Tuckerton Elementary Applies for Expanded Preschool Funding

By Pat Johnson | Jun 26, 2019
Photo by: Pat Johnson Tuckerton Elementary Board of Education hires new full-time music teacher, Toni Dworkin.

Tuckerton — The Tuckerton Board of Education has voted to apply for a third round of Preschool Education Expansion Aid from the state. In January of this year, Gov. Phil Murphy announced $27 million in additional funding to 33 school districts, including two in Ocean County: Barnegat and Ocean (Waretown). Tuckerton hopes to be part of the trend to increase pre-K education and, if chosen, would increase its preschool from one existing classroom of 3- and 4-year-olds to three classrooms. The application deadline is Aug. 1; the state has until Sept. 3 to notify the school.

During the June 24 board of education meeting, Superintendent Janet Gangemi said she had already spoken with Facilities Manager Brian Mathis to find the two additional classrooms in the building that could be equipped with restroom facilities, and Mathis told her there would be no problem.

BOE Vice President Jennifer Quintenz suggested that if awarded the funds, the preschool might have to start later in the school year due to the tight deadline; the school opens Sept. 6.

Gangemi said the district is already getting prepared as she and Mathis and the existing preschool teacher had already gone on three site visits to other pre-school programs: Lakehurst, Berkeley and Little Egg Harbor. Lakehurst Elementary has the same demographic and is the same size; Berkeley said it would help with order forms for furniture to set up the rooms; and Little Egg said it would allow new preschool teachers to “buddy up” with its teachers. Little Egg has had a pre-school program in place for 10 years.

Tuckerton will advertise for two new pre-school teachers with the condition that the positions are pending state funding.

The district has already announced a preschool registration date of Aug. 6, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Expanded preschool is pending PEE aid and Department of Education funding.

The preschool will be a full day and at no cost to students.

The board also hired a full-time music teacher, Toni Dworkin, at a salary of $53,562. Dworkin has worked in Willingboro, Lakehurst and Beach Haven. This is her sixth year teaching. She received her bachelor’s from Western Carolina University.

The board voted to approve the Every Student Succeeds Act grants for Individual Disabilities Education totaling $93,403. Two Title 1 teachers will have their salaries funded by approximately $35,000 out of $70,637 for Title 1.

The board retired into executive session to look over its performance review of Superintendent Gangemi and to decide on her Merit Goals bonus of $15,026 per her contract.

After executive session, Gangemi was required by state law to quantify the success of her goals. The first goal to support the social and emotional goals of the students saw “significant growth” in the percentage of those students demonstrating coping skills. One of the tools included in the program is a “Calm Down Back Pack.”

Changing the district over to a standards-based report card rather than the traditional alphabet grade was deemed a success. “There are very few things we needed to tweak, and there was not much parent push-back,” noted the superintendent. This was after meeting with the parents to explain the changes.

The third goal was to improve basic skills in math, and from the MAP testing data that qualifies whether the district met expectations, 43 percent of the students met or exceeded their expected growth, said Gangemi. The PARC scores for this spring won’t be ready until the fall.

Perhaps most impressive was the push to lower the chronic absentee rate from 9.4 percent to 6.85 percent. “The goal had been dropping it 1 percent in a year, so this is a significant drop,” she said.

To do this the school instituted monthly pizza parties for the classroom that had the best attendance record, a “Breakfast with the Principal” award for the class with the best record for the trimester and end-of-year attendance awards for students.

The board voted to grant Gangemi her merit goal bonus.

— Pat Johnson


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