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Mayors to Consider Third Proposal for High School Break-Up Study

Mendham, Chester officials will meet on Tuesday, May 27 in Mendham Twp. in first public session since February.

Mayors from the Mendhams and Chesters will meet Tuesday, May 27 to meet with a third consultant who has submitted a proposal to conduct work requested for a feasibility study that would pull apart the West Morris Regional High School district.

The Ad-Hoc Committee consists of Chester Borough Mayor Bob Davis, Chester Township Mayor Bill Cogger, Mendham Township Mayor Maribeth Thomas, and Mendham Borough Mayor Neil Henry, who acts as the committee chairman, and has not met in a public forum since the winter.

The elected officials have already reviewed the proposals from two other consultants to conduct a feasibility study that would analyze two school restructuring options:

  • A K-12 district that would include Chester School District, Mendham Township School district, Mendham Borough School district, and Mendham High School.
  • Leave all K-8 districts as they are, but roll out Mendham High School into its own district, splitting it from the current regional structure.

Mendham High School – which includes students from both Mendhams and both Chesters – makes up approximately half of the regional school district, with students from Washington Township making up the remainder and attending West Morris Central High School.

Washington Township Mayor Ken Short has not been involved in the ad-hoc committee’s process under this latest iteration. He did work with mayors from the other four towns in recent years when the feasibility study was first considered, but eventually fizzled as all sides couldn’t come to terms on what to study.

Two firms that have come forward both specialize in school district reconfiguration. The first is Vito Gagliardi, Jr. of Porzio, Bromberg & Newman in Morristown. According to Gagliardi’s resume, he’s overseen the only three regional school district dissolutions in New Jersey state history. He’ll bring with him experts on education and demography, according to Mendham Borough Mayor Neil Henry, who was chosen to serve as chairman for the ad hoc committee.

The other firm, from New York state, is Center for Government Research, or CGR, which specializes in “strategic guidance and implementation assistance to public sector, educational and nonprofit clients,” according to its website.

Both firms came before the ad-hoc committee in late February to present proposals for the work. A decision has not been made as a third consultant has now jumped into the fray.

The third proposal will be coming from Ross Haber Associates, of Millville, New Jersey. The company has been conducting studies for public schools and boards of education since 1995, according to its website.

The most recent iteration in the decades-long questioning of the district’s structure began in June 2011 when members of the region’s school boards and governing bodies came together for a first-ever summit to discuss options of consolidation and dissolution.

Ten months later, a presentation by the New Jersey Department of Education offered analysis and answers to many outstanding questions regarding the regional school district and its configuration and spending formula. From there, an ad-hoc mayors committee was formed by the five towns. After a series of closed-door meetings, the group could not come to terms on the best way to address the configuration and walked away from the process.

In the time since, mayors from the Chesters and Mendhams have congregated to work on commissioning a feasibility study to analyze the two options currently on the table.

Tuesday’s meeting will be held at the Mendham Township Municipal Building in Brookside at 6 p.m. and is open to the public.

The Stig May 23, 2014 at 11:55 AM
LV isn't going to want to change the formula because it will cost them a lot more if it was allocated on a per pupil basis, and the rest of the towns aren't going to want to continue or extend the current formula because it already costs them too much, and this (a regional K-12 district) would make it 3x worse. LV parents would also freak when they found out that in any new K-12 district they'd have to close one of their grammar schools. There's already one too many, and the other towns aren't going to subsidize the extra building and all its fixed costs.
Jeff May 23, 2014 at 01:30 PM
I respect everyone's opinion, but without the study, it is still just opinion. Sometimes it is valuable to suspend prior judgements and looks at things from a new perspective.
The Stig May 23, 2014 at 02:25 PM
2+2=4 isn't an opinion. This is all about arithmetic and how the costs get divided between the five municipalities.
Jeff May 23, 2014 at 02:52 PM
Which goes back to my originial point, too much focus on money and not what is best for the students.
The Stig May 23, 2014 at 03:10 PM
It can't only be about what's *best* for students. Taxpayers need to be considered as well, otherwise we'd chuck the 2% cap and give the district ALL our money because it's already been determined by the NJ Supremes that more money is always better.

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