Tuckerton Elementary’s Expanded Preschool Welcomes 45 New Students

Sep 25, 2019
Photo by: Pat Johnson New Preschool instructors in a new classroom for 3- and 4-year-olds, (from left) aide Karen Sorbara, aide Tara Schoen, teacher Melissa King and Principal Stephanie Wroniuk

The Tuckerton Board of Education is pivoting from “maybe we’ll get the state’s expanded preschool aid” to “Wow, we got it, and now we need to accommodate 45 new students.” During the Sept. 23 board meeting three new positions were filled: preschool teacher Melissa King (step one salary of $52,062) and two instructional aides, Tara Schoen and Karen Sorbara, at pro-rated salaries of $16,262. In addition, the board approved increasing Principal Stephanie Wroniuk’s salary by $7,470, preschool intervention specialist Brianna Gilbadi an additional $11,080 and communications specialist Kyle Calderwood, $2,156. These positions and additions to salaries come from the $679,140 state aid for expanded preschool.

The students are currently housed in three classrooms, but a fourth is being readied for Sept. 30. The fourth classroom is needed because the plan to teach the overflow at a nearby daycare fell through when the daycare rescinded its contract, Superintendent Janet Gangemi explained.

Gangemi will also see her salary increased to accommodate the increased responsibilities of the expanded preschool – but first it will be advertised in the district’s newspaper of record as required by state law.

The board voted to purchase a new bus that has a wheelchair lift to accommodate differently-abled students currently attending the school. The board traded in its 16-passenger bus for a bus that can transport 25. The school paid $59,501 for the bus after receiving $23,000 in trade-in value. “I know it’s a lot of money, but the choice was between paying a transport company (estimated at $65,000) and having nothing to show for it, or buying and having an asset,” said Gangemi. Gangemi is also the business administrator for the school and hopes to reap some income from possibly lending the bus to other districts in need of wheelchair-accessible transport.

During the public comment period, teacher Jody Ventresca asked if the board could find and pay a part-time police officer or security guard for the first few hours of school in the morning. Ventresca remembered the good rapport that former DARE officer Matt Caufield (now deceased) had with the students and would like to see the students have the same positive relations with police officers.

Gangemi said she has reached out to the Tuckerton Police Department but so far, because of staffing levels, it has not responded favorably. She said she would try again.

The board of education is seeking two new members to fill two unexpired terms of two and three years. Candidates must have been residents of the Tuckerton district for at least two years, be 21 years or older, a U.S. citizen and of good character. Those interested can send a letter of intent to Tuckerton Elementary School, 213 Marine St., Tuckerton, N.J. 08087 or email the board secretary, Mary Seldenfade, at mseldenfade@tes/nj.com.

The board accepted with “deepest regrets and sadness” the resignation of board member Anna Morey. Morey was a devoted member of 20 years, said Gangemi, and would be sorely missed.

— Pat Johnson



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