A Path to Success 2030

2030?  I’ve just put my children on the bus!  Aren’t we jumping ahead a little?

So it would seem. But the kindergarten students who have entered our schools this year will graduate in the Year 2030. Will they be prepared for success in careers that we can only imagine now? Will we have provided them the foundation necessary to adapt their talent and skills to the needs of the future?

Those are just some of the questions we want to speak with you about personally. Help us move forward with a plan that will lead our schools and children on A Path to Success!  We are asking for your input in assisting us with developing a 3 year strategic plan that will take us one step down A Path to Success.

A Path to Success 2030 is a Strategic Planning initiative that will bring stakeholders from across our community together for three 90-minute meetings during November and December. We are seeking the participation of community members, parents, community leaders, staff, students, former students, religious and business leaders for discussion and input about what we value in our schools now, what our expectations are for the future, and how we can plan together to get there.

I hope you will consider adding your voice to this important discussion. Each meeting focuses on a specific theme. Meeting dates and topics are scheduled at the Hartford School in the Cafeteria from 6:30 to 8 p.m. as follows:

Thurs., November 2, 2017:   Identifying our Points of Pride

Thurs., November 30, 2017: Setting our Expectations for the Future

Thurs., December 7, 2017:   Creating an Action Plan for Success

We welcome students in Grades 5-8 to attend and take part. We’d love to have some former students come back and tell us how prepared they felt for high school, college or career based on their elementary school education here in Mount Laurel.

You can learn more about A Path to Success 2030 on our district website, and can sign up to attend all three meetings, or as many as your schedule will allow, using our online sign-up.

I look forward to sitting with you to help shape a successful educational path for all of Mount Laurel’s children.




The Appreciation of Art Resonates throughout our Schools!

It just so happened to work out that during the month of February we took time out to show our appreciation for art!

Student Art Recognition in our Schools

First, you should know that every month one of our Mount Laurel schools displays its students’ artwork at the Hattie Britt  Board of Education Building. Presently for the month of March, student artwork from Countryside Elementary School is on display. During the month of February, student artwork from Fleetwood Elementary School was shown. In the past, students and parents were invited to the Hattie Britt Building after school to admire their artwork on display and receive recognition from the central office administrators and staff.  We decided to try a different approach and return the students’ artwork directly to them in their classrooms.  As a result, I visited the Fleetwood Elementary School and classrooms to present 28 students with their artwork, a certificate of appreciation, and a letter of thanks for creating such beautiful artwork.  The approach was a huge success and both students and teachers were excited about the visit and recognition!

Below is a Fleetwood fourth grader who was recognized in the school’s main office!


For more information and pics on our recognition of student artwork please visit the Superintendent’s Art Appreciation link!  Enjoy!

The Parade of Artists

Additionally, on Tuesday, February 28th the Mount Laurel Board of Education took a moment to recognize a special group of volunteers who teach our students how to appreciate the art of the great masters! They visit our schools each year during the months of September through January.


These dedicated volunteers take time to research and present the artwork of the great masters to students in their art classes.  The students and teachers benefit from this group’s love of art and their desire to instill the appreciation of art in our students. This occurs a couple of times of month and is referred to the “Parade of Artists”.  The artwork is presented to second through fourth graders in all six of the Mount Laurel elementary schools.

For more information on this wonderful group of volunteers please view our video link below:

Parade of Artists Video

So, whether it is a piece of individual student artwork, a school bus safety poster, a student entry in the Mount Laurel Fire Department’s fire safety promotion poster contest, or students and staff taking a moment to appreciate the “Parade of Artists” – art and its appreciation is highly valued throughout our schools.  Perhaps that is why we as a school community value education in the visual and performing arts for all our students in every grade!

Technology Matters!

Recently I had the opportunity to embark on a technology tour at the Countryside Elementary School with Principal, Mrs. Zataveski, Supervisor of Curriculum, Mr. Saul, and our Network Manager, Mr. Bergonzoni.  We visited various classrooms to see how students and teachers integrated technology into their learning.  Our teachers have effectively and creativity integrated the use of Chromebooks and Google Apps (Google Slides, Classroom, Docs, Sheets) into their daily lessons and student led-activities.  I was so impressed with how our kindergarten and first grade students used their Chromebooks and iPads for learning. Countryside Elementary School is an example of how successfully our teachers, students, and administrators have worked together to seamlessly integrate the use of technology into teaching and learning.


During my three hour visit, I had the opportunity to observe (1) a reading specialist working with her 1st graders and assessing their comprehension skills using iPads; (2) a first grader logging into her Chromebook with a QRL Card instead of having to remember her log-in and password; (3) two co-teaching classrooms, where a general and special education teacher co-taught lessons together; (4) our English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher using iPads to help enrich the learning and language of students whose first language is not English; (5) a Gifted and Talented Program (GAP), where students researched articles and websites for use in their multimedia presentations. GAP Students used both iPads & Chromebooks to design their projects.

Below you can see fourth graders using Google slides for their PowerPoint presentations as they discussed and engaged their classmates on one of the U.S. States they researched. Students embedded video and background music into their engaging multimedia presentations. They even designed quizzes to test their classmates on the presentation. You can see Mr. Bergonzoni and me competing on Kahoot! to select the correct answer on the student created quiz about the state of Hawaii!


Taking time to enjoy the hard work of our administrators, teachers, and students serve to remind us all about the importance of the meaningful work they all do on behalf of our students every day!

I appreciate the time and effort our staff put into their teaching all the time! The one thing that stood out to me throughout my visit, outside of the excellent use of technology, was the special way all of our teachers inspired their students to desire to learn, create, innovate, present, verbalize their ideas, and feel like a valuable member of a learning community.  After all, although technology may become outdated quickly, students’ love of learning will last them a life time!

February – A time to recognize Mount Laurel’s Role in History

Since 1976, February has been nationally recognized as African American History Month, a time for celebrating and recognizing the major accomplishments and contributions made by African Americans in all areas of American History and Culture.  President Gerald R. Ford expanded the recognition period to a full month back in 1976, which makes last year the 50th anniversary of African American History Month:


In addition, this year marked the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington, D.C., the newest of the 19 museums that are part of the Smithsonian Institution.

What you may not realize is that Mount Laurel has played a special role in African American History.  Mount Laurel is home to some very special places that we should take some time to visit and appreciate now and throughout the year.  For one, the Alice Paul Institute located right here in Mount Laurel is a National Historic Landmark and recognized for the work of its namesake, Alice Paul, for fighting for equality, education, and equity for woman.  Although Alice is considered a suffragist fighting predominately for woman’s rights, she established a standard, rooted in her Quaker values, that all people are entitled to equal rights and liberties.

Another institution that comes to mind is the historic Jacob’s Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, located in Mt. Laurel and a recognized stop on the Underground Railroad.  Jacob’s Chapel Cemetery is the burial-place of Dr. James Still, famously known as the “Black Doctor of the Pines”.  The cemetery is one of “the earliest African American Burial Grounds in Burlington County” (Jacob’s Chapel Cemetery).  Dr. Still was a pioneer in what today we call homeopathic medicine.  Many would travel to the Pine lands where Dr. Still practiced medicine to avail themselves of his natural cures.  Today Dr. Still’s great-great grandson, Reverend Terrill W. Person serves as the Pastor of the church.  Rev. Person is also the Director of Project T.I.M.E. Mentoring Program in the Mount Laurel School District.  Rev. Person and his mentors provide a wonderful service to our schools by mentoring young children who benefit from having an influential positive role model in their life providing them with ongoing encouragement.

In closing, you can be sure throughout the Mount Laurel schools teachers and students will be learning about the important contributions to American History made by African Americans, however the past is so relevant to our future and we should all take some time to visit and learn about the historical treasures right here in our home town.



Board of Education Reorganizes & Recognizes Staff and Students in January 2017

The 2017 new year brought the Board of Education’s annual Reorganization meeting. At its annual Reorganization meeting on January 3rd, 2017, the Mount Laurel Board of Education nominated Mr. Marc Jones, former Vice President, to serve as the new President and Diane Blair as Vice President of the Board.  Mr. Jones replaces Mrs. Maureen Sojka, who served as President for the past two years.  Mrs. Sojka served effectively and her leadership guided the Board through some major transitions.  For one, Mrs. Sojka served as President throughout the Board’s search for a new superintendent following former Superintendent Dr. Rath’s retirement.  The Mount Laurel Board has made some key decisions for this new year.  First, the Board eliminated their Work Session meeting in lieu of working more closely in board committees.  Outside of the board’s three operating committees, they will hold one regular scheduled meeting per month.  The three major committees of the Board are:  (1) Curriculum & Instruction; (2) Human Resources/Negotiations, and; (3) Finance.  These committees will meet once per month and more often if needed.  Please visit our Board website for a complete list of board members, board agendas, minutes, and to view special photos.

Click the following link to view Photos from the Annual Reorganization Meeting.

We plan to include both district level presentations and student recognition ceremonies whenever possible at each board meeting this year.  At the January 24th meeting we presented the District’s Violence and Vandalism and the Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying Reports for the Period covering September 1, 2106 through December 31, 2016. A highlight of the meeting was when our local  Boys Scouts Troop opened the meeting by leading the board in the flag salute.


Another highlight was when the Board of Education presented Recognition Awards to members of the Thomas E. Harrington Middle School Girls’ Soccer Team. The team went undefeated in a new league this year with a record of 11 wins and one tie, with a 34-goals scored total for the season.  In addition, the BOE presented Recognition Awards to their Coaches, Carol Hutcheon and Jennifer Rotella.


We invite you to please take time to come out to your local Board of Education meeting each month and be a part of all the great things happening in your educational community.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear Mount Laurel Community:

On behalf of the Mount Laurel Board of Education, our Administration and our Staff, we wish you the happiest of Thanksgiving holidays.

Thornton Wilder wrote: “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

Here in the Mount Laurel Schools, we are alive each day in the recognition that our students are destined for future success.

We know that to be true because of our dedicated staff and the support of a tremendous community that values the importanceof education.

We thank you for playing a crucial role in the future success of Mount Laurel’s children and for your partnership in their education.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday, and be safe in your travels.


George J. Rafferty,

Superintendent of Schools

Welcome Back to School!

Dear Mount Laurel Families:

Welcome to a new school year! The 2016-2017 school year promises to bring new and exciting challenges to our classrooms while promoting student growth both academically and socially. Our goal as a district over the past twelve weeks has been to prepare programmatically and physically for the return of students.

In July, a team of elementary teachers and administrators developed the elementary science curriculum to align with the Next Generation Science Standards. This curriculum will be implemented next year. During the 2016-17 school year, teachers will pilot a number of the units, and final revisions will be made. These cyclical revisions bring our content in line with current standards, but more importantly, the process allows our skilled practitioners to scrutinize and improve our programs.

A new program for writing in Grades 6-8, Lucy Calkins Units of Study, brought teachers in those grade levels together in August for training. They will introduce their peers to this program during our initial staff in-service days prior to the opening of school. While our program will continue to implement the writers’ workshop model with a focus on whole group mini-lessons, small group instruction, and independent writing, Lucy Calkins Units of Study will support those measures.

I am proud to announce that we open the school year with two new administrators. At the Hillside School, Dr. Briean Madden will take the helm as Principal, while James Marchesano will assume the role of Interim Assistant Principal at the Mount Laurel Hartford School. I hope you will join me in welcoming them warmly to their new positions.

This summer, as in years past, our district administrators took part in an intense three-day retreat. The emphasis for this year’s administrative retreat was the neuroscience of learning – understanding how the brain works to improve strategies for teaching and learning. Part of this fascinating professional development took place at the Franklin Institute. Meanwhile, all of our new teachers participated in a new-staff orientation lasting five days prior to the star of the school year. They were introduced to a number of Mount Laurel’s teaching strategies and best practices.

In our buildings, maintenance staff members have been performing routine tasks along with major summer projects including replacement of the shingled sections of Hartford’s roof and repair to the front sidewalk and sewer pipe sections at Springville due to erosion damage. Parkway staff will be glad to find new closet doors when they return, with new cabinets in fabrication and soon to follow. Worn carpeting was either removed or replaced in several areas, and Hartford’s library circulation desk was also replaced. We painted classrooms at Hartford, Springville, Countryside, Parkway, Harrington, Hillside and our Child Study Team offices, and replaced lunch tables at Springville, and at Hartford and Harrington, where needed.

We are well-prepared to welcome you back for a new year of collective insight and individual success. We look forward to our valued partnership as we guide a new group of students through another grade level on their educational journey.

As your Superintendent, I look forward to beginning our first new school year together!