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Mayors, Boards to Meet, Talk Feasibility Study

April 18 gathering will be closed to the public.

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, , 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,” . “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 , 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.

Marcia Asdal April 16, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Is it not ironic that the public is being excluded from attending this meeting, while it was this same public that first brought this issue to the foreground! The disproportionate funding issue was not on any municipal governing body's agenda, or any Board of Ed's agenda, for the last 10 years until the public demanded it be examined. I am disappointed in this decision to conduct this strategy meeting behind closed doors - transparency should be the watchword going forward.
Barbara April 16, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Russ- why don't you poll the public and see whether they would like to be included or excluded from this meeting?
Russ Crespolini April 16, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Barbara! Patience! Its coming! Most likely tomorrow.
La Quin April 16, 2012 at 06:24 PM
i honestly think it's a crime that mendham, with a per capita income of 57,946, which is the 17th wealthiest town in the richest state in the nation is claiming that long valley, with a per capita income of 36,711, which is 141st is not paying the same AMOUNT as they are. .. this is not a question of what is best for the students, it's a question of what will save the 1% the most money. -- i think every rich town in the country that has more then one school should do the same, who needs the poor - when we can just throw them under the bus and run over them a few times.
Domino April 16, 2012 at 07:03 PM
I think that it is wise that the elected officials from each community meet behind closed doors for this meeting. They will have to clear the air and heal the wounds from what has gone on so far. And what we have seen so far is individual mayors like Frank Ciopettini pandering to his pals from CBS, founder Jaime Button and Chairperson Charlene Arrington. CBS has shown itself to little more than an organization that takes great pleasure in spreading lies and innuendos about the school district, BOE members and even the Superintendent. It's main accomplishment to date is running an excellent superintendent out of the district by employing nasty smear tactics. And if Mrs. Asdal wants transparency, she should explain her contribution to the movement to attempt to recall her fellow Chester board member and "friend" Jim Johnston. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

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