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Letter: BOE Needs Support On Enrollment Issue

Resident believes projected drop is supply and demand issue.

Editor,

To recap the : The problem that the township faces is almost a classic supply and demand imbalance. We have an oversupply of and maintenance overhead and too large a faculty for the number of students in the school system.

The this will be increasingly so in the future. To restore a balance we need to either increase enrollment in the school system or reduce capacity. We need to investigate options from both ends to resolve this problem.

At the meeting, the Board of Education committed to follow the same process that was instituted in 2002 at the time of the last critical capacity problem. That process identified several options to resolve the capacity problem, detailed the costs and benefits associated with each and presented them to the community in a referendum. The community itself decided the future of its school system and chose to construct a new school. 

Personally I was impressed by the Board's statements to the effect that the results of the demographic study meant that significant action was called for; it was not a case of 'business as usual'.  The Board recognizes that education at any cost is unaffordable and unacceptable to the community.

At yesterday's meeting, the Board formed a sub-committee to plan for the process that was last followed in 2002.  This demonstrates a commitment by the Board to develop a solution to a difficult problem in a transparent process; a process that will give the community the opportunity to decide on the future of our school system, as in 2003. 

One or more committees will be formed to identify options and capture the associated implications; impact on the quality of our children's education, costs and savings, feasibility, short and long-term consequences on our ability to manage uncertainty in the demographics of our district, etc. Identifying possible solutions to this problem will need innovative thinking and objective evaluation. It will be best accomplished by active participation from the community. Sniping from the sidelines won't cut it. If we want to maintain a high quality, affordable school system then we have to step up, participate in the hard and often emotionally draining work that difficult choices inevitably demand. 

The Board of Education positively wants participation from the community, is actively creating the process to enable the development of a range of options and will bring them before the community in a referendum. They deserve our active support.

Gavin Leslie
Washington Township

La Quin January 12, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Are seriously backing the board's ability to 'predict' enrollment? - If the 'predictions' were so good we wouldn't be in this situation a few years after building a school! With the economy the way it is and Long Valley's current 'school issues' people are staying away from this town. Would you move to a town where the de-regionalization of a school could cause taxes to go up by 25-50% or more? Would you move to that said town when The high school is not on par with others around it? How about if the k-8 system was not producing the education it should? - The reason enrollment is down is that we 'jump' at all the wrong thing. We don't need to study what to do in 5 years IF .... we need to study what to do now to PREVENT. -- We as a town need to stop fearing change, our schools need better curriculum, and core standards. We need to stop teaching to the test and start teaching to excellence. Then people will be willing to pay the absurd school taxes we have. We have a HIGHER tax rate then MENDHAM! .. I appreciate your candor, and your very well worded letter, however; we need to rethink the way we are going and see the broader picture. I understand parents around here think the schools are the 'be all and end all' but they are not. Other districts in this state and other states are WAY more innovative and educate their children way better.
cv January 12, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Kudos to you la Quin. I moved here when my daughter was starting 3rd grade and these schools are way out of the loop. NYC public school education puts these people to shame. My daughter gets dumber and lazier here. She was doing things in first grade that they havent even addressed here. Handwriting and spelling are also deplorable here. And lets not forget to get a shout out for everday crappy math.
1819 January 12, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Gavin, you sound like you drank the kool-aid and went native on us, son. Let's see what they decide to do and HOW FAST. BOE's tend to satiate the people that show up with their reasonableness, but not a single person on that BOE wants to be forced to the tough decision to close a school. So what you are going to see is the minimum effort to push the ball along....study groups, task forces, parental advisory boards. Suddenly it's 2014, seven of those nine BOE members have moved on, and the new ones have to be caught up to speed. Sorry. Voice of long jaded experience.
1819 January 12, 2012 at 05:21 PM
PS: I don't get the supply and demand analogy at all. This is about as far from a free market capitalist economic scenario as one can imagine. This is a shrinking town that has to close a school in order to redirect resources to the classroom and efficiently use taxpayer's dollars. Period.
La Quin January 12, 2012 at 05:23 PM
CV, you should see what they do in VA! .. as for everyday math, spiral math is good I like it... unfortunately everyday math is a copy of some other spiral math programs that work better. Personally in k-8 since I homeschool I used Singapore math (not the new one they dumbed down for public schools the original one used in Singapore - english version). It's a great math program and would work for math types (no repetition and moves really fast), but would be horrid for anyone with any issues in math (there are better math programs for standard/lower/ gifted math.. like math u see - completely hands on and fun) .. Don't even get me started on our language arts (I had to fix a TON of stuff) .. For me it's the lack of inovation that drives me nuts... it's like this is the way we did it X years ago so we must keep doing it, even if it doesn't work. We have some talented teachers whose hands are tied.
cv January 12, 2012 at 06:45 PM
@ La Quin I know the teachers hands are tied. As for closing a school, they need to get with the program here and stop wasting money. Turn an unused building into a community center or a ymca. Hiring all these demographers and other assorted over educated types is not going to help the inevitable.
La Quin January 12, 2012 at 07:19 PM
The fact that 5 (YES FIVE) years after opening they are even considering closing is unspeakable. As I said we can use the building for 'other types' of schools and bring in some money to the district, while improving our home values, and offering more educational choices to our kids. The two school layout of flocktown/kossman is perfect for a charter school and magnet school. While a 'community center' is nice this town has some serious education problems so this is a great time to fix them.
Claire January 12, 2012 at 11:59 PM
I am not saying I voted for the new school, but no one seems to mention the decrease in enrollment is due to the Highland Act (maybe some never lived here but prior to it developments were popping up right and left like crazy) and then the economic decline. Many houses in MANY town are now left empty on the market. Did someone look at how many empty houses are for sale. they will eventually sell (maybe not for asking price but ...they will sell) and children will fill them.
Just Sayin' January 13, 2012 at 03:34 AM
I too was at the meeting and having been to many over the last several years, it was the first time that I saw real leadership by a BOE president in our K-8 district. Will it take time for a decision to be made, yes, but if folks support and urge the BOE to move on a stated course, we could be looking at official proposals by this time next year. I do also agree with La Quinn, in addition to reviewing the capacity issue, changes need to be made in the curriculum. We do not demand excellence in our schools, the word excellent isn't even in the BOE's mission statement or list of goals. I have one child in a private school, the other in our schools and I have seen first hand just where are schools are lacking. Parents know it, but no one is demanding a change. We all talk about our Math issues, but the real problem is our Language Arts. We are well behind in writing, reading comprehension, vocabulary, grammar etc. I am not even sure are curriculum calls for correcting children's grammar, spelling etc., "It may hurt their confidence". Bah!! I really would like our BOE members to call on their Chester and Mendham K-8 counterparts and inquire about their curriculum, their G&T program, their music program, their foreign language offerings, their club programs etc., there is a significant difference!!
cv January 13, 2012 at 01:08 PM
I damn near had a heart attack when I was at the school and a child spelled caught with a K.
Gavin Leslie January 13, 2012 at 05:32 PM
If I left the impression that anyone has a reliable crystal ball, I didn't mean to. Foretelling the future is a risky business, always, but some estimate of likely future needs is needed in order to permit planning. It's not the BoE's forecast but the result of an analysis undertaken by a reputable and independent professional using a widely adopted technique. Better than nothing but it doesn't come with a 100% guarantee. As we know from the last one, there is always a chance that such a forecast can be quite wrong. The Highlands Act was the 'Black Swan' event that quite derailed the estimate of housing development and the expected increase in enrollment. As things stand, enrollment is expected to continue its decline and we will have too much school for too few students. The BoE recognizes that we need to make an informed decision on what to do about this and is committed to bringing options to the community. Chairman Rec made a sensible argument for finding options that retain flexibility in our school system - there will be other Black Swans in the future - and he created a sub-committee to start the ball rolling. Come to the Jan 24 meeting to hear of its progress and plans. The changes that you propose to improve the quality of education might even be incorporated into a solution to the capacity problem - and we will need champions for such change from the community, actively participating in the committees that the BoE will form. Will you be one such?
Gavin Leslie January 13, 2012 at 05:42 PM
LOL. Well, I sipped it at least and I freely admit that the taste was quite good. I, too, have seen initiatives where progress was delayed by a careful strategy of 'consultation' but at this point I have no reason to doubt the intentions or integrity of the BoE. I think the ball is in our court or soon will be. The BoE needs and will ask for help from the community to identify and document reasonable options in sufficient detail to permit an objective evaluation by the community as a whole. Who will step up and contribute may be the telling question at that point.
Gavin Leslie January 13, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Yes. Closing a school is an option. Determining whether this is an efficient use of taxpayer's dollars will be part of the work that is needed from a working group of taxpayers in the community. Will you join the group and dig out the facts and figures to justify this course of action?
RGJ January 16, 2012 at 08:09 PM
@Gavin. I can not imagine why Washington Township taxpayers and parents would want to hand off a decision like this to a "working group of taxpayers" any more than I would have a working group of taxpayers defend us in a lawsuit or design a traffic circle. Everybody, especially elected officials, loves warm and cuddly consensus but I think this is a management/resources situation for the planning and financial professionals we pay and the representatives we elect.
La Quin January 16, 2012 at 09:15 PM
until we fix our schools we can not expect home value to go up.. seriously would you MOVE INTO this town the way it is today?
RGJ January 16, 2012 at 10:20 PM
The one piece of data the BOE demographer was sure about was that young families weren't moving here because they couldn't afford to -- not because they didn't want to. Not quality of schools, quantity of cost, inc school taxes.
LONG VALLEY GUY January 20, 2012 at 09:06 PM
La Quin, I agree that taxes and funding are problems for our town but I am not quite sure where you get your facts from. Looking at data from multiple sources the high school has ranked higher than almost all surrounding high schools over the past ten years on a consistant basis. Morristown, Roxbury, Randolph, Hunterdon Central, North Hunterdon all ranked lower. It ranks 6th or 7th out of 22 schools in Morris County depending on what you look at. I wouldn't call that not being on par with others around it. And why do you think that the K-8 system isn't giving a good education. It seems to me our town has a high graduation rate and a high college acceptance rate. The K-8's and the high school must be doing something right. You can bash the schools for how money is spent but not for underperforming. I moved here so that my children can get a good quality public education.
Claire January 20, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Long Valley as always has been a good value for the money. Thats why people move here. A bigger house, good schools, raise a family for less money. If you dont think so, check out values (both house and family) /schools in Essex, union county and what goes on in many those towns. yes, this town could be better, but when you look at the quality of ilfe, you cannot compare. As much as I may complain and try to raise the bar, its still much better than most towns.
Claire January 20, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Many people cannot afford houses right now. They are holding off, waiting to see what happens with the ecomony and housing market. Its a game and eventually it will all equal out. The market got ahead of itself and is regulating. relax La Quin., the sky is not falling
Claire January 20, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Can any one provide some $ numbers from de-regionizing? I have never seen any true $ numbers for de-regoinalizing ... its all talk until I see some hard numbers. There will not be a 50% tax increase from this, who are you listening to?

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