[Live Stream] Collingswood Board of Education Meeting 12/16/19

Highlights of this meeting included a thank you to Dr. Becker and Mr. Waugh for their time serving the community as members of the Collingwood Board of Education, an update on Equity efforts at the middle and high schools, an overview of Media Literacy education at the elementary schools, the hiring of a counseling coordinator, and ongoing advocacy for library access at Tatem Elementary School.

The agenda for this meeting may be found here: http://go.boarddocs.com/nj/colps/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=BJBNJ65D778C


A thank you for Dr. Becker and Mr. Waugh were presented during the Committee of the Whole

Collingswood BOE President Henry presents thanks to Dr. Becker and Mr. Waugh for time serving the community on the Board of Education 12-16-19
Collingswood Board of Education President Fiona Henry presents plaques to Dr. Raymond Becker and Mr. Jason Waugh. (Photo Credit: Jen Rossi)



Presentations shared information about a number of projects being done at the secondary level to address Equity Issues

Student Groups For Equity:

  • GSA (Gender-Sexuality Alliance)
  • JBSU (Junior Black Student Union)
  • Colls Convos Student Podcast – was described by a student involved in the program
  • Women’s Empowerment
  • Girls’ Group
  • Social Justice League

College, Career Planning For Equity:

  • Annual College, Career Fair hosted at CHS
  • College and Military visits at lunchtime
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities College Fair
  • College/ Financial Aid Workshops- student/parent meeting for seniors, newly added meeting for sophomore and junior students and parents (new)
  • Camden County College, Field Trip, Accuplacer test
  • PSATs given at school for all 10th and 11th graders

CHS Equity Initiatives:

  • Chronic Absenteeism reduction efforts
  • Late Today, stay today program
  • restorative practices – conflict mediations, circles
  • Trauma-Informed Practices training for all staff
  • School Choice Program
  • Chat and Chew lunch sessions with students and staff
  • Connect the dots staff activity
  • Increased AP course offerings (one goal is to get more students from traditionally underrepresented populations to take AP courses)
  • Multicultural literature infused in curriculum and in school library
  • Black History Month Assembly – student performances
  • Chomebook access
  • Special Education – vocational opportunities (school store, greenhouse, job placement), scheduling (adaptive PE, elective courses), 18-21 program
  • Tutoring/ Peer Tutoring

Multicultural Literacy

  • Present in curriculum
  • LMC Strives for Selection Balance
  • Summer Reading SEL Connections

Grades 6-12: Growing Our Capacity to Understand Equity and Respond to Inequity

  • Equity Council at CMS and CHS
  • Ongoing Staff Training in Trauma-Informed Care
  • Professional Development in Restorative Practices
  • Looking through the “Lens of Equity” (Chromebook Equity Process- access based on student need, even in Chromebook care or repair costs)
  • Encouraging Student Voice (Student Voice Leadership Teams at CMS & CHS)

The CMS Student Voice Project: More than just involving students and giving them voices

  • Process
  • Power
  • Action
  • Outcomes

Dr. Oswald commented on three of the BOE’s goals for this year:

  • Communication- looking to improve the communication
    • Checklists are being looked over
  • A lot of work is being done under the Equity Umbrella. Dr. Oswald commented that the student voice work is encouraging.
    • The staff is looking into experiences that students have had in the past
  • Facility Report is being completed for efforts that touch on Equity and early education. The board needs to decide on the priory of use of space.
    • The expansion of the preschool program into the First United Methodist Church of Collingswood looks like will have a favorable result. Approval from zoning board has been confirmed.

Media Services in Collingwood Elementary Schools

AASLS were updated in 2018

1st Grade- Students use the internet to research, but the websites are curated for them. The technology teacher collaborates with the 1st grade teachers to determine what the topic of research will be.

2nd Grade- The topic of research is chosen in collaboration between the 2nd grade teachers and the technology teacher (last year there were 3 topics)

3-5th grade research- Website Reliability

4-5th Grade can choose a research project that reflects an area of interest for them. The topic must be teacher-approved.

The class spends time learning how to evaluate websites for reliability

Media Specialists focuses on SEL

K-2 Focus on NJ SEL Competencies

  • Working with teachers and students in classrooms to introduce texts with SEL themes and lessons embedded
  • working with teachers and students in classrooms to develop embedded SEL, mindfulness, brain break, movement break strategies

Grades 3-5

  • working with teachers and students in classrooms to teach research skills
  • working with teachers and students in classrooms to teach digital literacy skills, website validation
  • researching current SEL best practices for upper elementary grades, develop a 3-5th grade stope and sequence which supports the SEL goals/ Objectives developed for k-2 classrooms

Space Is An Issue

  • Prioritizing Space: Schools are Growing
  • Growing K-5 student population
  • Providing Preschool for over 150 3-4 year olds
  • Education students with special needs in their own community
  • Providing related services to the same students in our own community
  • Ms. Brooks commented that rooms are used for multiple uses throughout the day- with multiple purpose sometimes at the same time.
  • Ms. Brooks also commented that there with discussions with teachers about in-class libraries/ reading materials in the classroom.
  • Ms. Celia commented on how there is some “busting at the seams”. One of the schools seen was Tatem Elementary, including stage space in the all-purple room used for classroom space

Media Services in Collingwood Elementary Schools: Library Standards and Technology Class Research and Website Reliability

  • Dr. Oswald commented on how the building administrators are doing a lot to make the best use of space.
  • Mr. Connor commented that it is hard to prioritize the space ie: preschool and library. That there are challenges with achieving all of the goals with what space we currently have.
  • Ms. Henry mentioned that as we get demographic information that we are including that in the discussions about use of the space. Budget an space is an ongoing concern and that we should stand behind the library and technology curriculum that we currently provide.

Other Agenda Highlights:

First Public Comment Highlights:

A member of the community requested copies of the presentations that were shared tonight

First Readings:

No First Readings tonight

Items Requiring BOE Member Votes:

All items in Part 11 were approved by all board members

The 2020-2021 School Calendar was shared. May be seen here:

Part 12 all items approved

  • 12.02 Mr. Stauts abstained

Part 13

  • 13.08 A Counseling Coordinator was hired, as part of the Mental Health and Social Emotional Learning objectives. About a dozen candidates were interviewed. This candidate has experience with launching programs and also completed their internship previously at Collingwood. School Social worker and a clinical social worker.
  • All items were approved. Mr. Stauts abstained from ** items

Part 14

No HIB reports to report to the board.

Second Public Comment Highlights:

A member of the community J.C. commented on an ongoing issue of inequity at Tatem for access to library circulation in 2 years. Even with help of PTA, there is no circulation system. There has not been effort to acquire new titles or form a relationship with the Public Library in Collingwood- even in the hiring of a part-time specialist. This member of the community asked that this issue be spoken of in depth in the BOE retreat. Parents and PTA should not be responsible for funding for books. A detailed action plan is requested.

Full comment:

Like many parents of children at the Tatem School, I believe that this district has established an inequity that is selling our children short.  Our children at Tatem have not had access to library circulation in over two years now since our library was dismantled. This inequity was first brought to the Board of Education in March and since then, little has changed.  Even with the help of the PTA, the school still provides no circulation system for shared books, as the other four elementary schools do. The district has had ample opportunity to partner with the public library, utilize their part-time librarian to establish circulation services and purchase new popular titles to be circulated to our children.  Instead, the school and district have simply delayed and made excuses.

While Tatem shows the most glaring inequity, it is clear that all Collingswood children are being sold short.  Elementary years of kindergarten to fifth grade are the prime time for children to engage as readers, establish skills as library patrons, develop research skills using a variety of library databases for research, and become informed digital citizens.  Instead, the district has chosen to not hire a single full time elementary library media specialist, even though research shows increases in reading skills and test scores associated with full access to a certified library media specialist.

Because this has been an ongoing issue of concern that the district has not made sufficient effort to resolve, I am requesting that the library inequity issue and need for library media specialists for our elementary students is discussed in detail at the upcoming Board retreat.  Funding for a library program at Tatem needs to be put back in place–parents should not be asked to foot the bill for books for their children— this should come from our tax dollars, not from our PTA. Moreover, the district must plan ahead starting now to create a detailed plan to allocate funding for full-time elementary school library media specialists.

Our part-time library media specialist is spread so thin that she can’t possibly provide sufficient library media instruction to all five elementary schools in two days per week on how to use a library, how to conduct research, how to utilize databases and how to effectively evaluate media.  The focus of Technology class is not on research or media evaluation, so this is not an acceptable replacement for library media instruction. Collingswood now stands out as a district that refuses to provide the multi-year elementary library programs that show students how to think critically about information  and how to use a variety of printed and digital library resources to build well-developed research projects. Our children need these skills more than ever in the age of information overload where they are constantly bombarded by a cacophony of information that may or may not be true.

Collingswood has divested from libraries over the past decade and has even downsized the Zane library this summer.  Many community members and local parents point out the hypocrisy of a town that hosts the Book Festival that won’t even pay for their own students to have library books.  This is branding Collingswood as a town that doesn’t value books or libraries at all, but only gives superficial face time to make it appear that they do.

Please provide a prompt response to these concerns with a detailed action plan for a circulating school library accessible to all at Tatem and a budget plan for full time elementary library media specialists for the upcoming year.


Mr. Stauts commented back to the member of the public with questions like “which teachers would you like for us to fire?” Mr. Stauts also commented on how Oaklyn is fortunate to have a librarian in each elementary school. Ms. Henry discouraged the back and forth in Public Comment.


Dr. Becker shared a statement at the public comment. Thanking the public for being voted to the board and the opportunity to be on the BOE.

The next BOE meeting will be on Monday, January 6, 2020 at 6:30pm (This will be the board’s Reorganization Meeting)


This post was first published on this website on 12/17/2019
Jen R

Jen R

Jen Rossi, Vice President Jen Rossi moved to Collingswood with her spouse in 2012. She is a graduate of Georgian Court University with a Bachelor's Degree in Education and Fine Art. She has a certificate of eligibility with advanced standing in Elementary Education (K-5) and as a Teacher of Fine Art (K-12). After a part-time floating position and substitute teaching, Jen returned to the corporate world. Professionally Jen is a Digital Marketing Manager for a privately owned insurance brokerage, providing important information on how to reduce the risks in today's business world: ranging from slip and fall injuries to computer network hacks. Getting the information in the hands of people who need it with the help of guidebooks, webinars, instructional videos, blog posts, social media alerts, and online courses. With this background in education and knowledge of the process for communicating important information to anyone willing to hear it, Jen focuses her energy on making a big impact with small things- making life a little more convenient, helping people get informed, keeping things practical and timely, and encouraging achievable goals for success. In her free time, Jen loves upcycling, improving, and otherwise repurposing materials to the delight of family, neighbors, and Etsy customers. She looks forward to running down questions and getting helpful information into social feeds and inboxes of members of the Collingswood community.