By CNBNews Staff
GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ (March 12, 2018)(CNBNewsnet)—A crowd of over 100 people attended the Gloucester City Board of Education caucas meeting on Thursday, March 8, held at the high school media room. The contentious assemblage of school employees, their family and friends were there to protest the possible layoff of staff due to the possibility that the district's state aid may be reduced.
In 2017 the state cut the school district's financial support by $500,000 plus.
During the public portion of the March 8 meeting, Laila Gansert, the president of the Gloucester City Education Association (GCEA) read a letter of concern about the impact of privatization of the Educations Support Professionals (ESP) on the students in the district. "The dedication of the present ESP we have in our district would not be the same if they were replaced by people from Mission 1. They have a huge turnover. And their staff would not be a fit for the needs of our children."
A parent told the Board that she had six children in the district with three of them enrolled in the Individualized Education Program (IEP). "I don’t think they (paraprofessionals) make anything near what they are worth. They work with disabled children and some days it’s very trying but they know our children and our children know them. It gives us as parents peace of mind. They know our kids."
Another parent said she had heard that a student in her son's classroom brought a knife to school. "I called Dr. Vespe and his response was he had a School Resource Officer (SRO). "He deals with those issues in his own way. The parents of those children were never notified about this safety issue," she said.
Paraprofessional Kathy Pennington mentioned that she and other paraprofessionals formed a backpack group in September to help students who are less fortunate that needed a backpack. "Others at Christmas time shopped for presents for those kids. This isn't just a job for us. It is more than that. We care about the kids. More so than strangers ever would."
CNBNews has received 58 comments on our March 1, 2018, story about a possible downsize in staff if the state reduced the district's aid like it did last year.
Anna Menda stated in her comment that before any paraprofessionals are cut the district should look at reducing administrators. She claims the 14 administrators cost local taxpayers a total $2 million annually. The exact figure is $1,979,315.
So why does the high school have: 1 Principal (Gorman - $118,896+) a VP (MacCausland - $112,906+), an Asst. Principal (Finley - $93,866), an Asst. Principal/AD (Ernst (former Principal of the now defunct Highland Park School title changed to VP with Principal salary) - $111,878+) and the I.T Director (Kauffmann - $104,857+)? That's 5 Asst. Principals for 4 grade levels! "
"Why is there an Administrator who is the Director of the Preschool (Gurcsik - $95,743+) AND a Principal of grades 1 through 3 (Kessler - $122,338+), a VP (Kearney - $109,890 +) AND an Administrator as Director of Guidance (DiPatri - $100,756 +)at CSS? "
"Why are there 2 VP's (Foley - $93,866+ and Little/Kellogg - $95,783+) AND a Principal (O'Kane - $121,441+) at the new Middle School? "
The "+" after the salary indicates that the 2017-2018 salaries have not been updated."
"For their salary, why are the Principals of each school NOT GIVEN MORE Administrative duties? If appears that the Principals are the actual Princes of the 'kingdom' and the VP's are nothing more than highly paid secretaries to the principals."
"Between the Facilities Director (Kenney) @ $132,580, The Business Administrator (McDonnell) @ $153, 915, and the Superintendent (Vespe) @ $157,500 That totals $455,133. The 14 Administrators (YES 14) salaries equal $1,524,182 (2016-17 salaries) totaling $1,979,315 in Administrative salaries. All salary info taken from BOE minutes posted online. How's THAT taste for a small school district!!"
Some union members met Monday night at a local catering hall to discuss the matter further.
A person who signed their name Old Timer commented about how the Board has wasted money, in his opinion.
"Add to the wasteful spending the $5 million spent on renovating the HighLand Park School for the alternative students. When the Board wanted to pad enrollment figures to show that it was crowded at the high school they closed that school and shipped the students back to the high school. After all that money that building sits empty today."
"They also wasted millions on building another gym at the high school when all that was needed to fix the old one was a new floor.
"And they built a new gym at the ME Costello school that cost mega bucks knowing that they were going to move into the middle school in the very near future."
"Oops I forgot to mention the million plus that was wasted on building a football field at the Middle school."
"This school board and the previous ones under the guidance of Hubbs and Llewellyn has saddled the taxpayers of this city and state with such a debt we will never be able to dig our way out of it."
A Parent said in a reply to a product of GC schools…
"This is our town, our kids, our money being spent that will end up affecting our children in the end. At least we have a nice football field, bleachers and lights coming in soon that will help them somehow. Quality of education or pet projects? What is it going to be? Never before has Gloucester City been in such a poor position. We’ve cried poor more times than we could count but somehow manage to find useless things like a million parades, a sailboat, administrators making six figure salaries but hey, they don’t live here and it’s not their kids or their money so why should they care?"
In 2015 the city school district had a $5 million deficit. The board made cutbacks in staff and other line items but shortly thereafter the board gave the superintendent a raise along with 14 administrators. Bringing the total salaries for all 15 from $1,729,725 to $1,879,960 or $150,235 more.
State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D), on March 6 unveiled a $758 million school funding overhaul that he says would increase aid to underfunded districts, expand preschool programs and fully fund the state share of special education as part of an overall plan to shift responsibility for special education to the state level.
According to the Press of Atlantic City, Sweeney's plan would provide $431 million for special education aid that will go to every school district in the state, $277 million in increased aid to underfunded districts, and $50 million in additional preschool grant funding that will be available on a competitive basis to any school district that wishes to apply.
Sweeney said that the reform addresses a crisis in special education funding.
“With this initiative, we fully fund the state share of Extraordinary Special Education Aid, we fully fund Special Education categorical aid, and we will be introducing legislation to shift responsibility and oversight of special education to the state level," he said.
The program would be paid for by a 3 percent surcharge on the Corporate Business Tax projected to raise $657 million – of which $26 million will go to environmental programs as a result of previous constitutional dedication – and by shifting $127 million from what he calls "over-funded" districts.
How this would affect schools in South Jersey is yet to be seen. Last year's school funding changes left several South Jersey schools in a lurch in July, including Gloucester City, after large amounts of funding were cut from the districts deemed over-funded. www.pressofatlanticcity.com
The Board of Education meets tonight, Tuesday, at 7 PM in the high school media room, Market Street and Route 130.