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Beach Patrol ready to celebrate 100 years in Sea Isle

SEA ISLE CITY — Lifeguards have a way of blending into the beach. They're always there, as much of part of the surroundings as the sand, the waves, and the seagulls.

That's even more the case in Sea Isle City, where the Beach Patrol has been active for 100 years. 

The city is celebrating that anniversary this week. Captain Renny Steele has been around for half of its history.

"It's really a milestone," said Steele, 69, who started in 1968 as a lifeguard and took over the head position in 1986. "The community has really gotten involved, which makes me feel good to think that they value the service that we provided all these years."

The city is marking that milestone in grand fashion. On Thursday, a mass will be held at St. Joseph's Catholic Church for deceased lifeguards. A parade on the promenade with the oldest-living alumni, Andy Sannino, (also 100 years old), and then a "row-out ceremony" on the beach featuring bagpipes and a gun salute, will follow shortly after.

Alumni are probably most excited for the celebration.

Steele said he's been hearing from old friends who he shared the stand with over the years and plenty more are coming from out of town.

"Once a guard, always a guard," he said.

Dr. Thomas McCann, 67, an amateur historian and author of a book on the beach patrol, was a lifeguard in the city for 16 years, starting when he was fourteen years old. He was the lifeguards' mascot before then, he said.

On Saturday, before a "Paddle-Out Wreath Ceremony," McCann will lead a presentation on the history of the Beach Patrol at the Sea Isle City Library.

McCann was a lifeguard for around 35 years in a number of shore towns, including in other states. He finds himself drawn back to Sea Isle.

"My roots, and my heart, is in Sea Isle," McCann said.

The strong connection that lifeguards have to their summer job and their coworkers is "subliminal," McCann said.

"I believe it has a lot to do with the sun, the salt air, the friendly environment, the social environment that comes with it ... the weather," McCann said. "It was more fun than work."

Current lifeguards put it simply: it's the friendships, the network. 

Bridget O'Hanlon, 22, of Medford, and Kristi Rohrer, 22, of Sea Isle, sat overlooking kids playing in the water at the start of their shift on Wednesday afternoon. O'Hanlon is in her fourth year with the Beach Patrol, and Rohrer is in her sixth year.

It's their second year as a team.

"When you first join, it's like an instant 90 friends," O'Hanlon said. "This is the second summer I'm sitting on this beach, and we became best friends from sitting on this stand."

Only 2 members show up for Pleasantville school board meeting

PLEASANTVILLE — For the sixth time in a year, the Pleasantville Board of Education had to cancel its meeting due to a lack of quorum.

Audience members Tuesday filled the high school cafeteria for what should have been the regular-action meeting of July. But after waiting 15 minutes and only two board members arriving, school Business Administrator Elisha Thompkins announced the meeting would have to be rescheduled because at least five of the nine members must be present to conduct a meeting.

In the past 12 months, monthly board meetings scheduled for July 24, 2018; Aug. 14, 2018; Oct. 16, 2018; and Nov. 20, 2018, all were canceled due to a lack of quorum. On Jan. 15, the meeting began with a quorum of six members but was halted halfway through when James Barclay and Bernice Couch left.

Among the audience members Tuesday were about a dozen high school students who came, in school band T-shirts, ready to speak regarding the recent resignation of their band director.

Interim Superintendent Dennis Anderson addressed the students directly, apologizing for the delay and promising the district was working to fill the position.

“We’ll do our best to hopefully get somebody that can do the job and can keep moving you forward,” he told the students.

Asked about the no-shows of the board president and other members after the meeting, Anderson said he was focusing on the positive.

The only board members who arrived at the 5 p.m. start time Tuesday were Sharnell Morgan and Jerome Page. Member Rick Norris arrived about 5:30 p.m., after it had been canceled. He said he was late due to a medical emergency.

Board President Carla Thomas was among those who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting. Reached by phone Wednesday, Thomas said she had “an emergency” and could not attend. She said Vice President Barclay was in Liberia due to a death in his family.

Board members Couch, Anny Melo and Hassan Callaway also did not attend.

“I did talk to a couple of them. Two of them couldn’t get the time off to come,” Thomas said of the other board members’ work schedules.

Thomas said the board positions are volunteer and it was hard to get people to come to the meetings in the summer.

“That’s something that we’re looking into to make sure our dates are good for everyone,” she said.

Prior to Thompkins ending the meeting, Page asked to make a statement on the record and said he would also be speaking with the state fiscal monitor regarding the no-shows Tuesday.

“We really need to look at the seriousness of this today and look at now two board members (who) have missed three consecutive meetings, to remove them, and look at the president at stepping down,” Page said.

This is not the first time Page, who joined the board in January, has expressed his doubt in Thomas’ leadership and asked her to step down.

It is rare that all board members attend Pleasantville’s school board meetings, with Callaway missing the most. Since being sworn onto the board in February 2018 — a month after he was supposed to take office because of a delayed background check — Callaway has missed about half of the 30 scheduled meetings, left early three times and arrived late once.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Aug. 13.

DIANE D’AMICO/Staff Writer////  

thomas Carla Thomas, Pleasantville Board of Education