Wildwood High School
(ED. NOTE: An earlier story was posted Aug. 31)
WILDWOOD — They held an educational powwow at the city’s high school, home of the Warriors. It was assumed the state Commissioner of Education would attend, but he did not, an apparent miscommunication in an appointment. Regardless, the meeting focused on students who live in poverty and upgrading programs for them.
An Aug. 30 meeting was scheduled at Wildwood High School by the office of Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-1st), with the state Department of Education and Commissioner Chris Cerf, county and local officials to discuss the state of the city’s school district. School district issues were talked about for months after Mayor Ernest Troiano offered Cerf an invitation to see the poverty-stricken school district when Cerf, in June, visited Woodbine Elementary School.
According to recently retired Wildwood School Business Administrator Greg Rohrman, Van Drew’s office confirmed the meeting with Cerf’s office and the commissioner’s office confirmed he would be attending.
Barbara Morgan, press secretary for the Department of Education, wrote, after the Herald story appeared on-line that Cerf missed the session, “…that the commissioner was never invited to the meeting. Sen. Van Drew’s office took the lead in setting up the meeting between Department of Education staff and members of the district and community. While it may have been assumed that the commissioner was attending, the senator’s office did not include him on the list of attendees and no one ever confirmed that he was in fact scheduled to be there.”
Regardless of the invitation or lack thereof, a chair awaited the commissioner with his name on the table before it. There was a 35-minute delay in the meeting’s commencement until Van Drew arrived.
The impetus for the meeting resulted when Troiano told Cerf during the June meeting that his city’s district had the highest number of children living in poverty in the state.
Van Drew termed the meeting, “Extremely productive, whether the commissioner was there or I was there, it moved forward. That’s why all the staff was there.”
“This has to do with the poverty in Wildwood,” said Rohrman “and the impact it has on the education in Wildwood. Education is all about the poverty in Wildwood. For the kids here, it’s the way they can get out of it. That’s the piece we can provide.”
According to Rohrman, the K-12 district educates less than 1,000 children, but it has a student mobility rate greater than three-and-a-half times the state average of 10 percent.
“We know if we can hold on to a kid for four or five years,” said Rohrman, “we can get them to test well.”
Testing well seems to be key to the future of many of the city’s students. Rohrman has long-questioned how few city students are admitted to the county’s technical high school. “Our kids cannot get into the county technical school,” he said, noting he believed there were “a lot of reasons for that.”
Rohrman said he believed a CTE (Career and Technical Education) is the ticket out. “We feel we’ve been hijacked.”
Van Drew interjected he had spoken with Cerf “at length” about the city’s problem. “I know he thinks out of the box. I know he’s brave and I know he’s energetic and willing to do something different.”
Rohrman proposed instituting a program in the city’s high school that would be a hybrid of an early college program with two years spent taking high school-level classes and two years taking community college level classes. The Newark school district is currently using the early college program model.
For students not opting to take the two-year, in-school community college classes, a pathway of vocational and entrepreneurial schooling would be offered. “There are kids who want them. To them, it’s not a disgrace to want a vocational program. These kids have talents and abilities and drive. They want to go out and work,” said Rohrman.
According to the district, additional faculty members would not be hired to teach community college-level classes. Teachers in possession of a Master’s degree would qualify to teach subject matter.
In addition to the early college model, the district would like to become a choice district, thereby allowing students from neighboring districts to attend school, and with them bring state funding.
"It was a good meeting," said Troiano. "It was nice to see the state listening to our problems." He added he would still like to see Cerf make his way to the city for a visit to its schools.
"Sometimes things don't work," said Van Drew about the commissioner's no show. "He (Cerf) was the first one to come down here in years and he'll be the first one to come down again."
When asked when the city's high school could see changes to its educational programs, Van Drew said he hoped to "use every resource the DOE (Department of Education) has and every bit of help and expertise."