Hamil­ton may ex­pand opi­oid ed­u­ca­tion fol­low­ing elec­tion man­date

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - NEWS - By Su­laiman Ab­dur-Rah­man Su­laiman@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @sab­durr on Twit­ter

HAMIL­TON » Opi­oid ed­u­ca­tion may be­come more com­mon in the Hamil­ton Town­ship School District.

That’s be­cause the win­ners of last week’s school board elec­tion all sup­port in­creas­ing stu­dent aware­ness on the dan­gers of heroin and pre­scrip­tion drug abuse.

As the na­tion con­tin­ues to bat­tle the deadly opi­oid epi­demic, newly re-elected Hamil­ton school board mem­ber Su­san Lom­bardo and board mem­bers-elect Al­bert “Al” Gayzik and Cameron J. Car­di­nale say they all sup­port ded­i­cat­ing more class­room in­struc­tion to­ward opi­oid aware­ness.

“My fo­cus for the next three years will con­tinue to in­clude bring­ing eq­uity and di­ver­sity through­out the district, and in­creas­ing drug ad­dic­tion and sui­cide aware­ness pro­gram/ma­te­ri­als for the stu­dents and their fam­i­lies,” Lom­bardo said Sun­day in a state­ment by email. “We need to work harder at ed­u­cat­ing the com­mu­nity and most im­por­tantly the youth of Hamil­ton on these very im­por­tant is­sues.”

Gayzik, who pre­vi­ously served on the school board from early 2013 till the first week of 2016, echoed sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments. “To en­sure safe and healthy school en­vi­ron­ments,” he said Mon­day in an email, “I plan to press for­ward on school ref­er­en­dum ob­jec­tives and in­crease opi­oid aware­ness and dan­gers as part of the cur­ricu­lum.”

Car­di­nale in an email last Thurs­day talked about work­ing with his col­leagues on the school board to ad­dress the district’s spending pri­or­i­ties. “I also want to en­cour­age my col­leagues to join me in ad­dress­ing the sub­stance abuse prob­lem that our schools face,” he said. “I am cur­rently build­ing con­nec­tions with com­mu­nity out­reach pro­grams that fo­cus on this is­sue.”

The nine-mem­ber Hamil­ton Town­ship Board of Ed­u­ca­tion over­sees a large pub­lic school district that ed­u­cates more than 11,000 stu­dents in grades pre-kindergarten through 12. The opi­oid cri­sis has im­pacted U.S. com­mu­ni­ties na­tion­wide. From 2000 to 2015, more than half a mil­lion peo­ple across the coun­try died from drug over­doses, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, which says 91 Amer­i­cans die every day from an opi­oid over­dose.

At the lo­cal level, ac­ci­den­tal over­dose deaths have sieged Mercer County, es­pe­cially here in Hamil­ton, which has lost mul­ti­ple young men and women over the years to the dis­ease of ad­dic­tion.

Hamil­ton’s new Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools Scott Rocco has al­ready demon­strated a will­ing­ness and de­sire to pro­mote drug-free schools.

The Mercer County Nar­cotics Task Force con­ducted a sched­uled, ran­dom drug search at Stein­ert High School in June dur­ing the last week of the 2016-17 schoolyear.

No drugs were found in the search, but Rocco at the time de­scribed the ac­tion as be­ing “a proac­tive ap­proach be­tween the Mercer County Prose­cu­tor’s Of­fice and the school district,” adding, “We’re try­ing to pro­vide and are mak­ing sure that we pro­vide our stu­dents with a safe learn­ing environment, safe and free of drugs.”

The district in the spring also con­ducted a ran­dom drug search at Not­ting­ham High School, with no con­tra­band be­ing found. pos­i­tive im­pact in our town.”

Lom­bardo, who re­ceived 6,472 votes as the top-voteget­ter in last week’s elec­tion, also said the school board must “ad­dress the over­crowd­ing chal­lenges in our district, and come up with a plan to al­le­vi­ate them” and “must con­tinue to work to­gether on other im­por­tant con­cerns such as cur­ricu­lum, bud­get is­sues, and in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments to our aging school district build­ings.”

Gayzik, who re­ceived 4,182 votes last week as the sec­ond­high­est-vote-get­ter, said he hopes the school board can “work on im­prov­ing grades pre-K to 3 in both class size and sup­port” and that he plans to in­tro­duce or sec­ond­sup­port a mo­tion of “turn­ing on the cam­eras again to in­crease trans­parency” of the school board’s open pub­lic meet­ings. “I am hope­ful that as a co­he­sive unit the new board will con­tinue to make im­prove­ments for all of our stu­dents.”

En­tire Hamil­ton school board meet­ings used to be video­taped and broad­cast in full for TV and on­line au­di­ences, but the board last year be­gan to re­strict the record­ing pol­icy. District of­fi­cials said mem­bers of the pub­lic would some­times show­boat in front of the cam­eras dur­ing school board meet­ings.

Car­di­nale, who re­ceived 4,221 votes last week as the third-high­est-vote-get­ter, also sup­ports turn­ing the cam­eras back on, among other mea­sures.

“Af­ter be­ing sworn in, I will push for the bud­get to be vig­or­ously ex­am­ined for waste, start­ing with the ad­min­is­tra­tive cost per pupil,” Car­di­nale said in his state­ment. “When my col­leagues and I find and fix the waste prob­lem, we can then pur­sue the restora­tion of the aides’ jobs. The gov­er­nor­elect (Phil Mur­phy) prom­ises to fully fund the schools. What we ask of our leg­is­la­tors is for Hamil­ton’s fund­ing need to be fully re­assessed.”

The cur­rent school board passed a 2017-18 school bud­get that elim­i­nated dozens of lunch­room and play­ground aides, sav­ing the district $740,000. In ad­di­tion to seek­ing a re­turn of those jobs, Car­di­nale vowed he will be fully en­gaged with the pub­lic.

“I prom­ise to be out there in the schools and com­mu­nity as much as pos­si­ble,” he said. “I want to build a con­nec­tion with the stu­dents and staff of the district.”

Staff writer David Foster contributed to this re­port.

(From left) Su­san Lom­bardo, Al­bert Gayzik and Cameron Car­di­nale won elec­tion to the Hamil­ton Town­ship Board of Ed­u­ca­tion on Nov. 7, 2017.

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