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Recap of the August 29, 2022 Board of Education Meeting

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

Last night’s BOE meeting was chock full of information, updates, and intense community engagement.

It is worth watching the video (we will share the link here once available), but be forewarned: The meeting was three hours long!.

If you missed the meeting and have time to watch, we suggest focusing on Dr. Hackett’s report, Dr. Alegria’s update on Special Education, Dr. Young’s report of Students’ NJSLA results, and community comments relating to the NJ 2020 Health Standards and the related Voorhees Health Curriculum.

For your information, we offer the below highlights and commentary:

Julie Ketover

  • We were thrilled to watch as Ms. Ketover was sworn in as a new Board of Education member. Ketover will serve until the end of the calendar year.

  • She will need your vote on Election day, November 8th, to fulfill the remaining 2 years of the term.

Summer Projects

  • In addition to routine maintenance and upkeep, Administrators announced that other major projects were completed including:

  • New flooring to replace carpeted areas and new lockers at VMS

  • A state of the art library at Osage

  • New preschool classrooms at Kresson

Superintendent Report

Dr. Hackett (Superintendent)

  • Dr. Hackett reported on the status of her 90-day plan.

  • She shared that there will be many new opportunities for community and parent engagement through workshops, informational meetings, and other means tbd.

  • Dr. Hackett also shared that the district has submitted an application for a grant to expand Voorhees’s preschool capabilities and offering, a cornerstone of our platform. We were especially thrilled to hear about this and look forward to hearing more. If Voorhees is awarded this grant there will be expanded offerings as early as this coming October!

Dr. Alegria (Director of Special Services) presented on the following:

  • Annual report of the special services department on various indicators.

  • Statistics around students receiving services and referrals

  • Summer updates

  • Next steps and growth opportunities

Dr. Young (Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction)

  • Dr. Young presented the NJSLA results from the 2021-2022 school year. When these results are posted on the district site, we will share that link.

  • The results indicate overall declines in literacy and math, with more significant declines in literacy.

  • We are concerned about the demonstrable academic gaps, as measured by performance on these tests, though we also recognize that tests are only one measure of success.

  • We have particular concern about the following: 1) sub-group disparities in performance in literacy and math and how to effectively address these disparities; 2) disparities across the elementary schools and how to ensure these disparities even out; and 3) overall readiness for high school upon 8th grade graduation.

  • Dr. Young presented a number of intervention strategies to address performance declines. We will be paying close attention to this issue and the outcomes of these strategies over time.

Audience Participation: There are two sections of audience participation at every BOE meeting. The first section is for commentary relating to agenda items. The second is for any commentary. Highlights of both are presented here:

  • By and large, the commentary last night focused on the 2020 New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Comprehensive Health and Physical Education and the Voorhees Public Schools curriculum relating to those standards.

  • Community commentary was overwhelmingly in favor of the standards and the curriculum. Notably, the only Voorhees residents who spoke in opposition were the candidates running against the Keeping Schools Smart slate. Other speakers who opposed the standards were from non-Voorhees residents with a clear political agenda.

These out of town speakers included a right-wing school choice advocate, and congressional candidate Patricia Kline who regularly attends school board meetings throughout the state as a platform to share her political agenda;

a failed right-wing congressional candidate Ian Smith, the gym owner who proudly and openly defied mask mandates in the early COVID days, who attended the January 6th riots, whose drunk driving resulted in a death over a decade ago, and who was arrested for yet another DUI earlier this year.

and Cherry Hill resident Pnina Mintz, who administers multiple right-wing social media groups, including No Left Turn in Education - New Jersey.

  • Pro-Health standards and curriculum commentary was powerful and persuasive. It focused on the importance of age-appropriate, comprehensive, and medically accurate sexual and health education in order to support bodily autonomy, thwart abuse and teen suicide, and promote healthy relationships, choices, and self-expression.

  • Other noteworthy commentary included: Support for preschool expansion; emphasis on the need for in person foreign language instruction; the dangers of right-wing extremism in our town; the role of BOE members in the context of our democracy; the importance of refocusing on academic performance and strengthening our schools; and the need for more robust STEM programming.

Curriculum Vote.

  • Dr. Falk was not in attendance at the meeting, which was disappointing. He, therefore, did not vote on any matters, including the 2022-2023 curriculum.

  • We are very pleased with the vote on the curriculum which was 7 in favor and 1 abstention by Ms. Stoopler.

We hope your attendance in person or by zoom, your access to the video recording, and your review of our recap above leave you both better informed and in agreement with us on this point: This upcoming election is absolutely critical.

We saw last night that there is very little support for our opponents’ right-wing agenda in Voorhees. However, this doesn’t mean we should be complacent. Quite the contrary. These folks have financial backing and support from outside our community and are mobilized and organized. This situation is not unique to Voorhees, but rather a concerted effort around the country for extreme take-overs of our local school boards. We cannot allow this to happen in Voorhees and it’s a significant motivator for us to run. Our opponents’ agenda is anti DEI; anti trans; anti LGBTQ; and anti truthful teaching of history. They want to defund the public school system and shift funding to private schools. These are not the values of Voorhees residents and not the values we want to instill in our children.

We must show up and vote on November 8th. We cannot allow these extremists to take over our school board.

Vote for Keeping Schools Smart- Julie Ketover, Jacob Rosner, Maureen Rutter and Julienne Verdi- and help us to spread the word about this race. Hate has no place in Voorhees.

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