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 James Harmon.
Mayors from the Chesters, Mendhams and Washington Township, in addition to representatives from the area’s school districts, 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.
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–all except Mendham Township–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 about it since June. 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 decide what those possibilities would be.
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.