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Committee Formed to Analyze Area's Schools

Group to decide on commissioning feasibility study at June 7 meeting.

A committee to commission and possibly review a feasibility study for the schools in western Morris County was created Thursday night, and will be chaired by Mendham resident Christine Myers, and vice chaired by Washington Township resident .

, in addition to representatives , met at the Chester Township Municipal Building to discuss protocol for what would be the voting structure and next steps of the committee.

Going forward, votes will be cast equally by each municipality and each school board, including the regional district.

Meetings will allow for comments from the public at the beginning, directly after discussed agenda items, and before adjournment.

“Personally, I want to hear from the public on this issue,” Mendham mayor Neil Henry said. “It’s not about me, it’s about the people I represent.”

Ken Short, mayor of Washington Township, agreed with Henry, but felt a barrier was necessary.

“Transparency is so important during this process,” Short said. “But I believe there should be a limit to each person’s comment, and we should be against grandstanding.”

The group decided comment moderation would be at the discretion of the committee’s chair.

Agendas, minutes, and public notices from meetings will be posted on each town’s and board’s websites as well.

Next Steps

The first agenda item for the newly formed committee was to discuss a feasibility study, and if it would take place.

Earlier this year, four of the five municipalities––earmarked $10,000 in their individual budgets to put toward a feasibility study.

“The (feasibility study) needs to be done,” Henry said. “We’ve been talking . Now is the time to start.”

Members of the committee decided they would go back to their respective governing bodies and present a scope of possibilities the study could cover before voting to commission the report.

But the group first had to .

An open discussion led to six different models, which include:

  • One single K-12 district, encompassing Washington Township, the Chesters and Mendhams
  • Two K-12 districts; one for Washington Township, the other encompassing the Chesters and Mendhams
  • One 9-12 district for the Mendhams and Chesters; one K-12 for Washington Township, leaving the K-8 districts as is in Mendhams and Chesters
  • Keep the current system
  • A model that would share curriculum and administration, but keep local control for boards to hire faculty and other duties allowed within their current guidelines
  • Create magnet schools within the district

Studying a change in the funding formula, it was decided, would be an inherent piece of data connected to each of the six model plans, therefore did not need its own line item.

The committee’s members will discuss the options with their boards, add or subtract from them, and report back to the committee at its next meeting, where the group will decide if commissioning a feasibility study is the right direction to go in.

New committee names new committee

Myers explained to the group that a sub committee would need to be formed in order to refine the potential feasibility study’s objectives and work with a consultant overseeing the project.

Volunteers for the committee include Henry, Short, Jeff Brauner of the Mendham Township Board of Education, Kerri Wright of the Chester Board of Education, and Myers.

The committee will vote at it’s next meeting on whether or not to move forward with commissioning the study after members have received counsel from their respective boards.

The committee’s next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 7 at a location yet to be determined. 

roger freiday May 11, 2012 at 12:35 PM
All of this should be factored into the reality, that we have excess capacity and could, and should, close one school in Washington Twp.
Jason Koestenblatt (Editor) May 11, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Hey Roger, Thanks for the comment. The projected drop in Washington Township enrollment was addressed by Mayor Short at the meeting Thursday night. The point he made was that if the regional district ends up converting to a per pupil funding formula, the township could end up actually saving millions in the next decade if those projections came to fruition. No mention was made, however, of any plans to restructure Washington Township's school buildings.
Jason Koestenblatt (Editor) May 11, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Thanks for the comment, Barbara. No, I don't recall Mayor Short addressing those enrollment numbers, nor do I recall any of those town's mayors doing so either.
Claire May 11, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Who will make the final decision on the direction of the schools ? Will this be voted on by the taxpayers or does the "committee" decide?
Harvey May 11, 2012 at 02:37 PM
What was interesting about Jason's report of the meeting is that this is exactly the same scenario studied in 1999-2001 by the "REDI" grant study. It is likely that the same consultants will be consulted and that the conclusion will be the same. There will be no change, ultimately, after much gnashing of teeth, charges and countercharges made, and some people's careers tarnished. The process will play out, various people will take "credit" for various positions, others will be scapegoated, but ultimately not much will change. Unless, of course, Trenton decides otherwise. And to answer Claire's question: no change can happen without a vote of the people in the towns affected. However, the vote is the last step in a very long, arduous and expensive process.
La Quin May 11, 2012 at 02:55 PM
i wish they would think about the BENEFITS of merging staff districts k-12 and going with SCHOOL CHOICE... look at montclair and NYC, each school offers something different and you pick. we have the budget (seriously we pay a TON in taxes) to create something amazing. we could have the best of all the worlds. AND creating a GnT magnet school (cuchenella sp?) .. if anyone noticed the US News report GnT schools were at the top and they bring in INCOME to the area. parents will move to an area for a good GnT school (we have the houses to support it) .. and not that i think anyone is listening, but if we are revisiting the set up of our district it needs to be 'out there' ... but i'll throw it out there, if we open our schools up to 'welcoming' our kids who choose alternate education (teams/clubs/etc.) you might find it ADDS to our schools - you might be surprised at the tallent you are ignoring and the message you are sending the kids "don't toe the line and be excluded, and be treated as if you did something 'wrong'" (without alternate thought steve jobs, einstein, elizabeth blackwell would have never been who they are) -- and you lawyers are NOT giving you the truth when they say 'liability' other districts through out NJ and America do it!
Russ Crespolini (Editor) May 14, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Hey...CV...guys...please be mindful that debate and discussion of ideas and passionate disagreements are FINE, please please please be careful of name calling. I would hate to have to pull down a post with otherwise good comments. Thanks.
Russ Crespolini (Editor) May 14, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Mostly because the system is responding slowly tonight and didn't pull it down when I told it to. Pretty sure cleared my cache now.
cv May 14, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Because I didnt use foul language I only voiced my opinion.
RGJ May 14, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Maybe there is a new" equitable" goal for CBS. Awhile back I looked at the census data for Washington Township. It showed that slightly less than half of the homes had children. However, Mendham Township has a much lower distribution of households with children, in the 30 percent range. And those numbers don't even reflect the number of private school children, which I suspect would be MUCH higher in those towns. If CBS and the various tax activists in their municipality are truly looking in their community for "fairness", shouldn't that begin at home? Last time I looked, there are senior citizen property tax credits which a municipality like Mendham Township or Chester Township can pursue to, in a small way, redistribute their individual town's school tax burden more "equitably" (the buzzword du jour, I believe) between the households with school children and the ones without. Perhaps this should be CBS's first task, as well as the new committee's. Washington Township would probably vote internally to keep thier present system, I would guess. But Mendham, with that wild disparity in households with children, could probably reach their own "equitable" solution internally by shifting the property tax burden from the seniors to the households with children. That way Charlene et al can get that warm, fuzzy "equitable" feeling they are looking for. Would like to hear from CBS on this idea.
Janet Mansky Gerber May 21, 2012 at 02:49 PM
I second La Quin. Magnet schools would be great. And, we need to do more for our G&T kids.

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