MIDDLETOWN, NJ – Middletown Township, one of 565 municipalities across the state of New Jersey, received the 2023 Innovation in Governance Award for its Next Generation Support Program (NGSP) at the New Jersey League of Municipalities (NJLM) Conference in Atlantic City this week. This annual recognition program was established to highlight exemplary local government activities that exhibit creative and practical approaches to local problems and concerns.
This year, the Innovation in Governance Awards Committee was looking for a new and distinctive approach undertaken by Garden State municipalities during the period of June 1, 2022 through September 30, 2023. Middletown Township submitted an entry for the NGSP to showcase the original thinking to dedicate funds from the American Rescue Plan to execute a free tutoring program to help students who suffered from learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic get back on track.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted students both academically and emotionally, and Middletown witnessed that firsthand. In January 2023, the Township partnered with Middletown-based business Bright Connections Tutoring Center to provide free tutoring services in core subjects for residents enrolled in elementary school through high school. According to Bright Connections’ assessments, over 90 percent of the students were measured to have significant learning loss due to the pandemic.
Tutoring can be expensive, but this program made it accessible for all. “I couldn’t be prouder that Middletown was not only a leader in raising awareness about the desperate need to address the devastating educational impact the pandemic had on our students, but also quickly implemented a solution to help combat this issue with a free program for our students," said Mayor Tony Perry.
Middletown was formally recognized at the 108th Annual League of Municipalities Conference Mayors’ Luncheon on Wednesday, November 15th where Township officials involved in the program were acknowledged for their efforts. "As far as we know, no other town in the state used COVID-related funding to address this important issue," said Township Administrator Tony Mercantante. "We are honored that the NJLM recognized this as an innovative way to help our community members that can be replicated in municipalities across New Jersey."
In addition to being recognized at the conference, Middletown Township and the other winning entries will be featured in the January issue of the League’s magazine, New Jersey Municipalities.
About The Next Generation Support Program
In January 2023, the Township announced that it was partnering with Middletown-based business Bright Connections Tutoring Center to run this program. The program began in January and ran two hour-and-a-half-long sessions at the Middletown Township Public Library on Saturdays for six weeks. Lessons followed the New Jersey Student Learning Standards and were created differently for each group based on areas of concern found in the assessments.
Bright Connections assessed over 300 students in both reading and math and then reviewed all the evaluations to create small groups based on students’ reading levels, areas of growth, and grade levels. About 250 students qualified for the program.
Following the success of the NGSP, the Township partnered with Bright Connections once again in September 2023 to run a tutoring program for income-eligible students who suffered learning loss due to the pandemic. The program is being funded through a special allocation of the Community Development Block Grant CARES Act the Township received and will run through May 2024.
Photo caption: Mayor Tony Perry with Innovation in Governance Awards Committee judges Jacquelyn Suárez, Acting Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, and Ray Heck, 2023 NJLM President and Mayor of Millstone, NJ