Tuckerton Elementary Works to Expand Free Preschool

Jul 24, 2019

Tuckerton Elementary School is working hard to meet a deadline for money available through the state to expand existing preschool programs. The application was on the July 22 board of education agenda for approval and needs to be to the state by 4 p.m. on Thursday, July 25, to qualify for the funding. The state will notify school districts if they have received the funding on Sept. 3.

Superintendent and Business Administrator Janet Gangemi said the application was 15 pages long and was in a narrative form requesting information on the curriculum and plans for community outreach plus a budget worksheet.

Registration for the free full-day program for 3- and 4-year-olds is Monday, Aug. 5, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the school, 213 Marine St. Those registering should bring the child’s original birth certificate and two proofs of Tuckerton residency, such as electric and phone bills.

The program is pending Preschool Education Aide and Department of Education funding.

Both the board and Gangemi are optimistic they will receive the funding and, to begin the school year, are scheduling two half days, Sept. 5 and 6, in order to ease the youngest into the routine of a school day. “There are still a lot of pieces to put together but I’ve been working on it every day, all day,” said Gangemi.

“I like that we are being proactive, that we are going to do this,” said board President Trish Horner.

The school already has one preschool class, and if the funding comes through, the district will add two more classrooms – already waiting for them, except for the furniture. “I’m hoping to find out from our provider how much it will cost to send the furniture back if the funding does not come through,” said the superintendent.

There is a potential of 45 students ages 3 and 4 in the borough. The state would provide money to hire teachers and two classroom aides, but not individual special education aides if they are needed.

The preschool expansion is the first of four merit goals proposed by Gangemi for the 2019-20 school year. The second is to improve student English Language Assessments, the third is for the school to obtain Sustainable New Jersey School status, and the last is to move into “trauma sensitive school” status.

For the preschool expansion, Gangemi has already been to three professional development meetings and taken a webinar on the process. She intends to focus on improving ELA scores, as she did with math last year. The sustainable school program includes such things as using “green” cleaning products in the school, creating a community garden and integrating “green” education into arts and other curricula. Obtaining that status would allow the school to apply for a host of grants.

Gangemi will work with teachers and the school counselor to bring the school into “trauma sensitive” status by recognizing that children cannot focus on school until they have support when going through family divorce, moving, living in poverty or experiencing family alcohol or drug problems. Professional development will help teachers respond to those emotional needs and understand acting-out behaviors by youngsters who have not developed “self-regulation skills.”

Three board member positions are up for election; the incumbents are Trisha Horner, Debra McMunn and Alison Sanford. Those wishing to run for school board must have their papers into the Ocean County Board of Elections by July 29.

— Pat Johnson


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