November 22, 2005

Wildwood schools report all A’s for district

Staff Writer
WILDWOOD – It’s report card time. And while students across the island are finding out how they are doing in school this year, the Wildwood school board is measuring the district’s progress since the new administration was hired last year.
“So much is going on,” Superintendent Dennis Anderson said, and the reports presented at last Wednesday’s meeting bear this out.
High School Principal Gladys Lauriello reported that the district’s Web site and the high school newspaper are up and running. And the new band is making strides.
“They will be performing in community events over the holidays,” Lauriello said, and they will be marching in the Christmas parade.
“I’ve been listening to Jingle Bells and Feliz Navidad already,” she said.
And if that didn’t put her in the holiday spirit, Lauriello received an early Christmas gift this year, as well. From now on, she will be Dr. Lauriello. She received her doctorate in education from Wilmington College this fall.
“I’m certainly very excited to be done,” she said.
Susan Rohrman, the school’s new supervisor of curriculum and instruction, was hired this summer, but she is already making strides toward streamlining the district’s curriculum and coordinating with neighboring schools, she told the board.
Regular meetings have been scheduled for the first Thursday of every month so that Rohrman can sit down with representatives from the Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood districts to work at getting all three district on the same page in regard to curriculum.
“We will be using the same format for our curriculum guides,” Rohrman said.
Anderson said that one of the first thing he talked about with the school board when he was hired in February was the need for the district to tighten it’s curriculum.
“I told them it was something we needed to get a firm grasp of,” he said. “(Rohrman) is really doing a wonderful job.”
Anderson says the district is working at greater “articulation” of the curriculum. That’s education lingo for “sharing expertise across the districts,” he said.
In December, Rohrman will hold a workshop for writing teachers from all three districts on curriculum mapping.
“It’s really important that we are all talking to each other because (Wildwood is) the receiving district,” she said. She said she is working at articulating curriculum “horizontially” between schools at each grade level and “vertically” smoothing the transition from grade to grade. That way ninth-grade students who enter Wildwood High from all three sending districts will be starting high school with the same basic educational background.
“It’s an ongoing process,” Anderson said.
School board members Sandra Richardson, Tony Totah and Gary DeMarzo toured the district’s schools earlier this month to see how things were running, and they reported they were pleased with what they saw.
“I was very impressed,” Richardson said. “The buildings were well maintained. The classrooms were orderly. (The district) is doing a great job. Every facet was well-done.”
Auditor Glenn Ortman made a presentation to the board regarding the audit of this year’s school budget, as well.
“The findings last year were all corrected,” Ortman said, and only two recommendations were made regarding the deposit of food service revenue.
“I want to thank (board secretary) Sandy Becker for her outstanding job on the accounting,” board member David McDonald said.
Three new board members -- Carol Bannon, David Wertman and Todd Keininger --
were sworn in at the start of Wednesday’s meeting. They are replacing departing board President Kerry Higgs and board members Sandra Miller and Brian Evans. The new members joined the board just in time to begin the New Jersey School Board certification process.
The board voted to pursue certification in June, and as part of that process a field representative from the New Jersey School Board Association will come to the district on a regular basis to give the workshops on various topics including: relationships, policy, curriculum, finance, school law, labor relations and board operations. The first class was held after the regular school board session on Wednesday evening. The next class is scheduled for January.
“The new folks that have joined the (school) board have blended nicely,” Anderson said.
“The (faculty) is doing a great job jumping on board. I’m extremely pleased. Our students are great. Our teachers are outstanding. Every single day we are getting better and improving. That’s what I’m proud of.”

Maureen L. Cawley can be e-mailed at or you can comment on this story by calling 624-8900, ext. 250.

Crest to developers: Slow down move too fast
Staff Writer
WILDWOOD CREST – The newest change to the borough’s land use law is an ordinance designed to slow things down. The amendment is one in a series of changes made to zoning and land use policies and procedures in recent months.
The ordinance introduced on Nov.9 by Commissioner Don Cabrera and Mayor Carl Groon requires that site plans be submitted 45 days before they are considered by the borough’s planning board. Currently plans must be in the planning board office 25 days before the monthly planning board meeting.
“The idea is to slow down the process,” Groon said. “We want to give the engineer and the planning board time to review (the plans).”
A work session, where representatives of the planning board meet with developers to review submitted plans, is held every month prior to the planning board meeting. The new ordinance will give applicants more time to respond to the boards’ recommendations before presenting them for approval at the hearing later in the month.
“It gives the architects time to make changes,” Groon said.
The plan was first introduced as a resolution by the planning board at its meeting on Nov. 3. It passed unanimously on Monday, Nov. 21.
Borough clerk Kevin Yecco said that the change to the application process was needed to ensure that professional staff, engineers, lawyer and zoning officers have time to review plans before they are considered by the board as a whole.
“The mayor feels strongly that the engineer needs to be included in considering the plans,” Yecco said, “especially considering the volume of applications in recent months.”
Commissioners also introduced a new fee schedule that increases the cost of filing plans with the planning board. A 5 percent fee will be assessed to pay for the review of plans and applications by engineers and attorneys who are hired for that purpose.
This summer, Groon created an office on the second floor of borough hall to deal specifically with code enforcement and land use issues. Linda Adams, a full-time clerk was hired this fall to field calls and direct inquiries through the proper channels.
“We needed a presence in city hall,” Groon said.
Adams is expected to replace planning board secretary Darlene Devlin when she resigns in December.
“That is my recommendation,” Groon said, “but that is at the discretion of the (planning and zoning) boards.”
Devlin will continue to work full time in the finance department as the borough’s purchasing agent.
Elizabeth Terenick was hired as the borough’s new zoning official when Mike Preston retired earlier this year, and planning board member Bob Cashioli was hired as the assistant zoning official to do inspections of sites where work is ongoing to be sure that the construction occurs to land use laws and approved plans.
The borough also made land use laws and a zoning map available to its residents at, as well as a downloadable version. Visitors can download an application for a zoning permit there as well.
The next step in improving enforcement of the borough’s land use policies is in the discussion stages, Yecco said.
Commissioners are considering hiring attorneys who specialize in land use matters to organize and complete the borough’s land use document. The master plan which was completed and adopted this fall did not cover all zoning areas of the borough.
In addition, the complete land use document has not been indexed, Yecco said. And the governing body wants to make sure that there are no discrepancies between existing law and the provisions made in the new master plan, he said.
It needs to be cleaned up, Yecco said.
They would be brought in “to look at the document as a whole,” he said. “The idea is to take what has changed (in the document) with the adoption of the master plan and to make sure the document is consistent.”

Maureen L. Cawley can be e-mailed at or you can comment on this story by calling 624-8900, ext. 250.

Marina Bay Tower residents get Van Drew's support

Van Drew pledges support for Marina Bay Towers
NORTH WILDWOOD -- Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew is giving his full support to the residents of Marina Bay Towers, a senior citizen affordable housing building here, in their effort to obtain New Jersey Housing Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) action to stave off potential eviction from their apartments.
“I am pleased the residents have persuaded the HMFA to sit down with them, their attorney and other parties in this situation, including several legal experts retained by the building developer, to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” said Van Drew, who visited the residents earlier in November. “I came away persuaded that we need to find a path to action that will assure these senior citizens that they will be able to stay in their apartments.
“This situation arises from a complicated series of business and legal decisions and transactions but it is really a simple human situation that comes down to this: These senior citizens have earned the right to be in their homes without fear that they may one day face eviction. I will be with them all the way to the day that fear is removed.”
Marina Bay Towers Tenant Association President Joseph Bakanowsky, a retired U.S. Marine Corps drill instructor and retired casino industry worker, said, “We appreciate the support of Assemblyman Van Drew. We need the support of all of our state and federal legislators to get this situation resolved so we can have peace of mind in our homes.”
Marina Bay Towers is a 143-unit affordable senior citizen bayside, waterfront building with 200 residents who must be at least 62 years of age to be tenants. There is a waiting list of 650 senior citizens for units in the building. Residents have annual incomes between $15,000 a year and $21,000 a year.
Originally financed with $14 million in HMFA low income housing tax credits – the HMFA is New Jersey program administrator for the federal Internal Revenue Service, which allocates the credits among the 50 states each year – the building had to be totally rehabilitated before occupancy because of unforeseen problems.
Problems included damage from a major northeastern storm in 1998, Hurricane Floyd in 1999, faulty construction of modular units, and delay caused by the damage and by a three-year environmental permitting process.
The rehabilitation added $11 million to the cost. The developer, Rubicon Companies of West Orange, has a new financing plan combining additional housing tax credits and tax-exempt bond financing that has the approval of the IRS.
But, despite the fact that the plan obtained IRS approval in 2003, the HMFA called in an outside law firm in 2005 that gave advice counter to the approval and to advice given by several leading national experts retained by Rubicon –- including the current chief counsel of the IRS, who Rubicon had engaged before he took on his public position.
Van Drew said, “The residents went to the HMFA last week and got a pledge from the agency that it will hold the meeting. I urge the HMFA to keep an open mind and to do everything in its power to resolve this matter in a timely fashion and in a manner that serves the interests of these senior citizens.”
Noting he will pay close attention to the results of the meeting, the assemblyman said, “The right thing to do is for that meeting to find a path that will satisfy the authority and at the same time remove the threats of foreclosure and potential eviction hanging over the building and the residents, who have my full support.”

GWTIDA announces new initiatives

Authority hoping for an IMG Beach Bash

Merci, Canadians, says GWTIDA
Staff Writer
WILDWOOD -- Merci and Bienvenue. Thank you for visiting The Wildwoods, and please come back. That’s the message the Greater Wildwoods Tourism and Improvement and Development Authority (GWTIDA) sent to Canadian visitors this week.
They placed full-color French-language advertisements in two of Canada’s largest newspapers to say “merci” to America’s northern neighbors for visiting the Wildwoods in record-breaking numbers this summer.
“And we’re hoping they come back,” said GWTIDA’s marketing director, Ben Rose.
For years Wildwood was a tradition among the Quebecois, who were lured south by the miles of free beaches and family entertainment.
Then for several years the numbers were down, Rose said.
But this past summer anecdotal evidence collected from the Wildwoods Hotel Motel Association and the Cape May County Campground Owners Association showed sharp increases in Canadian tourists.
“We wanted them to know how much we appreciate them coming back,” Rose said.
The “thank you” advertisement lists an 800 number and an Internet address where visitors can begin to plan next summer’s vacation. Feedback from the ads will allow GWTIDA to track visitors. They will monitor how many requests for information packets are requested as the result of the Canadian marketing campaign.
Marketing efforts in Canada by GWTIDA and the county tourism department seem to be working, and the favorable exchange rate doesn’t hurt either, Rose said.
Throughout the winter, GWTIDA will be working on a number of other initiatives aimed at attracting old and new visitors to town next summer. These include marketing and advertising, as well as planning tourism events.
Plans are in the works to install signs on the overpass at Route 47, near Garden State Parkway exits 4a and 4b to greet and thank visitors as they travel to and from The Wildwoods. Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew has expressed support for the idea, and he has promised to help GWTIDA navigate the New Jersey Department of Transportation approval process, according to the minutes from a GWTIDA meeting in October.
Rose has already submitted a list of proposed slogans for the sign to the GWTIDA board for consideration. A decision is expected to made soon. GWTIDA is hoping to have the signs installed by this summer, Rose said.
“I have to tell you I am very excited for next year,” board member Ralph Johnson told the GWTIDA board at its monthly meeting last Thursday. Johnson was on the committee that determined which tourism events in The Wildwoods would receive funding in 2006.
He said that allocating GWTIDA’s $550,000 events budget required some tough decision-making.
“We never seem to have enough money to fund everything we want to fund,” he said, “but we did what we think is right.”
A list of 25 approved tourism events were presented to the board. The events that will receive funding include newcomers like the second annual Maui’s Salty Potato Ball Eating Contest on June 16 and the Wildwood’s Block Party on Aug. 27. $20,000 was approved to support the island’s first ’60s weekend on April 28-30. Tentative plans for that weekend feature appearances by performers like Herman’s Hermits, The Playboys and Davy Jones of the Monkees.
The 12th annual North Wildwood Italian-American Reunion, scheduled for the weekend of June 23, received $15,000 in funding. As was reported in The Wildwood Leader last month, The Sons of Italy are planning on sponsoring another Italian festival on the same date, but they have not received GWTIDA funding.
Long-time summer traditions like the Fourth of July Fireworks Extravaganza, the Captain Kidd Weekend, and the National Marbles Tournament will also be funded. The reincarnated Wildwoods Baby Parade will take place again this year on July 20 and is receiving $2,500 in funding.
The 13th annual Classic Car Show is scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 21, and is receiving $7,500 in funding, in spite of concerns voiced by Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano over the rowdy behavior of visitors during this years event.
GWTIDA has set aside nearly a 20 percent - $150,000 - of its events funding budget in hopes of securing the East Coast IMG Beach Bash. The sports marketing firm IMG sponsors a beach bash festival in California every year, featuring extreme sports competitions and concerts. The event brings up to 400,000 visitors to Huntington Beach, Rose said.
“They did a satellite search and determined Wildwood (with its huge beaches) was an ideal location for an East Coast event,” Rose said.
A surfing competition is part of the California event, but in New Jersey it would be replaced by a skim boarding competition. Other extreme sports events would include a BMX bike race, skateboarding and beach volleyball. The tentative date for the event is the weekend of July 7-9.
The fee charged to host the event is $150,000, and GWTDA is holding that amount in reserve while IMG lobbies for corporate sponsorship. They are looking for one big title sponsor to pay $400,000 or four smaller co-sponsors who may want to split the cost.
Rose said representatives met with WCAU/NBC Channel 10 and KYW/CBS Channel 3, and both broadcasters had expressed interest in televising the event if it happens.
Organizers expect the first East Coast event could bring more than 100,000 visitors and contestants to The Wildwoods over that weekend.
“It’s all contingent upon IMG getting a title sponsor,” Rose said. “If they don’t get one this year, we’ll continue to work on it for next year.

Maureen L. Cawley can be e-mailed at or you can comment on this story by calling 624-8900, ext. 250.

Millers’ time to relax

Curtis and Sandra Miller are spending less time in Wildwood lately. The couple have worked for more than two decades serving the needy here. Now they are hoping to officially begin their retirement in Sumter, S.C., before Christmas.

Staff Writer
WILDWOOD – In the Air Force, they call it a PCS – a Permanent Change of Station. And that’s what Curtis and Sandra Miller are calling their move to Sumter, S.C. after two decades of service in Cape May County.
“It’s the longest time we’ve stayed in one place,” Sandra said. “It’s time for a change.”
Their partnership began 31 years ago in California, where they met on an Air Force base, where Curtis was stationed and Sandra worked as a civilian employee.
Curtis, a Wildwood native, joined the Air Force in 1956 on what he calls the grandmother plan.
“I quit school and (my grandmother) signed me up,” he said.
“It didn’t hurt him one bit,” his wife says.
While enlisted, Curtis got his GED and became a jet engine mechanic. He was later certified in defense race relations and worked as a human relations instructor, focusing on drug and alcohol education.
“I think the military offers people who don’t have means a chance,” he said.
You can get an education and get out and still have a second career, he said. “I got out at 37.”
When Curtis retired from Air Force, Sandra moved to Wildwood with him.
And since then both Millers have worked tirelessly at providing services to low-income residents of Wildwood and Cape May County.
Curtis’s military experience and knowledge of the region made him ideally qualified to head up Cape Human Resources (CHR), an organization dedicated to assisting the county’s low-income residents.
As head of that agency, he’s helped provide food and heating assistance to countless local residents. He served on Wildwood’s council for 10 years, and over the years he’s worked with numerous organizations, whose goals aligned with those of CHR. These included: the Salvation Army, The American Cancer Society, South Jersey Health Systems, Atlantic County Community College’s Minority Affairs Committee and the Civil Air Patrol.
But Curtis is quick to say he hasn’t done it alone.
“I’ve been his Girl Friday,” Sandra teases.
Curtis says his wife helped out whenever she was needed. Much of the work they’ve done has depended on the commitment of other volunteers, Curtis said. His approach to getting help is a simple one, modeled after the military recruiters he’s seen in action. You assume consent, he says.
He demonstrates by nodding like a bobblehead doll and saying, “You want to sign up, don’t you?”
“We’ve always gotten help when we needed it,” he said.
“My job has mostly been to support him,” Sandra said, but she has followed her own path as well, working as a social worker for the county and on Wildwood’s school board for seven years.
“That was an education for me,” she said. “I will miss it.”
Sandra said she believes the current administration is making strides toward improving the education system here, but added, “There’s always room for improvement.”
The Miller’s work in the community has allowed them to see the best and the worst in people, they say.
“People make bad choices,” Curtis said, “and create a need for themselves sometimes.”
That part of the job is discouraging, but the work can be rewarding as well.
“Once in while, you open a letter (that says you’ve helped),” Curtis said.
He keeps a box of “thank you” notes on a shelf.
“One thank you can overcome 500 of the other type,” he said.
The community has changed a lot since Curtis was young, he said.
“This was a great place to grow up,” he said, remembering the train that pulled in on Andrews Avenue and the famous African American entertainers who performed in local clubs. He lists two dozen of them including: The Red Caps, Lionel Hampton, The Treniers, Freddy Bell and The Bellboys, and The Platters.
“Have you heard of Dizzy Gillespie?” he asks. “I saw him once, here. I was standing on my bicycle, looking through the window of the Club Esquire watching him play.”
A placard from the former Club Esquire sits by the door to his office. Miller said he will donate it to the Wildwood Historical Society before he leaves.
“Everybody looked out for everybody then,” Curtis said.
There wasn’t day care, but he and his friends were directed by their parents to check in with the black lifeguards on Garfield Avenue.
“They looked after us all day,” he said. “The same families lived here. The same families visited. People worked two jobs and sat on the porch at night and talked.”
In recent years the price of housing has forced many residents out.
“If you are low income, you better be on your way out,” Curtis said, “because you can’t afford the rents.”
The Millers say that their decision to leave Wildwood was only partially financial. They own two homes in Wildwood, which are currently up for sale.
“I could afford to stay. I don’t want to afford it,” he said. “I don’t want to pay the taxes.”
Curtis said a highlight of their years in Wildwood was raising their family, attending Little League football games, soccer games and high school basketball games.
“It was the wildest ride,” he said.
Their four oldest children are spread out across the United States from California to Pennsylvania, but their youngest daughter, Marie, a graduate of Wildwood High, attends college near Sumter, so they expect to see more of her there. They are planning on spending Thanksgiving together, and they are hoping to be permanently settled in their new home by Christmas.
Many of the Millers’ new neighbors in South Carolina are old military friends, Curtis said. So the move is in many ways a homecoming.
“(Wildwood) is a non-military community, so sometimes it seems we have little in common with a whole lot of folks here,” Sandra said.
Curtis added, “If you live here and you are poor, you have a problem. In the military, we take care of everything and everybody. Maybe that’s what made us good at the jobs we did here. Maybe it made us compassionate enough to want to help.”
Sandra agreed, and added, “I’ve come to know a lot of good people county-wide. I’ll miss them.”
Curtis said his replacement at CHR, Felicia Smith, was going to do a fine job continuing his work.
“She’ll be an excellent replacement,” he said. “It’s time for other people to take over and to give back to the community.”
Curtis said there are many here that he will miss.
“It’s been a hell of a ride,” he said.