Southern Regional Superintendent Announces Upcoming Court Dedication in Honor of Former Coach

By David Biggy | Oct 16, 2019

Stafford Township — While Southern Regional Board of Education business was a bit on the light side for its regular monthly meeting on Oct. 9, Superintendent Craig Henry tossed out a couple announcements that should interest some among both the student population as well as the general public.

As part of a massive movement of policies – mainly existing policies being tweaked and updated in preparation for a mandated review scheduled for next year – the board approved a resolution that allows the district to dedicate the basketball court in the 9/10 building’s gymnasium in honor of former basketball coach Jim Ruhnke.

“Jim was one of the makers who moved the athletic program’s needle to where it currently is, where we all enjoy the success and the expectations of it as well as the traditions that have become part of our doctrine,” Henry said during comments he made as part of thanking the board for considering and approving the resolution. “I know this will mean a lot to him, and there are a lot of people who already have expressed interest in this.”

Henry said a dedication ceremony is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 3, during halftime of the varsity basketball team’s contest against Shore Conference Class A South rival Toms River East. During the ceremony, several individuals are expected to speak, including Ruhnke, and thereafter the court will be known as the “Jim Ruhnke Basketball Court,” Henry said.

“Jim’s a man of few words, but an incredibly brilliant man, and I’m sure whatever he says will be great,” Henry said after the meeting. “He was such a powerful influence here. He could have done anything but his passion was basketball, and watching him day by day, turning boys into men, was a joy to watch.

“In a similar way to when we dedicated the football field to Ron Emmert, this is the right thing to do. This is what programs of rich tradition should do to honor the ones who did the heavy lifting and set the foundation for success.”

Interestingly, another of Henry’s announcements involves one of Ruhnke’s former players, Bob Cassidy, who has helped the administration gather a team of guest speakers for the school’s next “mini academy” initiative – “Mini-Law School.”

For the last two years, Southern had offered a lecture series for students called “Mini-Medical School,” a six-week series during which students gained valuable insight into what it takes to prepare for a career in the medical field. “Mini-Law School” will have a similar model and is scheduled to begin sometime in January and run into February. Enrollment for the program, which will be limited to a specific number of students, will begin after the fall break in November, Henry said.

“Bob is an attorney within the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and he got permission to help organize this for us,” Henry said. “He really did a nice job of assembling a diverse group of speakers, and this will give our students real information so it can confirm or deny their ideas about going into a law career of some kind.”

Prior to board business, English teacher and fall musical director Elizabeth Weidenhof was on hand with several students to promote the upcoming show, “The Great Gatsby,” scheduled for Oct. 24-26. The choice to perform “The Great Gatsby” coincides with the fact the novel is read as part of the curriculum for the school’s English 3 classes.

“We have 35 students in the show, which is more than double what script calls for, but the more kids we can get involved, the better,” Weidenhof said. “We wanted this to be an inclusive environment that promotes growth, learning and education.”

Student Charlie Ray told the board his experience with the fall musical has taught him a lot in a short time.

“Doing a show that is part of the student’s curriculum will make our peers more interested in it, and it makes English class a lot easier for me,” he joked. “I’m looking forward to the final product.”

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