School wing named for ex-superintendent

January 3, 2007

By TODD MCHALE Burlington County Times

DELANCO - It was about 1 a.m. Dec. 20, and retired Superintendent Joseph Miller just had to stop first at M. Joan Pearson School on his way home from a trip out of town.

"I was told the work was complete, and I had to see it," Miller said of a 24,200-squarefoot addition he had worked so hard for so many years to get. "I got goose bumps when I saw my name on the building."

The end of construction marked nearly five years of effort led by Miller and school board members to convince voters to pass a $10 million referendum to pay for a new wing at the Pearson school and renovations at Walnut Street School. Design was by Garrison Architects of Mt. Laurel, NJ.

State, county, township and board members packed into the new gymnasium on Burlington Avenue at the Pearson school yesterday to recognize Miller for his efforts during a dedication of the Joseph H. Miller addition.

"Mr. Miller your dedication to this is legendary," said state Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-7th of Delanco. "This is truly a great testament to all the work you've done for this school district."

The construction went smoothly, but getting voter approval to fund the project did not.

During Miller's 21 years at the helm of the school district, voters rejected the referendum three times. They also rejected the district budget 10 times.

Then, in March 2005, three months before Miller's retirement, voters handed the district a referendum victory. A few weeks later, the voters also approved a new budget.

Superintendent Michael Livengood said Miller's efforts paid off for district students and also will save taxpayers money in the long run because the state has since discontinued funding school construction projects.

"If we were starting it now, we would be paying all of it ourselves," Livengood said.

He said the state paid about 33 percent of the $10 million total for both schools.

The bulk of expense was at Pearson, where improvements included new classrooms, a computer lab, central offices, a conference room, a full-service kitchen and a new gym. Nearly $7 million of the $10 million in construction and renovation costs went into Pearson.

Miller said he's glad voters finally realized the necessity.

"Regardless of the referendum defeats, the bottom line was the kids from the new housing developments were coming and we needed to do it," Miller said.

Despite all the effort, Miller said he couldn't be happier about how it all turned out.

"I still get goose bumps when I drive by the school," Miller said.


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