Neshaminy officially hires superintendent, gives updates on Tawanka

Neshaminy School Board voted to hire Joseph Jones III to be the district’s superintendent 

Matt Schickling / Wire photo – Joseph Jones III was officially hired as Neshaminy School District’s superintendent. 

last week. Jones, who served as superintendent of Woodbury City Public Schools since 2005, had been the presumed candidate for weeks.

During a community forum in May, Jones spoke positively about Neshaminy, the district’s consolidation plans and the importance of long-term leadership. To that end, the board also approved his three-year, 11-month contract with a starting salary of $182,000.

“I’m really excited to be here,” Jones said during a brief statement following the vote.

Several board members congratulated Jones, and thanked Gloria Hancock, previously the district’s assistant superintendent, for serving as interim superintendent since Robert Copeland resigned Neshaminy’s top post over a year ago.

Jones is expected to begin work with Neshaminy officially on Aug. 1. His contract will end on June 30, 2020.

Neshaminy also gave updates on the construction of the new 800-student elementary school at the site of the former Tawanka school in Lower Southampton.

Ryan Brennan of Reynolds Construction gave a presentation detailing the progress on the building, which is projected to be completed in time for the 2016-2017 school year.

Brennan noted that several aspects of the $26 million project are nearing completion. The gymnasium, “cafetorium”, several classrooms, two playgrounds, library, computer room and other integral pieces are taking shape.

He placed the date for a “substantial completion of the building” as Aug. 1, and “substantial completion of the project” as Aug. 31, because more site work has to be done after construction is complete.

“We’re at the finishing stage, so we’ve gotten beyond most of the issues that would occur,” Brennan said of potential delays or extra costs. Documents detailing the construction project are available on the district’s website at www.neshaminy.org.

Also during the meeting, the board voted on a seven-year lease with the Bucks County Intermediate Unit #22 for the former Samuel Everitt Elementary building in Levittown. Students have not attended the school since its closure at the end of the 2014-2015 academic year, when it was closed as part of the district’s consolidation plan.

The lease begins on July 1 with a base annual rent of $317,244, according to the district. Rent will escalate 1 percent the following year, 2 percent for the next two years and 3 percent for each year after. The agreement was approved unanimously by board members.

Finally, Margaret Monahan, director of Neshaminy’s STEM program, presented plans for the program’s expansion to STEAM throughout the district next year. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

“The reason we expanded our STEM focus to STEAM is to have students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills,” Monahan said. “We really wanted to foster creativity and innovation.”

The art aspect, she continued, will have students thinking about product design, communication, language arts, collaboration, social studies and history, which set the context for most projects.

Monahan highlighted achievements like the district’s summer camps and the STEAM expo. She also spoke about new courses in STEAM, the potential for expansion of the expo, new field trip opportunities and starting a robotics club.

Next year, students in the district will be exposed to engineering studies as early as kindergarten.

“It’s pretty broad. Every student has the opportunity to experience,” she said. “I would say, unequivocally, that we are now a STEAM district.”

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