The Haddonfield Elementary Schools and Middle School are Overcrowded
©1999 Marian Hughes

edited 8/2/09
Q1. What is the situation?

Some people feel that the average number of students per class in Haddonfield's three elementary and one middle school are not conducive to the teaching and learning that is expected of teachers and students. The school buildings are inadequate to handle the needs of Haddonfield's students.

Q2. Whom does it Concern?

The Superintendent, Dr. Barry Ersek, and some Board Members.


Parents of school age students

New Board Members elected in April '98.

Many senior citizens

Q3. How do they perceive it?

The Superintendent and Some Board Members believe that our teachers and students do not have adequate facilities to meet modern needs of education. Further, class sizes are too large, yet the Board cannot lower the caps because there is not building space available to meet lower caps. The trend has been larger kindergarten classes entering the school system each year. These numbers have been unpredictable because many of these entering students were not living in Town when they were born but subsequently moved in. Also, the problem has been presented as being caused by the State. This year, the Borough of Haddonfield is getting $0 in aid from the State of NJ for core curriculum needs. Special Education gets funding.

Teachers believe that there are too many students in a class. The classrooms are too small for the equipment needed for instruction and the mobility they and their students need. Or, in some cases, rooms are non-existent. For example, at one elementary school physical therapy and occupational therapy classes are held in the hallway, on the stage or in part of the library. At Central Elementary School, there is art and music on a cart. At Elizabeth Haddon Elementary School a storage area is being used for instruction in reading support, physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Many parents of school age students believe that the buildings are inadequate and smaller class size would be better for students' learning. Property taxes are high and the schools should be in better shape.

New Board Members feel that the existing school facilities are large enough but are not being used efficiently. Also, this group on the Board feels there is some conspiracy by the Superintendent to do away with neighborhood schools.

Many senior citizens say that large classes are not a problem because class size was large when they were in school.

Q4. Why does it concern them? The so what argument.

The Superintendent is worried about adequate resources for students and teachers. Teachers may not be able to do as good a job with large numbers of students and not enough room. There may not be enough room to handle incoming classes and still provide current programs such as art and instrumental music. Students may not score as well on standardized tests as previous students in smaller classes. And, students will not get the well rounded education that has been offered over the last several years.

The Superintendent's reputation is at stake if students do not do as well. The Superintendent's power is at stake if he cannot get the community to support his ideas. The Superintendent may not get compensated as well as in the past if students' performance goes down.


The Superintendent cares about the students and teachers. The Superintendent is letting down students and teachers.

The teachers feel that there are too many children in their classes. They believe the buildings do not have adequate space. These conditions make it more difficult to do their best work. The children may not learn as much as they could under better conditions.

Many parents of students feel their children are in classes that are too large and that the buildings need to be updated. The children are not getting the education they expect and the buildings are not adequate for the high taxes they are paying. The children may not be as well prepared for high school or college as the previous graduating class of approximately 100 students. Their children deserve the best.

New Board Members believe that space is being wasted at the Middle School and at the High School. The Superintendent and the School Board Members on his side are not being honest. The taxpayers are unfairly being asked to pay for expensive solutions to a problem that could be fixed by better management.

Many senior citizens are concerned that their taxes will go up if the Town issues bonds to build or renovate existing buildings. Many senior citizens are on fixed incomes. The tax increase may make it too expensive for them to live in Town. They will be forced to move away.

Q5. What changes do they propose? Proposals are pending!

The Superintendent and some Board Members last April '98 put a $16MM bond to the voters to build a new elementary school, make the Central Elementary School that is attached to the existing Middle school part of the Middle school, renovate the other two elementary schools and renovate the High School.
It got crushed. There were approximately 900 votes in favor to 3,000 votes against.

In 1996, the Superintendent and the Board tried to get a bond passed to renovate the elementary schools and convert them to grade level schools. Neighborhood schools became the hot topic. The bond proposal got defeated.

According to the Haddon Herald on February 25, 1999 the school principals at the three elementary schools and the Middle School have made a list of building needs necessary to maintain existing programs. The School Board is going to try to pare this list down as they work on a new building bond proposal to voters this year..

The School Board has been discussing adding onto the elementary and middle school existing buildings to maintain existing programs. A cost of about $12.5mm for capital improvements to maintain existing programs has been mentioned.

According to a parent who attended the School Board meeting on February 25, 1999 one Board Member discussed litigation against the State Department of Education. Letters to the Governor have not produced any results. Special Education groups has sued and won State funding, and poor districts have sued and won State funding.

The Board seems unwilling to discuss a reconfiguration option favorable to several parents because the grade level school proposal was voted down in 1996. The School Board Members elected in April '98 are unwilling to consider anything that does not include maintaining the three existing elementary schools.

Teachers do not put forth proposals. But schools principals compiled a list of minimum building needs.

Some parents of school age children want the facilities updated, are agreeable to changing the grade structure, changing to two larger elementary schools and do not mind transporting their children to school in order to achieve smaller class sizes. One proposal that has been discussed among parents is to build onto two of the elementary schools. The present configuration is three k-5th and on 6th- 8th. The new configuration would be to have two larger elementary schools for K-4th and one 5th ? 6th and one 7th ?8th. The 5th-6th and 7th-8th would be in attached buildings and share facilities such as the library, gymnasium and lunchroom.

Some parents of school age children do not want to change the grade structure or convert to two elementary schools because they favor neighborhood schools that their children can walk to. They would prefer to renovate the three existing buildings. Haddonfield does not bus.

They talked about moving the Superintendent and administrators out of the middle school facility and using the freed up space for students. Now they are part of the Board with old members they disagreed with. Again, no formal proposal has been made by the School Board.

Many senior citizens do not believe that the class sizes are too large. They want the schools to deal with the situation and not raise taxes.

Q6. Can and will anything be done? Probably not!
The Superintendent and all the Board Members are in a position of power, however, they may not be unified. The teachers have no power. The parents of school age children have voting power but they are not in agreement over a solution. Further, parents with school age children make up about only 25% of the vote. Senior citizens make up a significant portion of the voting community and do not want large tax increases. Seniors have been a visible presence on election day when these bond proposals have appeared on ballots.

Q7. Who gains and who loses from the change?

1&4) The Superintendent and the School Board Members will gain clout if they can put forth a unified proposal and the community votes in the next proposal.

Teachers will gain if class sizes are reduced. They may lose some teaching assistants.

Parents' children will benefit by smaller class sizes. Costs will be increased taxes for any renovation or building and perhaps some transportation inconveniences.

5) For senior citizens, the costs of any building or renovation will be increased taxes.

The benefits to updating the schools will be higher market values for their homeswhen they sell them.