Pennsauken School District to Hold Bond Referendum Vote on March 13
|By Frank Sinatra, AAP Editor, December 1, 2017n|
PENNSAUKEN — The Pennsauken School District is asking residents to consider a bond referendum that will make significant improvements to every public school throughout the Township.
The vote, to be held on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, will allocate almost $36 million for various initiatives, while actually reducing school taxes for Pennsauken households.
“The goal of the referendum is to simply increase the education opportunities offered both academically and vocationally to the students throughout Pennsauken Public Schools,” says Dr. Ronnie Tarchichi, superintendent, Pennsauken School District.
“In addition, we want to increase the availability of athletic programs offered to our students; we also want to be competitive amongst all schools in South Jersey.”
The proposed referendum addresses a variety of projects in every part of the District. “These changes will allow the Pennsauken School District to be a true powerhouse, providing a wide variety of opportunities for our students,” adds Tarchichi.
Growing Pennsauken Schools. Credit: Frank Sinatra
A Taste of Pennsauken. Credit Frank Sinatra
Proposed improvements include new security vestibules at all schools; capital improvement to elementary schools with new windows and doors; the establishment of all-day pre-school; the demolition of an aging Longfellow Elementary and the erection of a comprehensive community park and playground in the school’s old footprint; the addition of three new science labs and two additional classrooms at Phifer Middle School; the transformation of Roosevelt Elementary into a high-tech magnet high school, with the addition of a brand new gymnasium; extensive renovations at Pennsauken High School, with improvement being made to the auditorium, library, locker rooms, and gymnasium; construction of a plumbing lab, a new field house, and new tennis courts at the high school; and more.
“When the schools were originally built, security wasn’t an issue. They were community schools. Today, security is a major issue and we have to address that in all of our schools,” explains Billy Snyder, a teacher at Pennsauken High School. “We also need to position ourselves to compete with other schools. Twenty years ago, when I started to teach, there wasn’t any real competition with public schools. We now have to compete with private schools, parochial schools, other public schools. We have to create programs that other schools have – we have to do them better – and that other schools can’t offer. I think the referendum puts Pennsauken Public Schools in a position to move forward and compete with other schools in this area. We have to do that. We have to make Pennsauken Schools a place that people want to come to. We want people to choose Pennsauken.”
In addition to the overall performance of a more connected student body, Pennsauken residents will also benefit from the improved facilities. The park at the Longfellow site would be accessible to the local neighborhood and include a playground, walking path, gazebo, and pickleball courts. The high school track will be open to the community for walking; and the new field house and Roosevelt’s gym will be available for local use. In addition, the proposed turf, multi-purpose field at the high school would also be available for youth football, soccer, and other tournaments, as well as band competitions under the lights.
The timing of this referendum couldn’t be more beneficial, according to District officials. With the retirement of the bond debt from the building of Fine, Delair, and Intermediate schools, combined with state aid, the proposed bond referendum will actually reduce school taxes. For example, a resident with an assessed home of approximately $140,000 will see a reduction of $11.06; these savings take into account both the comprehensive improvements and the District’s regular operating budget.
“We’re dropping off a bond referendum that was done 20 years ago,” explains Tarchichi. “We pay it off and replace it with a smaller referendum that impacts the entire district. That goes from pre-k all the way up to the high school.”
“The issue is how can we do all this and not impact the taxpayers? The easiest way to do this is to put together a bond referendum, which encompasses improvements in all 13 schools,” continues Nick Perry, president, Pennsauken Township Board of Education. “We’re trying to improve our schools for the future. We also have to make sure that whatever we’re doing is on solid financial ground. This bond referendum allows us to do both.”
School officials went on to say that with improved facilities and new programs, overall student test scores will improve.
“The number one thing that schools are evaluated on is tests,” explains Snyder. “Students do better when they’re connected. This referendum is going to allow us to add programs that engage our students and make them more connected to their education. As a result, they’re going to do better in school. And that means test scores are going to go up. You won’t be teaching to the test; you’ll be creating an environment where kids – whether they’re looking to college or a career in a trade – are more excited to learn. That will ultimately lead to better test scores.”
Learn About The Referendum On December 8
As part of an outreach to the community, the Pennsauken School District has planned several town hall meetings where the community can learn about the proposed bond referendum. The first of these will be a “Taste of Pennsauken” event on Friday, Dec. 8, 6:00 p.m. at the P.Y.A.A. Field House, 3501 Elm Ave. In addition to learning in detail about the proposed plans and the opportunity to ask questions about the initiative, the Pennsauken School District is taking the opportunity to recognize Rick Taylor, a member of Pennsauken Township Committee and a longtime educator who has made a significant impact for generations of Pennsauken students.
“Mr. Taylor is on my ‘Mt. Rushmore’ of Pennsauken,” says Snyder. “It’s really fitting that we take an opportunity to recognize what he’s done for our community.”
“It seems we all have a story about Mr. Taylor and how he’s made a difference in our lives. It’s great that we can do something to honor him,” adds Jack Killion, Jr., a teacher at Howard M. Phifer Middle School. “And for those who have questions about the referendum, come on out and ask them. We’ll be more than happy to answer them so that you can make an informed decision.”
For more information or questions, visit GrowingPennsaukenSchools.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.