When new staff members of the Bordentown Regional School District enter the upcoming school year, their introduction into the district begins not only in the opening week of classes, but in the community.
For the past three years, Bordentown school district officials have inaugurated their newest members in the educational community by introducing them to the history and culture of the area.
Whether it’s a lecture on the history of Clara Barton’s contributions to public education or a stop at the historical society building to learn of the area’s various ties to American history, the school district said they wanted to ensure its 25 new staff members for the 2019-20 school year understood the background of the community.
About a week before classes around the school district commenced, the incoming Bordentown educators and counselors gathered at the historic Clara Barton School on Aug. 26 to learn about one of the area’s foremost historical figures.
In 1852, Barton established one of the first free public schools in the state right in Bordentown City on Crosswicks Street. She was not only an educator, but a pioneering nurse in the American Civil War who founded the American Red Cross and worked as patent clerk, too.
The day’s proceedings kicked off at the school house with an informative lecture from longtime Bordentown resident, Bonnie Goldman who dressed as Barton while she discussed the life and legacy of the educator and her impact on the area.
Following the group’s educational experience at the school house, Goldman then led the group down Crosswicks Street into the downtown district on Farnsworth Avenue for another history lesson at the Friends Meeting House led by Mike Skelley of the Bordentown Historical Society.
With the new district members seated inside of the meeting house surrounded by artifacts, framed documents and paintings, Skelley discussed various historical figures who had connections to Bordentown and American history such as Thomas Farnsworth, Thomas Paine, Francis Hopkinson, George Swift and Joseph Bonaparte.
The Bordentown historian even made it a point to explain to the new district members that the history of the area serves to its surrounding culture.
“We really feel that you are a part of the Bordentown community, and [its history] is also a part of the community,” Skelley said. “It’s not an attachment. It’s really woven into it.”
As Skelley concluded his historical lecture, the staff members were then gathered outside for a traditional group photo in front of the Friends Meeting House.
But while most school staff members throughout the state may prepare for the upcoming school year by decorating their classrooms or offices and finalizing their lesson plans, James Lymper, director of curriculum and instruction for the Bordentown Regional School District, said he and district member Kate Reilly wanted to welcome new employees in a different way.
“Through the years, we have always had a little presentation about the history of Bordentown, but a few years ago, [Reilly] and I collaborated on doing it, differently,” Lymper said. “What we came up with is that we thought it would be better for people to get the history of Bordentown from teachers and the historical society.”
Lymper explained that the welcome program has evolved over the years to include the lecture from Goldman at the Barton School House along with the presentation at the historical society building.
“It is evolving every year, but we want them to get a feel for the district and the history of it,” Lymper said. “We plan on continuing this because it’s a cool way for everyone to learn a bit about where they are.”
With an aim to reflect the history and background of Bordentown on the new district members, Mike McQuarrie, an incoming college counselor and students assistance counselor for the district, said the presentations left a positive impression on him.
“Learning about the history of Bordentown was very cool and seeing that it’s a very cultured town,” McQuarrie said. “Everyone seems warm and inviting – happy to have you become a part of something.”
Another incoming district member, Jani Sblendorio who will be an elementary special education teacher at Peter Muschal Elementary School, revealed that the particular lesson about Barton inspired her, too.
“I feel so welcomed here, already,” Sblendorio said. “It was wonderful to get to know the area that you are teaching in and getting to know a little bit about its history. It was also really cool to learn about all the different things that were invented here that are still being used today. Just get to know some of the faculty and colleagues that I will be working with was also very nice.”