continue to look for ways to save taxpayer money, shared services agreements have become one way to alleviate certain financial burdens.


3 – Gloucester City Council approved an ordinance during last week’s meeting to exceed the municipal budget appropriations limits and to establish a “Cap” bank.

In a classic match-up between cross-town rivals, the annual girls’ basketball game between Gloucester Catholic and Gloucester high schools January 29 was a thriller. Johanna James’ last second shot led the Lady Lions over Lady Rams.

10 – The recent layoff notices issued by Bellmawr Mayor Frank Filipek were the subject of a Council Meeting on January 31.

The NJ Department of Community Affairs ( DCA)  hearing for Paul Kain, a former Gloucester City Clerk trying to obtain benefits from the job he left, concluded February 1,with the judge requiring written closing arguments in 30 days.

On January 31, Cori Conner of Gloucester City became the third person in her family to score more than  1,000 points in her career.

17 –  Paul Kain admits to his illness of major depression, and expresses the story of why he could not attend work.

Gloucester City hired the town's first woman police officer, Barbara Kane.

Borough Engineer Norman Rodgers discussed  a pending Infrastructure Trust Loan for improvements to the Water Department, and Westville will now apply for a water tank loan.

The Mount Ephraim Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance, with no comments from the public, which raised the sewer rate from $50 to $100 per year.

24 – The plans for a new middle school in Gloucester were once again  delayed due to the lack of funding from Governor Christie's administration.

On February 17, the Camden County Open Space Preservation Fund approved an application filed by Brooklawn American Legion Baseball to reconstruct the Joe Barth field in Brooklawn.

As of July 1, the Mount Ephraim School District must provide coverage for children of employees up to the age of 26.


3 – Another young adult died due to the overdose of heroin, as at least five young adults have this year.

Gloucester City Council passed a resolution, 4-1, during a meeting, to hire an outside contractor to provide ambulance service for the City.

Mayor William James presented oaths of office to members of the Gloucester City Police and Fire Departments during a Council meeting.

At a Council meeting, Bellmawr Mayor Frank Filipek said that, “as of right now,” there will be no layoffs, and it will stay this way as long as Governor Christie doesn't reduce the municipal aide, says Filipek.

10 – There was a nine-and-one-half year delay on the building of the new middle school in Gloucester City.

The Gloucester City Cultural & Heritage Society held its third annual Riverfront Art/ Music Festival.

The Bellmawr Board of Education officially adopted their new budget on March 1.

The St. Mary's Saints and Singers took the stage in Msgr. Lucitt Parish Hall for the annual Irish Nite Show and Social.

17 – Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk and Gloucester City Police Chief George Berglund reported an arrest in connection with a hit and run in Gloucester City; Deborah Cirulli, 41, of Audubon, turned herself in and admitted to being the driver that struck a 21-year-old woman on March 11.

The annual St. Patrick's Day celebration was a complete success and much fun for the town.

Out of hundreds of contestants from schools all over Camden County, Mount Ephraim had two students that went on to complete in the county level Fire Prevention poster project.

On March 5, on Saunders Avenue in Bellmawr, a red Honda Civic with a black hood driven by a bald Asian man was involved in a hit and run accident that injured a 14-year-old boy, who was a pedestrian.

24 – Nine candidates vied for the three spots on the Gloucester City Board of Education, and voters decided on the 2011-12 school budget on April 27.

Perry Refolo of TTI Enviromental presented plans for continued groundwater quality testing at Kershaw School and the municipal building during March's Mt. Emphraim Board of Education meeting.

The Mount Ephraim Police Department reported that on March 21, a white male in his 20s with short hair and driving a royal blue vehicle tried to lure a fifth-grade student who was walking home on the Black Horse Pike about 3:15 p.m.

One of the six sites chosen to dispense medical marijuana in New Jersey was in Bellmawr.

31 – Gloucester City Council introduced the proposed 2011 Municipal Budget March 24 that stays under the 2 percent cap, but raises taxes $39.20 per year on the average assessed home of $70,000.

Long-time Mount Ephraim residents Fredd and Diane Vilardo recently opened their home to neighbors and friends to discuss plans for the town's future and brainstorm about budgeting to reduce taxes.

Lourdes Health System's three-year contract with Gloucester City to provide basic life ambulance service to residents started April 1.

The Brooklawn Council approved the $243,100 bid for the repainting of the water tower.


7 – Beginning the week of April 25, members of Mayor William James' Advisory Committee conducted a public survey to assist the community in understanding and resolving  the “quality of life” concerns of Gloucester City's residents.

The Westville Council okayed a budget that increased taxes $17.43.

A public hearing was held for a Special Education Teacher Karen Metzger in order for her to answer several allegations against her.

14 – Two fires, one at an apartment compleex and one at home home kept the Bellmawr firefighters busy; there were no injuries in the first fire; however, eight were injured in the second.

As the next step in the process of evaluating the feasibility of a regionalized country-wide police force, the Police Committee met and discussed issues.

The Sportsman A.C. Had its annnual awards banquet on April 16.

21 – Nine candidates vie for three spots on the Gloucester City Board of Education; voting day was April 27.

The annual School Board Election in Bellmawr was April 27, and four candidates sought out three seats.

Both the Mount Ephraim and Bellmawr school districts have joined Brooklawn in the statewide School Choice Program.

During the April Gloucester City Board of Education meeting, Cold Springs School principal Martin O'Connor proudly acceoted a “Certificate of Appreciation” from the Camden County Department of Health & Human Services.

Mt. Ephraim Board of Education voters were asked  to approve a 4.4 percent increase on the budget.

  Westville Public and th Gateway High School, Woodbury Hrights, shared a superintendent beginninng on May 1.

  28 –  A group of fledgling fourth grade musicians opened Bellmawr's April 21 Board of Education meeting with a little help from their instructor.

  Readers were asked to remember the men and woman in the U.S. Armed Forces serving, proudly, during the difficult times in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lybia.

  Brooklawn Council adopted the 2011 Municipal Budget following a public hearing April 18 in the amount of $2,877,450.


  5 – Gloucester City Council approved the $17.84 million 2011 Municipal Budget during a meeting; that will raise taxes $38.16 per year.

  Five Bellmawr Police officers were promoted and three patrolmen were sworn in during the April Borough Council Meeting.

  The graduation at Gwynedd-Mercy College on May 14 included that of a father and daughter, Thomas and Kaitlin Stevenson of Gloucester City.

  12 – Two people were taken to the hospital with burns on May 9, after their work truck carrying pool chemicals Suddenly caught fire on East Kings Highway in Mount Emphraim.

  Local postal carriers from the Glucester City and Bellmawr post offices collected bags of non-perishable goods and shelf safe items on May 14, as they make their rounds.

  Staff from the Office of U.S. Senator Robert Menendez and the Camden County Office of Veterans Affairs hosted a “Veterans Information Day”.

  Westville Borough Council approved the 2011 Municipal Budget during its April 27 meeting after making an amendment to seperate the library funds from the budget; also, taxes increased one percent.

  19 – Thanks to the efforts of the Orens Brothers transforming the Chatman Square Apartments into three bedroom homes, the housing stock in Gloucester City has improved.

  The Bellmawr Board of Education Reorganization Meeting May 12 kicked off with the swearing-in of two returning members, along with a freshman.

  President Louisa Llewellyn began the May Gloucester City Board of Education meeting reading its Code of Ethics, and then students made presentations.

  Joseph E. Wolk, Bruce Greenwald, and Andrew J. Gilmore won the three seats in the Mount Emphraim Board of Commissioners on May 10.

  26 – Gloucester Catholic High School will confer diplomas on 161 graduates at commencement ceremonies on May 26.

  On May 18 the Mount Emphraim Board of Education had a special meeting to approve the 2011-12 school budget, resulting in a budget cut.

  Members of the Gloucester City Planning Board  debated whether to recommend that the City Council designate the entire city “as an area in need of rehabilitation”; in conclusion, the Board decided to only designate some areas as “in need of rehabilitation”.


  2 – Gloucester City Councilman Jay Brophy presented a Proclamation of Appreciation to David Munn during a Council meeting for his many contributions to the city.

  A Pennsylvania Road resident voiced his concern regarding the proposed Organics Recycling Center in Gloucester City during a  Brooklawn Council Meeting.

  Gloucester City's Independence Day celebrations began July 3 with a “Community Fashioned Parade”.

  The annual Student Government Day in Bellmawr finished with the young people opening for a Bellmawr Council meeting.

  9 – On May 20, Camden Diocese Bishop Joseph Galante announced the the Saint Mary Grammar School, Gloucester City, would be closing; this infuriated   students, parents and alumni, and a movement went underway. The school will continue to fight the decision to be reversed.

  Residents of Gloucester City claim that the town needs more entertainment for the children, such as a skate park, bike park or basketball courts.

  Parkview students who were elected to serve as part of “Youth in the Government Week” were present to witness a proclamation honoring a Korean War ex-POW veteran during the May 25 meeting of Westville Borough Council.

  On June 1, Gloucester City High School presented Academic Awards to current students and the Distinguished Alumni Award to three qualified former graduates: Jane Gellien, Joseph J. Hagan and James E. Hannold.

  16 – Graduation Ceremonies were held for the 137 seniors at Gloucester City High School on June 16.

  The Brooklawn Fire Company celebrated its 100th Anniversary with a parade June 18.

  Gloucester Catholic High School's baseball and softball teams both won the state championships.

  A letter from a resident of Mount Emphraim was read at a Board of Commissioners meeting thanking Supervisor Ken Jones and an employee of the Public Works Department for their assistance.

  23 – Sister Nora Foley retired after 55 years in the education field.

  Members of the Gloucester City Planning Board approved preliminary plans for a second-story addition to a former gas station at Broadway and Middlesex Street, pending resolution of a sidewalk issue.

  The Gloucester City Board of Education came back out and voted not to renew School Superintendent Paul Spaventa's contract, which has one year remaining.

  30 – The topic of the closing of St. Mary's School came up once again in a Gloucester City Council meeting; however, the Bishop will still not budge.

  A letter from a resident  was read at a Bellmawr Council meeting thanking the Sewer Department for saving several ducklings that were stuck in a sewer gate.

  Superintendent Joseph Rafferty happily announced thhat Police Captain Brian Beppel had donated Camden Riversharks tickets to the Mount Ephraim School District to distribute to deserving students.

  Several parents made praising comments about the Commencement Ceremonies at the Bell Oaks Soccer pitch.


  7 –  The Borough of Brooklawn decided to build a 9/11 Memorial to be dedicated September 11, 2011.

  Gloucester City Police responded to a report of a shooting on June 28; the victim was 20 years old.

  The Bellmawr Fire Department regretted to announce the tragic loss of Retired Chief Tom Calhoun's five-year-old son, Brad, as a result of a swimming pool accident on July 2.

  14 – Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk and Gloucester City Police Chief George Berglund said a Westville woman was charged with murdering a two-year-old child on July 8. Sheila Polanski, 33, was charged with the murder in connection with the death of Madeline McHenry from Gloucester City.

  Principal Martin O'Connor officially retired from Gloucester City School district on June 30.

  The Brooklawn Police Department, several departments from surrounding towns and an escort of Warriors Watch motorcycle drivers escorted the precious artifacts of the three areas that were part of the devastation that occurred on 9/11/01.

  Last month Holt Logistics, a shipping company located in Gloucester City, made its final payment on the Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) monies it borrowed in the 1980s.

  Gloucester Catholic High School will expand   its programs to include a junior high for the 2011-12 school year.

  Governer Chris Christie's administration announced last week the allocation  plan for $850 million in new aid authorized for New Jersey schools in the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget.

  Westbrook Family Bowling Center invited the public to bowl for free on August 6.

  28 – During a meeting, members of the Gloucester City Planning Board voted to approve the final site plans for a second-story addition to a former gas station located at Broadway and Middlesex Streets.

  Mayor Theresa Branella, assisted by Councilman Michael Mevoli, dug out the first shovel of dirt where the placement of the World Trade Center beam will be erected as part of the Brooklawn 9/11 Memorial.

  Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said in prepared statement that the County is proceeding with its study for a Countywide Police Force.


4 –  Sister Nora Foley received a proclamation on behalf of Gloucester City Mayor and Council during a Council Meeting.

  Two upcoming roadway projects were the top discussion items at a Bellmawr Council meeting.

  Gloucester City Board of Education President Ed Hubbs said a contract agreement had been reached with the teachers that will cover the school years 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13.

  After 18 consecutive years, the annual Gloucester Cit Girls Softball Tournament concluded with the remaining championship games being played on July 23 in temperatures well above 100 degrees.

  The Camden County Freeholders honored the  Bellmawr Purple Eagles on the occasion of their 50th Anniversary during their Bellmawr Town Meeting on July 21.

  11 – The Camden County Board of Freeholders signed a “Memo of Understanding” (MOU) with Camden City and NJ's Department of Community Affairs to move forward with planning stages of Camden joining a new, countywide police force.

  Perrenial powerhouse Brooklawn defeated host Boyertown, PA, 10-9, in the bottom of the ninth inning August 8 to win the Senior American Legion Mid- Atlantic Regional and advance to the American Legion World Series in Shelby, NC.

  Every year on the last Wednesday of July, Chinxoteague Island off the shore of Virginia hosts one of the largest events in America – the Pony Swim.

  More than 100 cats living in one home caused the Gloucester City Housing Code Enforcement Officer to declare the house “Not Fit For Habitation.”

  During a Mount Emphraim Board of Education meeting, President Dominick Cipolone said that teacher contract negotiations are headed toward mediation.

  The Board of Commissioners presented Mount Emphraim Police Officer  Danielle Perna with a Merit Award during a meeting for locating and then arresting the suspect in the July 2 Wells Fargo Bank Robbery.

  At one time, Borough Council had discussed the dismantling of the Westville Enviromental Commission, but, following many positive remarks about the need for the Commission, it still continued.

  Throughout the Summer, students in the Mary Ethel Costello School Summer Program, had a great time learning and having fun with friends.

  During a brief meeting, members of the Gloucester City Planning Board passed a resolution memorializing  the approval of final site plans for a second-story addition to a former gas station located at Broadway and Middlesex Streets.

  One of the most anticipated events near the end of the summer returned September 3 – the 22nd annual Brooklawn ShopRite Wiffleball Reunion.

  Mayor Theresa Branella and Brooklawn Council members thanked all those who worked on the 9/11 Memorial, especially Police Captain Steven R. Saymon, for his dedication and pursuance of bringing part of the artifacts from the buildings and and grounds that were destroyed 10 years ago.

  As with many towns across the country celebrating National Night Out in early August, Bellmawr was no different in its displays of fire, police and EMS equipment and personnel.


1 –  Nerves were frayed during a week that featured an earthquake, tornado warnings and a hurricane that was only the third ever in history to make landfall on New Jersey Soil.

  As Hurricane Irene hammered up the eastern seaboard, Bellmawr took many steps to prepare for it.

  Mayor William James officiated at the swearing-in of four officers of the Gloucester City Fire Department during a City Council Meeting.

  The Mount Emphraim Commissioners had a special meeting last week to discuss a possible redevelopment strategy for a two to three-acre site located on the north-end of the Black Horse Pike, between Valley Road and George Street.

  8 – On the anniversary of 9/11 in Brooklawn, the new monument spearheaded by first responder Police Captain Steve Saymon was dedicated at Veterans Memorial Park, S. Hannevig and Maude avenues.

  The Board of Education  reported all three schools are ready to begin the new academic year during its August meeting.

  15 – The Dedication of the Brooklawn 9/11 Memorial was a success and brought a huge crowd.

  The football season did not begin well for Gloucester City High School, which lost to Woodstown September 9, 40-20; or for Gloucester Catholic, crushed by Camden Catholic, 55-6.

  Gloucester City officials dedicated the Freedom Pier Saturday morning, and then announced plans for a new restaurant to be built on it overlooking the Deleware River.

  Although Hurricane Irene did not do as much damage as originally anticipated, various Mt. Emphraim Borough departments were prepared for the worst during the last weekend of August as it passed through New Jersey.

  The Gloucester City Board of Education approved a contract for a new grant writer during a meeting.

  As the sun began to set on the afternoon of September 12, a tree was planted on the front lawn of the Bellmawr Park firehouse on Essex Avenue to honor a young drowning victim.

  During September's Mount Ephraim School of Education meeting, Business Administrator Melissa Raywood announced that the annual audit has been completed, and it will be presented in next month's meeting.

  29 – Mayor William James accepted, with regrets, the resignation letter of Councilwoman Kellie Ferry during a Gloucester City Council meeting.

  A public hearing was held during a Westville Borough Council meeting on September 28 on an ordinance that will authorize certain bond purchases.

  Members of the Gloucester City Planning Board approved several basic improvements to three properties in the City's Historic District during a meeting.

  Policy concerns regarding physical education and recess brought parents out to a Bellmawr Board of Education meeting in greater numbers than usual.


6 –  Councilman Greg Gilbert presented a proclamation to U.S. Army PFC Mark Ward during the September Brooklawn Borough Council meeting.

  Gloucester City High School started the famous “Spirit Week” on October 17 and ended October 21.

  “In memory of  fallen brothers,” Tom Stewart III, Jim Sylvester and John West Sr., the Heroes to Hero 10th annual 5K run/walk was held on October 15.

  The remains of the fire that burned down property at 18-22 Pine Street still have to be removed, and Westville Borough Council discussed the reasons for  the delay during its recent meeting.

  13 – The Gloucester City Business Association requested that all city residents vote “Yes” for extended Sunday hours during the General Election November 8.

  Mount Ephraim Mayor Joseph Wolk expressed his deepest appreciation to resident Ella Stevenson – who donated a 9/11 flag to the Borough – during a Board of Commissioners meeting.

  On October 6 School District anti-bullying coordinator Kris Kitchenman, together with Mary Ethel Costello Principal William O'Kane and Gloucester City High Assistant Principal Christine Trampe, presented and overview of the district's Harrassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) policy to the Board of Educaton.

  Camden County College held an informative program for current high school students on October 13.

  20 – The inaugural Corporal Marc T. Ryan Memorial/ Marine Corps-Law Enforcement 5K run was on November 19.

  Superintendent Paul Spaventa praised the efforts of Technology Director Janet Kauffmann for securing a $445,019.58 E-rate award for the district during a Gloucester City Board of Education meeting.

  Westville Council approved two resolutions during a recent meeting that will lead to road improvements in the Borough; specifically Olive Street and River Drive.

  27 – A new book featuring historic photographs of Gloucester City, written by Adrianne and Gabriel Parent with the Gloucester City Historical Society went on sale October 31.

  The Bellmawr Purple Eagles put the centerpiece on their 50th Anniversary season with a celebration event October 15 at the Bellmawr Park Fire Hall.

  The railroad crossing in Brooklawn is used by many unauthorized vehicles during flood season; causing accidents.


  3 –  Two Gloucester City municipal questions to extend Sunday hours at bars and restaurants and to change the current Ward system highlighted the General Election on November 8.

  The Gloucester City Cultural Arts & Heritage Society hosted its Second Annual Art Exhibit at the Gloucester Heights Fire Hall Community Center on Nicholson Road on November 5.

  Bellmawr Mayor and Council announced that resurfacing work would begin on West Browning Road the week of October 31 during a Council Meeting.

  10 – Gloucester City residents broght non-perishable food items to “Camping for Canned Goods” at the Highland Tavern on Orlando Avenue.

  The U.S. Enviromental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the successful clean up and restoration of the once contaminated William Flynn Veterans Sports Complex in Gloucester City, which is part of the Welsbach/ General Gas Mantle Superfund site in Camden County.

  Under the banner “We Care- We Share,” the boroughs of Bellmawr and Mount Emphraim unveiled their newest addition on October 25 at Bellmawr's Municipal Complex.

  17 – Gloucester City got to work for extended Sunday hours for bars and restaurants and changing the current Ward system after voters approved both municipal questions during the General Election on November 8.

  As New Jersey has enacted some of the toughest anti-bullying legislation in the country, a young Bellmawr student put her thoughts to words, penning a short song which she performed at the recent Bellmawr Board of Education meeting.

  Westville received a $31,974 check thanks to the safety practices of the borough employees.


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