In sharp contrast to last Monday’s long debate at the Mendham Township Committee meeting that yielded two options for the regional school district feasibility study, Mendham Borough held a brief round table at the meeting of the mayor and council that produced four workable options.
Well, really more like three.
But technically four.
“We have to give major consideration to be given on six options,” Mendham Borough Mayor Neil Henry said. “Our goal from this governing body is to come up with three or four options for me to take back to the larger meeting of the Ad Hoc committee on Thursday.”
The six options being considered were:
- Creation of one K-12 School District for all five towns
- Creation of two K-12 Districts — one for Washington Township and one for the Mendhams and Chesters
- Creation of one K-12 District for Washington Township and a Limited Use 9-12 District for the Mendhams and the Chesters. The K-8 schools in those towns would not change.
- Status Quo: K-8 schools stay in place, WMMHS and WMCI-JS would continue as one district.
- Creation of Magnet schools, either at the k-8 level and/or the High School 9-12
- Hybrid Model: One Superintendent over all five towns, local school boards would remain in
place and have local control over areas including quality of staff, curriculum and where their
children attend school (needs further definition). The focus of this model is shared services, and
optimization of resources while maintaining local schools.
The Council members Brad Badal and Veronica Daly were the first to offer their thoughts, both were in favor of looking at the status quo, with a new funding formula, or the creation of two K-12 districts. But Daly also added her thoughts on the current school structure in Mendham.
“I think we are missing an opportunity with the K-8 to save money and improve the curriculum,” Daly said. “I don’t think we need a superintendent for every elementary school.”
Board President John Andrus had a list of four options of interest to him. That list included the hybrid model, the two K-12 districts, a limited use 9-12 district and an adjusted funding formula to the current school status quo. But Andrus acknowledged many of those things might be out of reach.
“You are going to want to do something you can do,” Andrus said. “We should focus on baby steps even if it means throwing out the big plan and make some kind of compromise with the local boards.”
Councilman David Sharkey also supported the hybrid formula and the 9-12 limited use plan for the Mendhams and the Chesters. Councilman Louis Garubo agreed with his colleagues, but reminded them to consider the issue that brought them to this point to begin with.
“The most important thing is the funding formula,” Garubo said. “We need to address the unfair way in which our tax dollars are distributed.”
Councilman Stanley Witczak didn’t disagree with the choices of his compatriots, but saw trouble with the cutting of staff being part of any plan.
“I don’t know how many schools they have out in Washington Township, but you might find a lot of resistance from people trying to protect teachers and support staff,” Witzcak said. “I see a lot of savings if we can educate the public, but I see a lot of resistance.”
For his part, Henry wanted to make sure they narrowed the scope of feasibility study to something manageable.
“If it becomes diluted with too many things it becomes harder to share with the layman what is already a very complicated issue,” Henry said. “It looks like our number one options falls into the different funding formula options along with the creation of two k-12 districts, followed by one K-12 district for Washington township with a limited use 9-12 for the Mendhams and the Chesters and the hybrid model.”
While the hybrid model was on the list, it didn’t appear to be an option that, as Henry put it, “had legs.”
“Clearly we have three options here we like. I need to get a sense of our thoughts because I need to go to this meeting Thursday with bullets in my holster,” Henry said. “Each governing body and each school board is going to have their own list of options and I don’t know what they are going to have.”