As reported by Russ Crespolini and Jason Koestenblatt today, despite an earlier promise that Wednesday's discussion among our representatives regarding a feasibility study would be public, these representatives have decided that the meeting will actually be held in private. Washington Township's Mayor Short summed up the groups' attitude, stating, "the mayors decided it would be easiest to communicate without any external interference."
This condescension is beyond absurd. However, after a year of meeting secretly to presumably discuss our schools and our children’s education, Mayor Short’s statement does seem a bit of a redundancy.
The audacity of Mayor Short’s comment is equaled by the fact that this group has excluded us - the very people who are subsidizing Washington Township’s Central High School with $6 million annually.
When has it become "external interference" when concerned parents and taxpayers want some say in how their taxes are spent and their children are educated?
When has it become "external interference" when the voters seek to be heard by their elected representatives?
When do elected representatives, many of whom no longer have children in our district schools, know what's best for the children of the Chesters and the Mendhams without including the parents of those children in the discussion?
And just what are these elected representatives of “We The People” trying to hide from us anyway?
Why are they fearful of hearing others’ views and input? With a competent meeting moderator such as Paul Boudreau, President of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce, public meetings can be civil and productive. He demonstrated this during the December public meeting featuring Vito Gagliardi, Esq.
The importance of parent and taxpayer involvement in this meeting is to help shape the scope of the feasibility study. There is no need to spend taxpayer money studying options that are of no benefit to the students of the Chesters and Mendhams or to their respective taxpayers - such as Mayor Short's favored mega K-12 school district?
To make matters worse, the mayors have included members of the WMRHSD Board of Education in this process. There is no practical or legal reason for that board's inclusion. This Washington Township controlled board has nothing to gain by analyzing a restructuring of the high school district and everything to gain by maintaining the status quo. As long as there is a WMRHSD in its current form and as long as Washington Township controls the majority voting block, then Central High School students will be assured of the majority of the funds spent in the district and the subsidy paid by the Mendhams and Chesters to keep Washington Township’s property taxes low will continue.
In addition, Jim Johnston, one of the most outspoken proponents of a mega K-12 district will be representing the WMRHSD. Absent at the table will be the Chesters’ Marcia Asdal and Mendham Township's Jamie Button - both have proven themselves to be research/fact driven, analytical and have shown true concern for the students and taxpayers in their districts. Observers of the WMRHSD Board's antics know that the same cannot be said of Mr. Johnston.
Should these representatives continue to delay obtaining a feasibility study (it’s been a year since their initial Public Forum) and continue to exclude the parents and taxpayers of their municipalities/districts, perhaps it is time for us to elect representatives short on arrogance and long on loyalty to their constituents and concern for our children.
Citizens for Better Schools remains dedicated to achieving Excellence in Education, Fairly Funded and Efficiently Delivered. Stay tuned for ways you can become involved and help the efforts of so many of your Chester and Mendham friends and neighbors who are already engaged in these efforts.
Charlene M. Arrington
Chair, Citizens for Better Schools
Note: CBS does not include either former Mayor Frank Cioppettini nor current Mayor Sam Tolley in its criticism of the group of mayors discussed in the above.