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Education is critical to ensuring the continued long-term success of our community. As a product of Cherry Hill Public Schools myself, I recognize that a quality education is the key to unlocking future opportunities for our children and that Cherry Hill excels in this regard.
One of my top priorities upon taking office was to forge a close working relationship between Town Hall and the public school system, an effort that will provide expanded communication and cooperation. By strengthening this partnership, the Township Administration and School Board will ensure the well-known, high quality public education continues to be delivered to our children. During these challenging economic times it is important that all entities involved in the welfare of the community join together in guaranteeing the success of our future. As we seek to promote Cherry Hill Township as a superb place to Live, Work, Play, and Shop, while recruiting new local businesses, a well-educated workforce becomes even more essential.
Since being sworn in to serve as Mayor of this great town, I have been working to further identify the needs of the public school system and determine what support the Township can provide in meeting the needs of the schools and students. Superintendent Reusche and I have open and frequent communication, holding monthly meetings to discuss issues facing our schools. In addition, I have met with our school administrators, spoken directly to community groups including the PTA Presidents, and visited many of our wonderful schools to speak directly with our students. We will continue to communicate and work cooperatively with the school system to support initiatives that benefit the community. I look forward to Read Across America Week and the many local school visits I have scheduled throughout the week.
In the past week, the Cherry Hill Board of Education unanimously voted to move the annual School Board elections from April to November. I fully support this move because I believe that greater participation in the process serves to strengthen our democracy. The best way for residents to make change at any level is by having their voice heard at the ballot box. The district sought input from residents regarding the potential change in election date and of those that responded, eighty percent were in favor of moving the school elections to November. The benefits of moving the election can be seen through the opportunity of increased voter participation as well as financial benefit.
The initial financial benefit of the Board’s decision is realized through the cost savings of streamlining the election process for Governmental and School Board officials, thus the elimination of an independent April election for schools. Election expenses for April of 2011 topped $47,000 resulting in a savings for tax payers. Furthermore, turnout for School Board elections has been significantly lower than the average turnout during the general election. Moving School Board elections will hopefully encourage more voters to make their voice heard regarding who will lead our School Board. To realize additional cost savings the Township and School District are exploring opportunities for shared services. I have also been an outspoken advocate, both here in Cherry Hill and in Trenton, for ensuring that funding continues to support Cherry Hill Public Schools and not being diverted to the proposed Regis Charter School. Recently I traveled to Trenton where Dr. Reusche, Board of Education President Klukoff, along with officials from Voorhees and Somerdale, met with Senate President Steve Sweeney and Sixth District Senator Jim Beach to discuss our issues and concerns. I support a bill that is currently pending in the Legislature that would require local approval before the establishment of a charter school. I am a firm believer that charter schools belong in school districts that fail to meet our State standards, but that is certainly not the situation with Cherry Hill.
And as the seasons change, our schools and Cherry Hill Recreation approach the Spring activities season. This is a time that I encourage all to be aware of the spring services that are available. Schools provide, free of cost, a Teen Screen Exam which is a confidential mental health awareness program. Just as physicals are a checkup, so is the Teen Screen.
There are certainly challenges that lie ahead, but I can assure you that the education and services provided to our children through the Township’s schools will remain one of my top priorities.