ABSECON — School Superintendent Theresa DeFranco presented longtime Board of Education member Gerald Hoenes with a community service award Tuesday in recognition of his dedication and contribution to the children of Absecon.

“He really believes in this district. He believes in this town, and I don’t know what we’ll do without him,” she said.

Hoenes, 78, led his last meeting as a board member Dec. 19 after serving 33 total years on the board. He expressed confidence that the school board would be able to confront the challenges of the new year without him.

“I do foresee that the issues facing this board next year, 2018, are going to be major," he said.

"There are some issues that are coming up that we haven't really discussed openly yet, but we know they’re coming,” Hoenes said. “This town really is fortunate to have the quality of the board members we have to take care of these issues.”

Hoenes, who was a teacher for more than 35 years, first served on the board from 1978 to 2005. He taught social studies at Oakcrest High and later served as the supervisor of social studies and performing arts.

He returned to the school board in 2011 after learning that no candidates planned to run for the open seats, which would have meant the election would depend on write-in candidates.

Haines said that in retirement, he plans to spend more time with his three grandchildren. Although he has no plans to rejoin the board, he said board members should expect to see him on the other side of the desk attending meetings as well as calling to express his opinions.

“I know he’ll miss the board members, the school and the teachers," his daughter Cynthia Hoenes-Saindon said.

"He truly believes in them and supports them in any way possible. I know he’s going to miss it, but I know he’ll still be very involved.”

Board members plan to choose someone to fill Hoenes’ seat at their next meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 2. 

The board continued the meeting with a discussion about the immediate replacement of the water cooler unit at the H. Ashton Marsh Elementary school in the new year.

Facilities Committee chairman Alex Corkhill reported that it could cost $200,000 for a new unit, plus additional fees if the school needs to hire an architectural engineer.

The board and the Facilities Committee plan to contact the state and will continue to gather information to discuss the issue further at their meeting later in January.

The 23 dates for the afterschool MAST program at the H. Ashton Marsh Elementary School were approved by the board, and the program is scheduled to begin Jan. 9.

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