EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The Board of Education met Tuesday, Sept. 12 at the Alder Avenue Middle School. Board member Chris Moran was absent. The school board discussed the following items:

Superintendent touts new district mission and goals

Superintendent Kim Gruccio briefed the school board on the district’s new goals and missions this school year.

The district will use a new logo for letterhead, “Every Hand Together, every child every day,” which Gruccio said is another meaning for the acronym, “EHT.”

The new mission statement is “Embrace, engage, educate.”

Gruccio said learning goals include improving student achievement with literacy for all, social and emotional learning, STEAM and innovation. Other goals will be to support a positive climate and culture and build community pride.

“I’m really looking to create more partnerships with our community resources,” Gruccio said.

She said they are on the right road already, having members of the Egg Harbor Township Police Department meet with children at the school.

EHT receives $2.5M grant for afterschool program at Miller

Although they have been preparing for the last several months, Principal Latifah Potter of the Dr. Joyanne D. Miller Elementary School formally announced the receipt of a $2.5 million 21st Century Learning grant to form an afterschool program. The program, called After School Program for Instruction Recreation and Enrichment or ASPIRE, will serve 200 fourth and fifth grade students from the Miller School, she said.

Potter said the grant is distributed in $500,000 increments over the course of five years.

“Miller school, we have the academics, the teaching and learning, but we don’t really have the extra curricular,” Potter said.

The district hired Kristen Boyd earlier this month to coordinate the program. Boyd previously worked at the Mullica Township School District where she coordinated the 21st Century Learning grant program there.

“She has made several strides that, as a district and as a school, we could not have done without her,” Potter said of Boyd.

The program is expected to begin Monday, Oct. 2 and Boyd said that there have been 400 applicants. Potter said the students who will be narrowed down via a lottery. There will be a waiting list, she said.

The program will run five days a week from 3 to 6 p.m. throughout the school year and include a four-week summer program. Transportation will be provided via the grant. Activities will include recreation and STEM, homework help and educational field trips.

“We do a lot of family and parent engagement,” Boyd said, adding that there will be adult family literacy programming provided by Literacy Volunteers Association Cape Atlantic Inc.

The program is also partnering with Family Service Association and the Spruce Avenue Family Success Center, which will work with families for social services.

They are still in the process of hiring two staff members for the program.

Board member Amber Umphlet said that the goal is to have program expand each year. Some of the items purchased through the grant funding can also be used during the school day.

Some of the things that you purchase also benefit all of the students in the school

“The program is to supplement the things that are happening in the school day, not just supplant,” Boyd said.

She said there will be both a parent community advisory board and a student advisory board. She said funding is tied to attendance, so she wants to set up activities that the students want.

Board President Lou Della Barca said statewide 10 districts, including Egg Harbor Township  received the grant.

Boyd said she hopes to have a calendar of activities and more information set up on the Miller School web page in the next two weeks.

New student representatives announced

The school board introduced its two new student representatives Tuesday. Seniors Mary Sadallah, 17, and Chinaza Asiegbu, 16, will give reports to the board on school activities as well as weigh in on board issues.

Advocates push for transgender policy

Several members of the public again urged the school board to move forward with developing a transgender policy this year after Gov. Chris Christie signed a law earlier this year requiring such policies to be developed.

“My community is very concerned, continues to be concerned about the safety of our transgender students. We’re not asking for any money. We’re asking for simple policies that are state regulations,” said Rev. Blake Spencer of Ocean Heights Presbyterian Church.

The board struggled last year with passing a transgender policy, which was ultimately voted down after much outcry from both those against and in favor.

The state law, signed in July, requires school board to provide instruction on and make accommodations for transgender students. Currently, the district is being sued by a transgender student who alleges discrimination and harassment at the high school.

Under the law, state Commissioner of Education Kimberley Harrington is developing guidelines for school districts. Superintendent Kim Gruccio said the district is awaiting that guidance before proceeding.

“Transgender students in our schools are still waiting for you to reach out your hands to them,” said Emily McGrath of Egg Harbor Township, who has been a vocal support of transgender rights. McGrath was referencing the school’s new logo, “Every Hand Together.”

“Stop waiting,” she said.

Board member Ray Ellis said that he agreed with those in favor of a policy and asked the board to begin a discussion on the issue.

“It was voted down and I don’t think we mentioned one word about it since,” Ellis said. “We’ve got to face the fact it’s going to happen, we can’t just push it under the rug.”

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