What began as a team of four looking for a fifth player has now evolved into a starting lineup with a full bench.
On Feb. 23, at a presentation by the New Jersey Department of Education to address the West Morris Regional High School district’s funding formula, area mayors Ken Short (Washington Township), Bob Davis (Chester), Bill Cogger (Chester Township), and Neil Henry (Mendham) requested Mendham Township mayor Sam Tolley jump in and join the effort to fund a feasibility study.
“We’re a team,” Short said at that meeting in February. “A basketball team has five players, if you play with four it doesn’t work.”
The DOE presentation, requested by the four mayors to shed light on the facts behind the district’s funding as well as its achievements, spurred those four mayors to all put in $10,000 line items to their municipal budgets in 2012, pooling the money to fund a feasibility study.
That feasibility study will be used to decipher the figures behind potential changes to the district–possible consolidation among the area’s five school districts, dissolution of the regional district, or withdrawal of any one town from the regional.
While Tolley did not participate in the DOE presentation, he was in attendance, and heard to call-out loud and clear.
“I want work to with them,” Tolley said after the presentation. “But … I want the School Board to be involved.”
The five mayors then met in March, according to Davis, and “planned the next steps in the process toward continuing toward educational improvement and looking at the funding formula,” he said.
“In that meeting we agreed to invite two representatives from each of the boards (of education) to a closed meeting to organize and plan,” Davis said. “We all then agreed to have open meetings after that.”
And now the time has come for the team to unite and step on the court together.
On Wednesday, April 18 at the Washington Township Municipal Building, the five mayors, along with representatives from each of the town’s school boards, will come together and go discuss what’s happened up to this point, and what is expected to happen going forward.
Wednesday's meeting will be closed to the public, after the mayors decided it would be easiest to communicate without any external interference, Short said.
Based on the Open Public Meetings Act, as long as no individual body–government or school board–is represented by a quorum of its members (a majority of the group’s representatives), the meeting may be closed to the public.
“We want to get the education people involved,” Short said. “They’re the experts on the issue, and they know what’s best for the schools, we’re just trying to facilitate the process.”
Short said the mayors have been meeting as a group for the last eight months, but without the accompaniment of the school boards.
“I expect (school board members) to be full members,” Tolley said. “As such, they need to be part of all decision making.”
“The feasibility study will help answer questions that are out there,” Short said. “How is a change to the district going to make the education process better? What outcome is best for the students? What’s best for the residents?”
As of this writing, the Mendham Township Municipal budget did not include their $10,000 share of the study.
"We need to know what we are studying before we commit any public funds to it," Tolley said.
Board vice president James Johnston (Chester) and John Meyer (Washington Township) will represent the West Morris Regional School Board. Board president Mike Rec and member Kathleen Koop will represent the Washington Township School district.
Board president Bridget Poole will represent Mendham Borough Schools. Board president Raymond Trevisan, vice president Kerri Wright, and member Gary Lakritz will represent the Chester consolidated school district.
The team’s first practice won’t be open to spectators, but it hopes to iron out the kinks before the fans are allowed in.