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Washington Twp. School Board Candidates: Shared Services, Green Initiatives Important to District

David Chance Healy, Michelle Munley, Michael Rec answer questions for Long Valley Patch.

Long Valley Patch asked board of education candidates up for election on the April 27 ballot three questions regarding ongoing issues in the school districts they serve. Below you'll find the questions and answer provided by candidates. For more information about the election, .

Long Valley Patch: What services or infrastructure, if any, do you feel could be changed within the Washington Township District to help generate additional revenue for the district, so that future budgets may avoid pushing the 2-percent cap and tax relief can be found for residents?

As far as revenue generators, we've got to take a deep look into solar and wind power at our facilities. Whether we participate in the Morris County solar/ renewable energy initiative or independently, there is huge incentive and demand for excess energy – particularly for SREC's (Solar Renewable Energy Certificates) which could potentially generate considerable revenue for the district.

Also, I'd like to see us explore other new opportunities such as bus advertising which has recently been approved by the state. We're awaiting final plans from the Dept's of Education and Transportation to see if it's truly viable in our district.

As we continue to dialogue with other school districts and municipalities about shared services, we're uncovering more and more opportunities and new ways of doing things. There is much more to come – we're in the first or second inning of a 9 inning game when it comes to new revenue drivers and cost savings.

I'd like to call on the public get more involved – perhaps as a formal committee. We're making progress, but most great ideas are generated in the private sector. We need to tap into the tremendous local intellectual capital we have at our disposal to continue to drive efficiencies and lower our tax burden.

Recently, some of the buildings in our district were evaluated by the Morris County Improvement Authority with regard to the feasibility of installing solar panels. While this group would absorb the entire cost of the project, we, as a district, will reap the benefit of reduced energy costs. In addition to our district wide “Green Team” initiative, this effort provides us with the opportunity to realize savings in our operating budget while tapping into our desire to be environmentally conscience. At the same time, we are given the unique, firsthand experience of educating our children in the energy sources of the future.

Our district must continue its commitment to deliver the best possible curriculum for our students and maintain a healthy, safe, and state-of-the-art infrastructure for our students and teachers. That said, we must avoid pursuit of unrelated or loosely related revenue generating opportunities that might take away from the districts’ commitment, and instead focus on such things as new grants and shared services. I am a big proponent of shared services, and believe this is where our townships and districts will create the means to effectively manage the tax levy.

Long Valley Patch: A recent proposal was brought forth by the West Morris Regional Board of Education to reach out to school districts and governing bodies from the Chesters, Mendhams and Washington Township regarding the merging of the towns’ schools to become a super-regional, K-12 school district mainly for the purpose of cost savings. Do you feel this is something worth pursuing? If not, why?

DCH: I'm a proponent of a Super K-12 district. It should, at a minimum, be explored to see what the real savings potential is. Standardized testing scores and demographics are very similar amongst the towns so it would be a logical fit. Fundamentally, the Mendhams, Chesters and WT all have the same collective goals for our children.

MM: This is an issue we need to analyze from all angles in order to make an educated decision. Each K-8 district has the same responsibility to educate our children to the standards set by the West Morris Regional District. However, there are other issues that need to be considered as well. It is definitely something we should discuss, but with thoughtful and careful analysis.

MR: This is but one of probably several options that should be investigated. A proper analysis of financial, instructional, and operational implications must be conducted and business case completed before making any recommendation to proceed. In the meantime, these districts should also work together to identify short term cost containment opportunities that can be implemented in a very short period of time. Such gains will build credibility and momentum to achieve greater things together.

Long Valley Patch: Washington Township is an academically well-performing school district. How can the district’s curriculum change to better student performance and prepare them for high school?

DCH: That's a very good question and something our education committee and administration is acutely focused on. The Middle School and High School need to be in lock-step with regard to curriculum development and delivery in order to ensure a seamless academic transition from Middle School to High School. High School is challenging enough, we must be rigorous in ensuring that our Middle Schoolers are prepared for that challenge. There are high expectations in our district – our board and administration need to be relentless in raising the standards that we create.

MM: We are currently adjusting our math curriculum to better prepare our students for the high school algebra classes and the state algebra test. In addition, we need to continue to encourage a constant dialogue between our administration and the administration at the high school to determine if and where any disconnect exists. Opportunities can also be created for dialogue between the teachers in each content area between LVMS and WMC. This would allow us to evolve our curriculum in concert with theirs.

MR: Our district is dedicated to continuous improvement of its curriculum through
annual curriculum assessment and writing, alignment with state core curriculum content standards, curriculum articulation in partnership with West Morris Regional High School, and other means. While curriculum development is indeed very important, its delivery to our students is equally important. This is why our district has dedicated so much of its time and energy to professional development of its teachers in support of a “21st Century Learner Active Classroom” environment. Our district must continue such initiatives in order to stay ahead of the curve and reinforce its standing as a high performing district.

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