EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Tasked with developing a vision for the school district, about 125 stakeholders, mostly parents, students and educators, turned out for a second strategic planning meeting at the C.J. Davenport Elementary School.

Full-day kindergarten dominated the conversation Monday. While it has been a topic in the district for several years, it was never implemented due to budget constraints.

One man said full-day kindergarten is the first place to start to prepare kids for the 21st and 22nd centuries.

“We need to look at that. I am hoping that’s something in the forefront of our plan,” he told the administrators.

Other themes included increasing student achievement, building reconfiguration, social and emotional learning, school and bus safety and financial constraints.

The strategic plan is a five-year plan that will help the district form a budget that aligns with district goals.

“We have a chance to be proactive to change at this moment,” Superintendent Kim Gruccio said.

The strategic planning process is being facilitated by the New Jersey School Boards Association. Representatives from NJSBA were at the meeting to help guide participants.

The attendees were again split into smaller groups to brainstorm ideas on what would make Egg Harbor Township a “School that Succeeds.”

The common themes were sectioned into broad “goal areas,” which NJSBA field service representative Mary Ann Friedman said will be fleshed out at the next meeting into specific objectives.

Before they grouped off, Gruccio played a few videos showing what future workplaces and classrooms could look like.

“The question tonight is: Are our students ready to live and work in a world with that technology?” Gruccio said. “Where do we want to be in the future? That video helps us think about where we have to be.”

Assistant Superintendent Stephen Santilli encouraged the groups to think about “Future Ready Schools.”

“You have a huge challenge in front of you to be able to create this strategic plan but in doing so being able to think about things you don’t even know about yet,” he said. “The challenge isn’t about thinking about 21st century, but 22nd century preparation.”

Meeting attendees represented a variety of community members.

Shavonna Perez is a parent with a student in middle school. She recently moved to the area from California and hadn’t had a great experience so far with the school district. Perez decided to come to the strategic planning meeting after being asked by others in the community.

“I think it’s good. I feel if they implement whatever these are, we’ll get somewhere,” Perez said. “It definitely begins with the parents and teachers working together and not leaving it to technology to be the buffer in between.”

Alder Avenue Middle School Principal Joe Marinelli said he came to the meeting to have a voice in the district’s planning going forward.

“Think about it. You work here. Why wouldn’t you want to have a voice?” said Marinelli, of Linwood.

One group was comprised almost totally of students in the district.

“Since we’re in high school, and they’re talking about bettering the school, hearing the point of view of a student would be helpful,” said Reet Patel, 17.

Enmanuel Pena, 16, said he decided to come because he sees problems in the district that need to be fixed.

“Since we’re students, we know how everything works,” said Bhakti Marfatia, 18.

The next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Fernwood Avenue Middle School cafeteria.

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Contact: 609-272-7251 CLowe@pressofac.com Twitter @clairelowe

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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