BOE Meeting Held on 11/9/21 Recap

The Cherry Hill School District Board of Education meeting held on Tuesday evening at the Malberg Administration Building on Renaldo Drive was a source of many informative facts regarding how our students rose to the occasion through difficult times. A large part of the meeting was spent learning how the students participated and performed on standardized testing. Charts were used to display the successes of each of the schools.

Fewer testers – higher scores

As a district that has 94% of its students continuing their education, it’s not surprising to know that the students at High School East were still active in the College Boards testing process. As discussed at the meeting, there were some changes for the students as far as participation and scoring were concerned. The participation for both the PSAT and the SAT exams were both affected. The reported PSAT test was administered during remote school, therefore the students needed to be taken by bus to take the exam, resulting in a 29%in 29% reduction in test-takers. A noted difference for the normally 95% of ninth and tenth graders who have taken the test in previous years.

The BOE meeting also addressed the participation of students on the SAT. While Covid and remote learning were believed to be the sole reason for a reduction in the PSAT test-takers, the 13% reduction for East students taking the SAT could be attributed to a combination of reasons. Not only was COVID affecting participation, but the fact that many colleges now do not require the SAT or any form of standardized testing to be reported for admissions may also be a factor in the lower number of test-takers. It was discussed at the meeting that if the students don’t need to submit scores for entry to college, fewer will take the test.

One of the most interesting test reports was that East students may have had a reduction in participation, but the Board reported an increase in the students scoring. Comparing scores from 2020 to 2021, Reading scores went from 594 to 601, and Math scores went from 600 to 616. Not surprising that we scored high knowing that 94% of our students go on to college.

The Board spent about half of the two-hour meeting discussing the scores of the students and how they were affected by the pandemic. There was even a specific test administered to our students in order to identify the academic needs of the students for the return to in-school learning. Start Strong tests were given to all entering students in September to best identify what students would need in order to succeed after having such a long break from the classrooms.

It was explained that teachers can log into the Start Strong scores for their students and see which students require additional help in the classrooms. The teachers and the students will both be given resources to help them succeed.

Could we be setting our alarms later?

While testing and academic success were discussed at length, the Board also addressed one of the most talked-about subjects for East students: sleep.

The School Start Time Survey results were in and they show that East and West students and parents, above all other grades, are very concerned with school start times. The lower grades were comfortable with the status quo of school report times, but both high schools are ready for change.

It was determined from the survey given to both students and parents, that the Board would continue with their research and look into the benefits of having a possible later start time for the older grade students. It was determined that enough people showed concern for the topic of sleep and start times for students that the district will be further looking into options. There was no decision made, other than to continue the conversation. Stay tuned for future discussions and announcements regarding the start times for the district.

What’s for lunch?

The Board discussed what Aramark is doing to help feed our students in a healthy way but reported that the company is having trouble with staffing, supply chain issues, the necessary refrigeration needed to keep prepackaged food, and also challenges in packaging overall. These problems faced by Aramark could lead to fewer choices in the lunch lines, as well as slower lines. The Board reported that they have been trying to help Aramark hire employees in order to address the worker shortage they are having. The school district has been posting job openings for the food company and actively looking to help fill their employee shortage needs. The Board stated that there needs to be a “balance between expectation and what is truly available” at this time.

Bullies and tutors

There was some time spent at the end of the meeting discussing the two important topics of bullying in the schools and the need for tutors. The Board reported that East and West building principles were working to put in effect evening tutoring for those students that would like extra help.

The topic of bullying was brought up in both public comment sections of the meeting and it was stated that the district takes the subject very seriously. The parents that were concerned felt that the district is not doing enough to stop the bullying problem or punish the bullies. The Board stated that the issues were being addressed at the building levels as well as the district levels.

Unmasking students

There is a possibility that Governor Murphy will live the mask mandate for schools. If this should happen, the New Jersey School Districts will each be able to decide for themselves if they will require masks to be worn by students in the buildings. Dr. Meloche reported that he does not see the governor making any decision on mask mandates in the near future, but if he did then the Board would discuss their options at the January meeting.

What was evident in the meeting was that the Board has all aspects of the academic day covered. From eating to sleeping to learning, and almost everything in between the East students are taken care of.