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What Should Schools Do About Enrollment Drop?

Everyone has opinions. Patch is the place to share them.

The Washington Township School District recently hired a demographer, Dr. Richard Grip, to put together an analysis about future enrollment trends.

Grip's analysis showed a projection of the district possibly losing 500 students over the next five school years. .

So, Long Valley Patch wants to know what you think the Washington Township School District should do over the next few years, if enrollment does indeed drop as projected?

There won't be a poll attached to this week's question, rather it is an open-ended question. Please leave your comments in the section below.

As always, thanks for participating.

Carolyn Hanington January 13, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Right, Leta...that was what I was remembering...a principal and a VP...WHAT??? How incredibly unnecessary...and the Asst Superintendant also.
Just Sayin' January 13, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Over all, the BOE should review and compare the staffing of the district from the height of enrollment to now. Since enrollment has already dropped it is worth a look another "under the hood" to see if faculty and staff are being used efficiently. The number of classroom teachers I am almost certain have declined. I define a classroom teacher as a teacher of a main subject at LVMS (English, History, Science etc.) or in the elementary school the teacher that has a homeroom of ~22 students. I am fairly certain Art, Music, Health/PE, Library/Technology and Foreign Language teachers are also lower slightly. Our G&T teachers are lower by 1. However all other "special services" positions, I suspect are higher. If so why and how many students do they each service? It has been suggested to convert Kossman into a special needs school, but somehow I don't think this would save us or make the town money, unless it was separate from our school and run independently. I don't believe our schools can "profit" from these services, they can only charge the cost of the service per child which doesn't help the taxpayer. Also, we have been "integrating" these children into the regular classroom as well as providing them separate class time. As such, parents may not want them going to a separate school building.
Sue Caracciolo January 14, 2012 at 04:43 PM
I served on the committee you referenced a few years back - we presented the same findings regarding the demographic changes that will result in lower enrollment. We were a group of residents who volunteered our time to research this issue, yet the BOE paid $20,000 to an outside contractor to get the exact same answer we offered (at no charge) - just another example of wasteful spending on the part of our school board.
RGJ January 14, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Hi Dave, Some years back a very gung-ho tax and spend lady who was BOE president pitched starting a special ed expansion business to me in a private conversation. I remember thinking -- with benefits, pensions, unions, and this sort of junior varsity management why would the taxpayers want to expand our entanglement in this sort of "business" underwriting (she also wanted us to take over regional busing). How long would it be before we suddenly realize that somebody over estimated this or overestimated that or bought too much of this or state rules and funding change and we are screwed? Seems almost inevitable. Anything we can outsource or downsize seems right to me until the whole structure of public employee compensation is revolutionized in this state.
Sue Caracciolo January 14, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Our research showed that several factors would result in gradually lower enrollment after 2010: the Highlands Act, the restrictions imposed by the town on new construction, the resulting shift toward senior housing for future development which would increase the demographic for 55+ while the under 18 population would stabilize & then decrease as children moved through & out of the school system.
Just Sayin' January 14, 2012 at 06:14 PM
RGJ -I think we have been going down this path for years. Last year a SE class was set up at OFRS and this year at BAC, each with a teacher, PT teacher and Aids. They say it will save our schools money servicing them in house vs out. If anyone wonders why the "average child" sees less services, this is where the money goes. Music starts in 5th, but used to start in 4th, neighboring towns start in 3rd. We have one foreign language in the MS, used to have 2 and neighboring towns have 2 and are adding a 3rd. Woodshop is still 1/2 time from budget cuts and GT is still down a teacher, accelerated math used to start in 4th like neighboring towns but now in 6th, other clubs too have disappeared. It seems providing for the majority, isn't as important to our BOE or administration. It is also easier to add positions in SE because they can say "its mandated by the state" and no one looks close enough to see that we do go way above state mandates for SE students. I am not advocating for cutting these services, just advocating for excellence and fairness across ALL students,so that they all can reach their potential!,
Claire January 14, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Can anyone supply dollar amount of state/fed aide for Special Ed in WT vs amount we spend. Every time I asked, I was always told everything they do was mandated. I never understood why so many teacher (sometimes 7) had to sit in on a meeting about the student, subs needed to be hired to cover the class (because all this had to be done during the school hrs), Very expensive program
RGJ January 14, 2012 at 07:29 PM
For the purposes of debate, let's say mothballing a school and rightsizing staff saves $2 million. (I have no idea if that is 2 million high or low). If half of that went to a reduction of the budget, and half went to restoring programs, how many of your concerns could be paid for, Leta? Dropping enrollment offers an opportunity for both improving/expanding programs AND lowering taxes -- if nothing is done to reflect that dropping enrollment, both situations actually worsen. Carrying the same overhead and payroll with a 2 percent cap means having to cut programs -- our contracted salaries and benefits are certainly expanding at more than 2 percent. And 2 percent raises amount to a slightly higher tax burden on property taxpayers, since that slightly outstrips inflation. Inaction is both a missed opportunity and a worsening problem. We have been drifting along with this and I don't see much urgency to address it.
Just Sayin' January 14, 2012 at 08:27 PM
If closing a school would result in some money going back to main programs I am all for it! I do think it can be done (adding services) while giving the taxpayer a break. The question is will they?? Look at what they did when the last budget failed!
Just Sayin' January 14, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Looking at these numbers state aide covers less than half. Thanks David.
roger freiday January 15, 2012 at 01:57 PM
I like the summation from Leta. What, me worry ? to the BOE after all, it's just taxpayers money, and considered THEIR province, to do whatever they like. Witness ''Cucinella'' ! We made a valiant effort to squelch that years back, but we still got it ! Never forget, the BOE is a self-perpetuating entity, like a tumor, feeds on the host with impunity. Too bad the laws in New Jerky, don't allow the Twp Committee to over see and monitor the BOE, like SOME enlightened states. Same as ''tenure'' - the BOE has to have autonomy from scrutiny, because it's GOOD FOR US !
Gavin Leslie January 15, 2012 at 09:27 PM
@Leta. I like it, too! "Improve the quality of education for our children and reduce property taxes" would be a great win-win terms of reference for the BOE subcommittee. The Board of Education committed to a transparent process to identify and detail options to rebalance our school system with our student enrollment. A subcommittee was formed to craft an approach to develop options; options that will be presented to the community in a referendum. The apparently obvious option to close a school will certainly be considered. The BOE cannot operate in a vacuum. It needs feedback. Comments on social media are thought provoking and include valuable information but unless the community takes the initiative and inserts itself into the BOE processes such comments are no more than venting. Email: boe@wtschools.org) recognizing the BOE's responsible reaction to the results of the demography study and state your support for the BOE initiative. Letters to the BOE become a matter of record and are reviewed at BOE meetings: Attend the next BOE meeting and make a statement of support for the BOE initiative. January 24 at LVMS, 7pm Volunteer to work on the committee that will have to do the grunt work on details of each option. To horribly paraphrase Edmund Burke "All it takes for education to suffer and taxes to rise is for good men to do nothing". And, to those who doubt our effectiveness; every avalanche starts with a snowflake, every landslide with a pebble.
RGJ January 16, 2012 at 05:21 PM
@ David: How do you get to $580k? My first guess out of this air was $600k, but someone who should be in the know said something like $2 mil. Maybe they were assuming a sale of a property. @Gavin. What do you think is valuable in public decisionmaking on this? This is strictly a nuts and bolts administrative decision, it is why we hire representative elected officials and administrators and commission engineers and demographers. You can expect crowded rooms of passionate parents against any closing (unless it is explained as an either/or with programs). And they should be heard and have a right to be heard, etc.But there is nothing to vote on. Building a new school is reason for a referendum, mothballing one is strictly administrative, IMO. But they will have their subcommittees and task forces and years of contingency studies, I'm sure. It is a shgame, everyone suffers through delay. The process should have been started two years ago when the demographics became obvious to Dave et al.
Long Valley Parent January 16, 2012 at 07:31 PM
I really can't believe the ignorance when it comes to the topic of Special Education. I am glad all of you have been blessed with "average" or "above average" students. Congrats! You should be so proud. Unfortunately, other parents are not so lucky. They have to spend everyday dealing with their child's disability. It could be as minor as a learning disability or the extreme of a mental/health disability. The costs to educate an "average" student is less than educating a child with a disability. That is plain and simple. Just like it costs a family more money for medical bills to take care of a sick child compared to taking care of a healthy child.
Long Valley Parent January 16, 2012 at 07:35 PM
The Department of Education understands Special Education Costs and that is why school districts receive funding for special edcuation and they don't receive funding for Gifted and Talented Programs. The money is supposed to subsidize the costs for Special Education, not pay for the entire amount. Ask the board of education to send all of this kids in the Special Education program to be sent to other facilities to be educated and watch your tax bills skyrocket even higher. Do you realize the cost of doing that? You are looking at from $30K to $100K+ to educate one student at another school/facility (pending on their disability and school/facility) This will include tuition and you will have to provide transportation also. Did you guys look into these numbers before you posted? Bottom line, I agree, we need to take a look into closing a school. I am not arguing that. I just want to point out your ignorance when it comes to special education.
Claire January 16, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Believe me LVP, I do sympathize more than you know. I am not ignorant but I do believe the government should pick up educating the SE, no child left behind mandates. At the same time, Ms Schwatz made our district into "move in, we are one of the all inclusive resorts" and there they came. I do have a problem with not giving the "Average student" a good education and over budgeting the SE dept. We are no longer supplying quality Ed to WT residents but attracting SE families from the tri-state area to move here.
La Quin January 16, 2012 at 09:21 PM
FIRST: SE in this town is great! Let's not ruin it. SE is needed. I'm sure as all things it could be better (you could ask some SE parents to be sure) SECOND: GT in this town sucks. I think the SE families will agree ANY KID outside the average costs the parents a TON (if in doubt PM me and I'll review MY costs for the last year) THIRD: our AVERAGE student program stinks - you can ask ANY parent who is HONEST about it. FOURTH: until we fix the education in this town, we will continue to have houses devalued and not selling ... so think of what we can do in our schools to make people want to move here (like good schools?) and lets do something about it! .. FIFTH: BIG hug to all the SE parents out there - it's one heck of a job and you deserve more credit then most give you.
Just Sayin' January 16, 2012 at 09:52 PM
LVP As parents we all want what is best for our children they ALL deserve the best from our schools. No one disputes or would even begin to argue that the cost is more for a special needs child vs a non as well as it is better to have them in house vs out. What isn't acceplable is that the average child has been getting less and less, ours schools need to put money back to these kids and improve their curriculum as well. Leslie Schwartz had said and today Mr. Mohr says we go above and beyond for SE, that is great, but let's not forget about the rest of the children. Spending won't and should not be equal, but don't all children deserve the best our education system has to offer, or only some?
Claire January 16, 2012 at 10:00 PM
hallelujah Leta. If only we could get someone to listen.
RGJ January 16, 2012 at 10:15 PM
"""FOURTH: until we fix the education in this town, we will continue to have houses devalued and not selling ... so think of what we can do in our schools to make people want to move here (like good schools?) and lets do something about it!""" Seriously? Where are those buyers going? In 2003 houses supposedly weren't selling because of school overcrowding. If we are being spurned by homebuyers moving elsewhere due to school quality I haven't heard about it. What you do see in the BOE demographers report is that young families can't AFFORD to live here, not that they don't want to....
Just Sayin' January 16, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Gavin Leslie, I will be at the next meeting, was at the last and I liked your comments! As far as being on a committee, it will depend on my work schedule, but I would be interested.
Alice Jameson January 17, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Domino: Sweetness, you need to work on those pesky reading comprehension skills. RGJ was addressing a post from La Quin. The first paragraph is a direct quote taken from Washington Township’s most outspoken homeschooler.
MadInNJ January 17, 2012 at 06:05 AM
That's because the two biggest line items in the budget - Salaries and Benefits, were allowed to rise at two to three times the rate of inflation.
Thomas Paine January 17, 2012 at 12:59 PM
But it's for the chiiiiiildrennnn!
roger freiday January 17, 2012 at 01:25 PM
yep, it's ALWAYS for the children ! I also have to say, when it comes to ''full time Kindergarten'' and / or - ''Special Ed'' students, there is one thing in common. That is, ''what can the taxpayer do for ME, and ignore what it will cost YOU'' We all have empathy for students and parents with kids that have special needs, or at least one has to make it LOOK like they care to be ''PC''. I am certain the enormous costs involved rankle a lot of taxpayers but it would be ''unkind'' to say it. I say it, it costs far too much. Do the best we can for these folks but not toss baskets of cash while we ignore the other students, and all the pertinent waste in this goofy system. If this method worked, the ABBOTT districts would be succeeding far beyond where they are. As far as ''better schools'' and ''higher values'', improving home sales etc. baloney, who needs it. Do we REALLY want or need MORE STUDENTS, special ed or other ? All that does is kick up school costs all over again. Never fails to amaze me how people with CHILDREN want the whole world, from ALL of us, childless, retired, infirm, it matters not to them long as their progeny get whatever mommy and daddy ask for. THIS is how the school ''business'' as it exists, thrives and eats cash.
Thomas Lotito January 17, 2012 at 01:47 PM
@ Mad, you got it right. Employee compensation packages were allowed to grow at an unsustainable rate. Our BOE is owned by the teachers unions. Here's what BOE member Kathleen Koop said, "If I were a parent not on the Board of Ed and I didn’t attend these meetings and such, I would want to know the consequences for such a decision. We have to be very clear with everyone on the consequences of this idea of closing a school.”.......I don't see Kathleen Koop ever voting to cut back school employee compensation packages........Closing a school will never happen, unless the BOE cuts back it's employees and it's employees and compensation packages...
Jason Koestenblatt (Editor) January 17, 2012 at 03:21 PM
All - Again, thank you for your comments and participation in this topic; it's clearly a sensitive issue for many residents in town. We've deleted some comments that violated our terms of service, and responses to those comments to which the context would not have made sense if standing alone. We ask that you continue to discuss this issue, but please keep it civil and free from attacks or harassment or we will be forced to close the thread. Thank you.
P Armstrong January 20, 2012 at 04:25 AM
Given the economy, it's irresponsible of our town/county/state/US government not to cut costs. We the people cannot support further bloated government, schools, whatever. We are not getting pay increases, and falling further behind. The government, if it intends to lead, should cut costs ahead of our own decreases, to help the people who pay for it.
P Armstrong January 20, 2012 at 04:30 AM
Cannot agree with full-day kindergarten. Why find another way to dig into our pockets when we need to cut back??
willbur January 27, 2012 at 10:43 PM
i wonder if the teachers premiums doubled??? i pay > $500 per month and have a $2400 deductible, more if out of network, lately costs average $10,000 per year, and thank God no one was even in the hospital.>> http://finance.yahoo.com/news/health-insurance-deductibles-doubled-7-165602963.html

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