Woodstown-Pilesgrove school officials promote approval of $9.9 million bond referendum

Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012
By Brittany M. Wehner/South Jersey Times



Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional School District Superintendent Tom Coleman speaks to Woodstown Borough Council members this week about the district's proposed $9.9 million bond referendum.

WOODSTOWN - After a special presentation by the local superintendent of schools on the district’s upcoming $9.9-million facilities improvement bond referendum, the borough’s mayor said he’s sold on the idea.

“I strongly support the referendum. It’s necessary to ensure the Woodstown and Pilesgrove students get the education they need to compete in the world’s new economy,” Woodstown Mayor Don Dietrich said.

Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional School District Superintendent Tom Coleman spoke before the borough council and residents this week.

The presentation was one of many school district officials will make before voters in Woodstown and Pilesgrove decide on the $9,958,658 bond referendum on Nov. 6.

Coleman reviewed the important factors why previous bond referendums were not successful and highlighted the strengths of this year’s plan.

If voters approve borrowing the $9.9 million, the district will finally be able to proceed with what it deems critical facility improvements.

“The core value of this town is historic preservation and that is something this community has. It is so important when you develop a plan that you have a belief system and values — you can’t abandon that,” the superintendent said.

Coleman reviewed the previous three failed referendums including a $67-million facilities project in January 2006, a $26.9-million one in March 2009, and a $27.9-million one in December 2008.

Past referendum plans were based on demographic growth, he said.

“This plan is about what we need. It isn’t necessarily about what we want. It does answer the most important things we need at this junction and the second piece of this is confronting the present,” Coleman said.

For the past 18 months, the board of education and school administration have worked to develop a more cost-efficient plan to meet the needs of the district.

According to school board officials, the high school needs two new science labs and the renovation of a current agricultural science room.

Also, as part of the long-range facilities plan, a new all-purpose room needs to be constructed at the middle school which will allow for separate lunches and gym classes, allowing the middle school to function independently from the high school.

Additionally, adding a multi-purpose room to serve as a gym and cafeteria for the middle school in the future would free up schedules, preventing a need to build a new separate school.

Currently, fifth-grade students are located at Woodstown Middle School, which houses grades 5 through 8. As part of the plan, the school district would move the fifth grade to Mary S. Shoemaker School, in turn freeing up four classrooms for high school or middle school use. The move would also allow students to work and learn in an elementary setting, which is needed, the superintendent said.

In response, the mayor added that the agricultural academic program is suffering from a loss of enrollment and if the referendum is approved, it will facilitate growth through a more advanced curriculum.

Councilman David Layton added that the board focused on the right things.
“I whole-heartedly endorse it,” Layton said.

Also present during the presentation were Business Administrator Frank Rizzo and School Board President Chapman Vail.

“One of the things we talked about in this is efficiency,” Vail said. “We had to really learn how to work together to maximize how we spent our resources to make sure we could still provide an education program that is demanding, but still maintain fiscal responsibility.”

Coleman also said the plan this time is the least expensive and most productive in long-term problem solving.

“This is exciting and different and we need to inform people,” the superintendent said. “These kids have a future because we are addressing their needs of a healthy, educational program.”


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