We Want Your Input!

Welcome to the initial posting of “InsideOutlook,”  where I will share information and request your input on various topics throughout the year. As the new superintendent of Pemberton Township Schools, I want to find out your thoughts on our school district and on our future direction. Please take a moment to watch the brief video below and respond in the comment section–I will reply to your questions and comments, and appreciate your input!

25 thoughts on “We Want Your Input!

  1. Kathy Vogel

    Thank you for asking for our input. You are a brave soul. My questions relate to the following:

    1. We have student agendas with the districts disipline stated however there is little follow through. I would like to know your thoughts on disipline.

    2. Teachscape as it relates to the preobservation questions. They are lengthy and seem to be redundant. As well as who is our point person for teachscape? It’s my understanding that Joyce Rose is the point person. Is it possible to have a person who uses teachscape on a regular basis that could explain the difficulties and find more efficient ways to navigate and input info. We reflect after each observation. We reflect beginning, middle and end of year somewhere else on the teachscape main page and again in the summative evaluationin. Also domain 4 needs guidelines as to what is acceptable pieces of evidence as each building is doing it differently. Also the response time to completed observations is lacking. I understand the amount of evals that need to be done but some response times were extreme. I think I will stop there for now.

    3. Communication is a huge issue. I would like to see more communication like this where we feel we have a voice and become engaged stakeholders in the district. Where the guidelines are clear and properly disemmenated throughout the district.

    I think these issues being addressed would greatly improve morale and open the lines of communication in the district.

    Thank you for reaching out to the staff of Pemberton. I would be happy to assist in anyway possible.

    Kathy Vogel

    1. Tony Trongone Post author

      In my 18 years of education this is one of the most frequently requested from faculty – the handling of discipline. This is my second week in district but I will add this to my agenda when we hold our administrator meetings/professional development (administrative retreat) in August. I will then meet with students, teachers and parents to hear their perspective on the issue. My approach will be to baseline what is the current reality (pooling together the multiple perspectives) and coming up with a plan of action. As far as philosophy, I think it is best to say Pemberton already has policies and procedures in place; we will follow them.

      I am looking to change the Domain #1 questions and will bring my suggestions to the next DEAC meeting. In my previous school district our teachers felt the same way as you and we changed the questions to streamline the process and make the questions more relevant to the lesson being observed.
      From what I have been told, Joyce Rose operates data entry for Teachscape but the superintendent, Dr. Gorman, oversaw the entire process. I will look at the process and evaluate your concern for myself.
      What we will ask teachers to submit during the year will also be scrutinized by me. I will look at the law of diminishing returns – does what we do have a positive impact on student achievement?
      If inputting data and evidence is a concern it might be wise for all certificated staff to receive more professional development in Teachscape, which I can arrange to happen.
      Domain #4 and how we evaluate that domain will be discussed at the administrative retreat. What types of evidence will evaluators request and a calibration of the critical attributes in the Framework for Teaching will be analyzed. Again, those findings will be brought to DEAC.

      I think this process we are involved in now is a good first step in creating an atmosphere of accountability and transparency – two key ingredients to effective communication. That being said, this process is a two way street with all stakeholders in regard to accountability. I am superintendent, but I have never lost my penchant for being a TEACHER first. I look at each situation as such, and consider how what we do affects the students, teachers, parents and administrators in Pemberton.

      Thank you for reaching out to me and I look forward to meeting with you this Wednesday, July 15.
      –Tony Trongone, Superintendent

  2. Katie Semonik

    I wanna ask if there can be a PTHS dance team that can compete against other local school district, such as Hainesport or ever Rancocas Valley dance team…if you can please reply on what your thought is about this, thank you

    1. Tony Trongone Post author

      Our school district is always looking for ways to engage kids in extracurricular activities. I did a small of amount of research (website/Facebook) and found, as you stated, Rancocas Valley (RV) has a fantastic, award winning dance team program. That being said, I am reaching out to the administration at Rancocas Valley to provide me with all the logistical issues. We would not have a program this school year, but would look to implement a program the following year after proper planning and budgeting. I hope my response answered your question.
      –Tony Trongone, Superintendent

    1. Tony Trongone Post author

      I have been visiting schools in Pemberton since my approval April 16 (9 visits in all), plus serving as superintendent for two weeks here at Pemberton. This topic was by far the most commonly asked question.
      We will convene focus groups (in the fall/early winter) to discuss the entire school district calendar. We would then create a draft calendar for all stakeholder groups to review.
      Please know that I do not see making any changes to the school district calendar for the upcoming 2015-2016 school year.
      –Tony Trongone, Superintendent

  3. Petra Farmer

    Welcome to the Pemberton School district. I am a retired teacher having served 26 years as a science teacher at the high school. I am also an alumnus, Class of ’77. I’m going to jump right in and give you my views. The majority of the staff in Pemberton feel extremely under appreciated and not listened to. Teaching is not a profession where you are rewarded with monetary bonuses, we all know that. I have often said an occasional “Good job” or a pat on the back can go a long way. Teachers in Pemberton work very hard and sometimes they need to hear that someone recognizes that. One of my biggest peeves while I was there is that sometimes my questions were met with no response at all. When I asked a question whether at the building level or before the board, I was often met with silence. I was never sure I was heard. Even if they had looked at me and said “What a stupid question, are you crazy?”, at least I would have known I was heard. There is nothing more defeating than silence. I would rather have been told no than be told nothing at all. I would say one of your biggest challenges is to figure out how to build morale, Your teachers are fierce even with low morale, think of the things they could accomplish if they felt truly cared about.
    Now, on to the students. We have an amazing group of students. The problem for the past 10 years is that the district has tried to make them all the same. News flash: not everyone is going to college and not everyone should. Pemberton is unique and so are our kids, they don’t all fit the same mold. Rather than trying to force them to be something they are not, why don’t we encourage them to be the best of what they are. Pemberton is not Cherry Hill or Moorestown, neither is it Camden or Newark. Pemberton is Pemberton and we need to address the needs of Pemberton.Your predecessor tried to do away with auto shop, our kids need classes like that. I went before the board and told them a story: My Honda dealer told me I needed new brakes. They said that would be $600. My son, who had auto shop in school looked at me and said “Let’s go mom.” We went home, ordered the parts and, $152 and a few hours invested, I had new brakes. My point is that I have a Bachelor’s degree in biology from Rutgers and my graduate work was in embryology and genetics at Temple University but, none of that gave me the skills I needed to fix my brakes. I believe that’s why our students are unhappy. We are trying to turn them into something they are not and have no interest in being. Even on the college level there are science classes for non-science majors, math classes for non-math majors, yet, we are trying to force all of our students into college prep classes. If you put students into classes they cannot possibly succeed in, they will become angry, unhappy, and apathetic. I’m not saying don’t challenge them, I’m saying let them taste some success before you introduce the challenge.
    Another thing I would recommend is going into each building and sitting down with the teachers and just having a discussion about what is on their minds. No administrators, just you and the teachers. And please, really listen.
    I’m sorry this is so long, it’s a compilation of at least 10 years of thoughts and observation. I wish you nothing but the best in your tenure in Pemberton Township.

    1. Tony Trongone Post author

      I think the same can be said (of what you stated) for almost all educational systems in America. We cultivate a culture to prepare kids to be a college professor – not a plumber, auto technician or electrician. It’s only July 14th, but you will see we will continue to put much emphasis on our academies. People miss the point–it’s college or CAREER. We will continue to provide our students with pathways for college, while we expand and refine our capacity for student choices in the academies.

      I was working on a project in my basement and I asked my stepson to grab me a plane. He actually thought I meant an airplane – it was then that I said to myself that we need to provide our students with a more varied educational experience other than NCLB type expectations.

      Morale is at the top of my list. I will be making visits to schools and sitting down with teachers to listen to what they have to say. I subscribe to the John Wooden school of leadership –“The greatest form of motivation is a pat on the back.” My goodness, with all this educator bashing going on the last 5-6 years, we need it.

      I hope I answered your question.

      By the way, I am a former automotive mechanic and just saved my daughter more than $400 by recently installing brake pads and rotors on her car myself. They wanted $557 to fix her brakes. The parts were $142.
      –Tony Trongone, Superintendent

  4. Laura vanvliet

    It’s nice to see that you are staying true to your word and reaching out to our families as early as July.
    My children started the summer program, all five, and I must say you would have been disappointed already.
    The bus came too early and didn’t pick up four of my five children. I drove them to the highs school where I was met with more issues. One has a 504 for many allergies. I have one allergic to grass and the grass was freshly cut. The same one allergic yo peanut/tree nut and the nurse was not prepared for him. She had no idea where his paperwork was. She didn’t have access to the locked cabinet where the epipens are kept. She had no liquid Benadryl… There are mostly 4-8 grades now in the high school for the summer program. She told me I could purchase it as I swiftly did. TOTALLY RIDICULOUS. I can’t back with the Benadryl around 10:40 am and found both the outside door near the nurses office and the main entrance doors unlocked. (If someone wanted to do harm today would have been a perfect opportunity. When I asked about it NO ONE seemed bothered by this and assured me security was fantastic in this building. Now I love Kathy Devlin, but I don’t believe she is bullet proof!

    1. Tony Trongone Post author

      I spoke to Mrs. Devlin and she is addressing the unlocked doors at high school. Please note that we did check this morning and the doors were locked. Even still, Mrs. Devlin will have her staff taking measure not to have such events happen again.

      In regard to the nurse/allergy issue, Mrs. Beideman reached out to you via phone to hear your concerns. She is in the process of resolving all of your concerns and will get back to you with a status update.

      As far as transportation, I am sorry about your experience–the first couple days of any new cycle of transit have timing issues. I am sure our transportation folks have ironed out any issues that took place during the opening days of the summer program and will be on track as we move forward.
      –Tony Trongone, Superintendent

  5. Marcy Smith

    Tony, welcome. Thank you for taking the position of superintendent. I am thrilled that you will be leading us.

    I have been a Reading Specialist in the district for almost 14 years. The one thing that I think we need critically for Reading instruction is strong foundational skills, phonics instruction in the lower grades. “The house crumbles without a strong foundation,” is a quote that rings true in learning to read. Our district is not one where children are necessarily taught to read at home, and we need to teach these children where they are. I teach third-fifth grade, and have found that many students don’t even know their short vowels sounds. They are confused by the rules of our language and it only impedes their reading progress later. Many are sent to IRST and eventually CST for evaluations in third-fifth grade. It is also a factor in the large numbers of students we have in Academic Mastery for Reading and Language Arts. I have been hopeful that the new dyslexia regulations would help with these issures. I see students in third and fifth grade who need direct reading and phonics instruction because they have memorized reading all this time. Once they are given explicit phonics instruction, they make huge strides toward independence and most importantly SELF-CONFIDENCE. We need systematic instruction and common language across the board at the elementary schools. A program like Fundations is one that I would recommend. We also have several people in the district who are specially certified in Wilson Reading and Orton-Gillingham. Starting the process in preschool would be beneficial. I have four children of my own, and I was able to teach phonics as early as age two. Our preschool philosophy claims that children are not ready yet. This philosophy is so harmful to these children in our community, as I described, who are not immersed with reading and print in their households. We cannot depend on parents to teach fundamentals because it isn’t happening in many cases with this population.

    On another note, I see that we have a dire need for teachers who can write well themselves and can teach writing. Writing can be a challenge for many teachers. We need teachers who are adept at teaching writing.

    I appreciate you asking for input, as I was inclined to send a note on my own. It is my desire to reveal my honest thoughts with the best intentions for our students and our district.

    1. Tony Trongone Post author

      Regarding your comment re: preschool philosophy – you and I will need to have a conversation/meeting about reading in preschool. I do know that, after speaking with Mrs. Beideman, that we have implemented “Growing Readers” and she has been pleased with the outcomes of our students.

      In my previous school districts we felt a need to SUPPLEMENT the core reading program (K-2) with Fundations for 30 minutes a day. Our issue was time. Where do we find time for Fundations? One school moved science/social studies (information text) into the core reading block. This was a decision made by the teachers in the school. We will need to have conversations about our next steps with foundational skills in the primary grades. I hear you on this issue and agree with you. Stay tuned for next steps.
      –Tony Trongone, Superintendent

  6. Kristen Ludman

    I agree with Marcy Smith! We need a strong reading foundations program at the lower levels (at least K-3). Right now, we have Wilson Reading and Orton-Gillingham for Special Education students in grades 3-5 and we see great strides with them. Imagine if we had that across the board (general and special education) as a program that addresses reading difficulties, early on. There are many districts that utilize the Fundations program K-3 (Washington Township, to name one). It would do wonders for our students.
    Also, I would like to improve upon parental support. We have many wonderful families that come out and support their child’s education, but we need more! I would love to see ways to help our parents feel more comfortable coming into our schools and getting involved.

    1. Tony Trongone Post author

      As I stated to Marcy, in my previous school districts we felt a need to SUPPLEMENT the core reading program (K-2) with Fundations for 30 minutes a day. Our issue was time. Where do we find time for Fundations? One school moved science/social studies (information text) into the core reading block. This was a decision made by the teachers in the school. We will need to have conversations about our next steps with foundational skills in the primary grades.

      Regarding parent outreach – I see some of our elementary schools are scheduled to host a litany of academic nights (for math, literacy and science). I will reach out to our principals to see what we can do further in this area.
      –Tony Trongone, Superintendent

      1. Kristen Ludman

        Thank you for your response! In order to supplement, it would definitely have to include an evaluation of our programs already in place.
        Our schools do schedule many academic nights; however, from my personal experience, we typically get the same parents out to the events, over and over. I would like to see an increase in attendance, as well as see parents (who do not typically attend) come out to the schools.
        Again, congratulations, and I look forward to seeing what your leadership brings to this district!

  7. Gayle Rubinstein

    Tony, Welcome to the Pemberton Township School District! I have been employed by the district since September of 1979 as Choral Director at PTHS. I would like to wish you a long an satisfying career here!

    This is a concern for the school calendar as well. Teachers of the Jewish faith fought for many years to have built into the contract, a school closing one day a year for the High Holidays at the beginning of the school year so that we could worship. Prior to that we had to use paid leave in the form of personal days. A while back, through the negotiation process, we finally received our one day a year and it was incorporated into the school calendar. Two years ago, this holiday was cut out of the calendar by the acting Superintendent with absolutely no notice and again the system returned to the use of personal days for those of the Jewish faith while school was closed on all major Christian holidays. I stood before the board and asked them to reconsider as I felt this was discriminatory in nature to all of our Jewish staff to have to use paid leave to worship when school was always closed on Good Friday and Easter Monday (as it was called on the calendar until we suggested they call it spring break). I am asking a year in advance that you reconsider the calendar for the 2016- 17 school year to once again accommodate our one day a year for the High Holidays so that all of our staff of the Jewish faith throughout the district can be free to worship in an equal manner to our non-Jewish counterparts as it concerns the use of paid leave. Thank you and best of luck to you. Hope to see you at our Winter Concert!

  8. Tony Trongone Post author

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, we will convene focus groups (in the fall/early winter) to discuss the entire 2016-2017 school district calendar. We will then create a draft calendar for all stakeholder groups to review. We would then obviously recommend said calendar for board approval.

    I look forward to seeing you and attending the winter concert!
    –Tony Trongone, Superintendent

  9. Dawn Piterski

    Welcome to Pemberton! Thanks for asking for my input. I have been the appointed PBSIS facilitator in the middle school since last year. The PBSIS program has become extremely rewarding and successful. I started a campaign for Pemberton Apparel where I encourage staff to purchase items to show their school pride in support of our kids. This is something I launch in the Fall. Throughout the year, I have sponsored a talent show and end of year extravaganza to reward all students. Prior to leaving this June, I did a mass mailing to local businesses seeking donations for our incentives and rewards for the school store. Students use their “buzz bucks” to purchase items. With that said, it is a monetary issue. I do not know how to write a grant, however, I would like to know how to acquire more funding for this project. Since you are a huge fan of character education and development, I would love if you can help me in this pursuit of funding.

    I am also a huge advocate of school climate and culture. It is so important that we as stakeholders support Mr. Swaney’s mission in the improvement of our environment. We need more student leadership and community outreach.

    In regard to Spring Break, a common question, I appreciate that you are considering reviewing the calendar. Spring Break is a valuable time of year where students as well as staff renew and refresh.

    Thanks for listening and looking forward to your response.

    Dawn Piterski

  10. Tony Trongone Post author

    Thanks for the warm welcome!

    I appreciate your passion and dedication to the students of Helen Fort/Newcomb Middle School. It is my job to help committed educators such as youself find and secure the resources to facilitate such undertakings. The teachers at Berlin Community School (BCS) reached out to businesses and had BCS nights at their restaurants, where teachers waited on BCS families. Each establishment would donate proceeds to the Character Education Committee. We would then provide the sponsoring establishment with a vinyl decal that they would put on their business window stating they support BCS Character Education. I will also look to provide you with grant opportunities that I have come across.

    An essential component to measuring the efficacy of a character education initiative is administering school climate surveys to students, teachers and parents. We would also look at referrals in student discipline over time.

    We also cannot lose our footing on our work in PBSIS, and will continue to maintain our focus on PBSIS moving forward. We will need to work on how character education will dovetail with PBSIS.

    Pemberton is a member of the New Jersey Network to Close Achievement Gaps consortium. There are events where we have students participate in the Middle School Student Leadership Institute. This is just one way we can foster student leadership in our school and community. Another is through student council. We also have guidance counselors working with students in peer mediation.

    I do understand your concern regarding spring break and the waxing and waning of social/emotional tenor during a school year. It seems an extended weekend or break comes at just the right time for students as well as staff members. I do have to factor in the physical climate (90+ degree weather) in June, too. As I stated earlier, we will address the 2016-2017 calendar with multiple stakeholder groups and come up with a solution that will hopefully be amenable to everyone.

    I look forward to working with you and your fellow colleagues and also when your school will be recognized as a National School of Character!

    –Tony Trongone, Superintendent

  11. Parent

    I noticed that there is a plan to hire a principal for Denbo. I thought that there was going to be a new building built. Does this mean that this is not happening. If it being built, what will happen to the newly hired principal when the building opens?

    1. Tony Trongone Post author

      Presently, Pemberton administration is meeting with folks from the School Development Authority (SDA) concerning the Denbo/Crichton campus. We are in a very early stage where the SDA will determine whether to (1) knock down both buildings and build one large school, or (2) some variation of expanding and renovating the existing buildings. There are a series of site evaluations by the SDA that take a great deal of time to assess what type of direction the SDA will take.

      There are certain obstacles in the way when expanding the existing footprint, such as a possible endangered species on the property (we do not think there is, but you never know) and the approval of the Pinelands Commission. Obviously, we would like to have an entirely new building. The decision rests with the SDA, which foots the bill for the entire project, not local tax dollars. The process of what type of remedy, plus time for construction, could take anywhere from 3 to 5 years for completion.

      As superintendent, I have decided to address the here and now. When we have definitive answers from the SDA (of which we appreciate and honor their timeline), we will plan (and make administrative changes) accordingly. Until then, we will have a principal at Denbo.

  12. Susan

    We need to deal with making it fun for kids to learn so they want to learn . Also kids that still have troubles but are not special Ed required need to help them not push them through.
    Also save money quit over spending.

  13. Kristin


    As I am sure you already have heard and I’ve read in some of the blogs, I really am hoping that a spring break is put back into our calendar for next year. Many parents have also complained to me about it because they feel that it is unfair as well that their children have to take days off to go on a vacation, which then can result in them receiving a truancy letter. Planning a trip over the December holidays is very expensive as I looked into it this school year. As for me and many other teachers, we do not want to leave our families at Christmas nor can our families afford to take a trip with us. Students as well as the teachers need that spring break as well. It would certainly boost moral in our district especially since it was taken away without even asking feedback or thoughts on it from staff and parents. Please, please, please reconsider it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s