In the end, there was no change.
The Mendham Borough Mayor and Council voted unanimously Monday not be swayed from the three options they agreed were worth studying as part of the feasibility study being prepared for the group studying the regional school district. At the June 18 meeting, the Mendham Borough Council agreed to study the creation of a mega K-12 district for all five communities, two separate K-12 districts and a limited use 9-12 for the Mendhams and the Chesters that leaves the current K-8 system intact.
An issue with the inclusion of the mega K-12 as an option is what sparked the renewed debate. As previously reported, Mendham Township and Chester Borough have drawn a line in the sand to exclude the mega K-12 from the feasibility study. Mendham Borough, Chester Township and Washington Township have left it on the table. All five governing bodies support studying two separate K-12 districts and a limited use 9-12 for the Mendhams and the Chesters that leaves the current K-8 system intact.
“We had a request for comments,” Mayor Neil Henry said. “My suggestion is if you want to discuss any of these issues in-depth please come to the meeting on Thursday.”
While Henry was happy to allow people to comment at the meeting, but did suggest upcoming meeting devoted to the topic would be another venue to be heard.
“We need people to come out. It is not something you understand in one sitting,” Henry said. “I’ve been working on it for over a year and I only understand 80% of it.”
Borough resident Bob Marino spoke of a fear the mega K-12 district would make the situation worse.
“The only thing we really share now are tax dollars going to Washington Township,” Marino said.
Marino’s sentiments were echoed by several other residents from Mendham Borough, Mendham Township and Chester Township. All were concerned the including a mega K-12 option would lead to a worsening of the perceived financial burden and impact the quality of education.
Educational impact was something that Mendham native and current special education teacher for the Roxbury school district Caitlin Gluck spoke to.
“Going toward a combined K-12 would be like taking my special Ed students and moving them to an AP level,” Gluck said. “Also, I’m at Roxbury and it is considered a mega district. This year I was close to being bumped. When your district is a mega you combine all those teachers and seniority plays a factor.”
Mendham Borough resident and substitute teacher Alise Ford wanted to see the study happen. And not allow the process to end because the decision wasn’t unanimous.
“I think what we’re discussing tonight is that we’re looking to do a study because this is a complicated issue. But we don’t know all of the ramifications unless we do the study. It seems to me that we should go along with whatever it takes to do the study. And if you are going to reject the K-12, fine. We don’t have to agree, but if it gets the study done then do it. The purpose is to move forward,” Ford said. “We don’t have to agree. We can say man up and just get this done already. Clearly, I don’t think a mega system would work for us. But we should be the ones to get this thing going and let Chester Borough and Mendham Township catch up to us.”
Mendham Borough resident Hank Schram agreed with Ford and asked where the fear was coming from.
“I don’t understand why everyone is so afraid,” Schram said. “They must be afraid that all the mayors are so unintelligent that they would choose an option that wouldn’t make sense.”
For her part, no matter what was decided, Mendham Borough resident Carol Brady wanted to see a shift in focus.
“We got to start getting behind the education in these towns. Tell people who are working our schools they are doing a good job. We need to reinforce that and get people moving back into these towns,” Brady said. “Why would anyone want to move here when all we do is fight about everything.”