While a new year has begun and two new members have started serving on the West Deptford school board, an old issue raised in 2012 will still be on the forefront in 2013.
Christopher Strano, who was unanimously re-elected school board president for a second term last Wednesday, put a lot of emphasis on school safety improvements in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December.
The board had a long discussion on the topic in its final meeting of 2012, but Strano says that there will be a lot of ideas tossed around by the board in 2013 to create the safest environment possible for students.
“There definitely needs to be more innovations to help so this one incident never happens again,” Strano said.
The school board will not simply toss money at the safety issue, however. Strano said that the board will do a lot of research in consulting with safety experts as well as local authorities before implementing any major changes.
“It's not like we can make it like an airport with the TSA,” he said “That wouldn't stop what happened in Sandy Hook.”
Other priorities: debt, improvements and more
One piece of good news for West Deptford schools in 2013 came during Wednesday night's meeting as Assistant Superintendent William Thompson announced that the school district has finished paying off its outstanding debt. This will free up more taxpayer money for this year's budget to be used on the actual schools.
However, Strano was not quite sure on how the school budget will look for next year, especially after it was slashed last year following a major decrease in tax revenue. The budget will be discussed in further detail during a weekend work session in February.
Strano said that school upkeep will be something else that the board will look at in 2013. With the school district in debt in recent years, maintenance on the school buildings was cut and some improvements are needed. However, Strano noted the top two priorities are student safety and education.
As with last year, the school board will seek more feedback from the school community. Strano praised the community's involvement last year, especially with the revision of West Deptford High School's dress code. The school district will continue to listen to the school community and use surveys other tools to gauge what the West Deptford community is looking to improve in the schools, he said.
New ideas will most certainly be thrown around the board as well with two new members, Thomas Lee and David Kline, replacing long-time board members James Mehaffey and Donald Hicks. Strano said that he is encouraging all of the board members to bring forth new ideas, not just within the committee they chair, but with any school issue.
The eight other board members have begun to submit their preferred committee chairs as well as their long-term goals for the school district. Strano said that last school year was an extremely busy year for the board, but he expects 2013 to be possibly even busier.
However, he did praise the charisma and work ethic of the board as well, saying, “We have people who want to be there and are active and want to work to help the community.
What do you think the West Deptford school board should focus on in the coming year? Tell us in the comments.