EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The Board of Education took time to look back at its last regular meeting of 2017 on Dec. 12, to honor students for their athletic and academic accomplishments and to thank three board members who are on their way out.
Members Chris Moran, Justin A. Riggs and Barbara Szilagyi each received a plaque and the thanks of Superintendent Kim Gruccio and board President Lou Della Barca.
Della Barca spoke of each member's work and accomplishments on the board, starting with Moran, who led the policy and security committees and was a member of the curriculum committee.
“The policy committee has been operating paperless for months, thanks to Mr. Moran’s efforts,” Della Barca said. “I also understand that his meetings begin and end on time.”
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Della Barca said Moran brought good judgment to his role.
Riggs was one of the youngest people ever elected to the board, Della Barca said. The EHT High School graduate was 21 when he first ran for the position.
“He has used his skills for deliberation and discussion to help review our school trip process, and assisted in working with our legislators on school funding issues,” he said. Riggs also has attended many school functions, Della Barca said.
Szilagyi served on the board for 19 years, Della Barca said, and attained master board member certification.
“Her commitment and dedication is obvious in everything she does,” he said. “Personally, it’s been a great pleasure to work with each of them. They each love our community, and especially our school district.”
Szilagyi said she would remain involved but would now be in the audience.
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At the start of the meeting, Della Barca spoke of 2017 as interesting, challenging, stressful and rewarding. He mentioned the controversy surrounding the issue of creating a school policy for transgender students, saying the issue is still ongoing. After extensive and sometimes contentious community discussion last winter, the board decided not to approve the proposed policy.
“And that was certainly an exciting meeting for me to chair way back in February,” he said. At least one student advocate has continued to push for the board to revisit the issue, expressing hope the new members will approve the policy.
This year also saw the appointment of Gruccio as superintendent, and other changes. Della Barca said it had been an honor for him to serve as board president and welcomed the newly elected board members.
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Michelle CarneyRay-Yoder, Amy Summer and Tamika Gilbert won seats on the board in November out of a crowded field of 10 candidates for three seats. Moran had not sought another term, and Szilagyi and Riggs fell short of the needed votes to keep their seats. The new members will be installed at the reorganization meeting Jan. 2.
A work session was also planned before the end of the year, with training on the subcommittee process from representatives of the New Jersey School Boards Association. Della Barca said the new members have been invited to attend that meeting.
As part of Gruccio’s regular superintendent’s report, numerous students were recognized.
“We’ve got a lot of bragging to do tonight,” she said.
First up were computer students who participated and excelled at the Stockton University Hackathon. Computer science teacher Adam Swift said the students had 24 hours to create a functioning and marketable app for a mobile device. The students worked through the night on the project, he said.
District staff pointed out that the students were not only competing against other high school students but also college students from Stockton, Atlantic Cape Community College and Brookdale Community College.
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The students honored with a superintendent award included Alex Cohen, Linghao “Leo” Shao and Vicky Zheng, who were the innovation grand prize winners. They created a messenger app for Quizlet, a learning tool for creating electronic flashcards.
The innovation award winners included Sam Liang, Jarod Wille, Raymond Xue, Christian Kline, Nicholas Michelette and Josh Sennett, who were runners up, and Guy Pastrana, Samantha Scelese and Jaysson Solano, who received honorable mentions.
Also honored at the meeting was the EHTHS girls tennis team, led by coach Alene Hartman. The coach pointed out that the four seniors on the team won the Cape-Atlantic League championship “not just this year, not just last year, this is the third year in a row.”
Students who came to the front of the meeting to receive recognition from Hartman and Gruccio included Sarah Phung, who was also part of the Hackathon, Tiffany Trivers, Gabrielle Guimapang, Samantha Phung, Christine Vu and Asia Lackland. Lackland got another shout-out earlier in the meeting, having been honored for her artwork at the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey the week before. Lackland has received several awards for her work. Fellow member Emily Manzo was unable to attend.
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Also recognized at the meeting were Sadia Rahman and Krishna Patel, Alder Avenue Middle School students who participated in the Steamtank Challenge with the New Jersey School Boards Association.
Gruccio also spoke warmly of the Egg Harbor Township High School Select Vocal Ensemble, who performed with Kenny Rogers in Atlantic City, backing him up on “We Are the World.” A recording of the song was presented at the meeting.
“Chills. Chills, chills, chills; let me tell you,” Gruccio said. “To be able to see our kids up on stage.”
The meeting started off with a presentation of this year’s audit from Leon Costello of Ford, Scott and Associates, who described the district as being in solid financial shape, with no major recommendations in the audit.