On June 14, the first of three public forums on the funding, equality and education of the West Morris Regional High School District occurred with all five constituent municipalities represented by their respective mayors and the five school districts represented by selected board members. Since that time, some of those same mayors have continued to meet in private, presumably to discuss these same issues.
More than ten months later, on April 24, the mayors announce their decision to form a new committee to continue studying these same issues. In their statement, the mayors emphasized their intent "to go through this process thoughtfully and methodically."
Citizens for Better Schools (“CBS”) are dismayed by the mayors' apparent lack of any urgency. At a cost of $17,000 per day in subsidy paid by Chester and Mendham taxpayers to West Morris Central High School, the mayors have accomplished nothing other than wasting $6.2 million over the past year since the West Morris Regional High School District Board of Education rejected unanimous requests by the four governing bodies of the Mendhams and Chesters for a referendum. The annual amount Mendham/Chester residents are taxed in excess of the cost to educate their own high school students equals $6.2 million.
According to the mayors’ statement, "The committee will be responsible for deciding the appropriate next steps including... possible funding formula changes, legislation changes for school funding..." Mayor Ken Short, Regional School Board President Cristen Forrester and other Washington Township elected officials, however, have been quoted repeatedly by the press unequivocally asserting that Washington Township residents will never vote to increase their taxes. CBS believes them. Don't waste any more time on this dead end. Pursuing a change in legislation is similarly futile and wasteful. CBS urges our elected officials to heed the conclusions of last June’s educational summit meeting and promptly focus only on that which is realistically achievable.
By NJ statute, the regional high school board has no say on this issue and no place in these discussions, other than to obstruct progress, as evidenced by the high school board's appointment of its two committee representatives, Jim Johnston and John Meyer, with unblemished records of voting against the best interests of Chester and Mendham residents. After the Chester and Mendham governing bodies asked the regional high school to act, on March 22, 2011 the school board refused to even discuss it. The motion brought at that meeting for a referendum has been tabled by the board for the past 13 months. By that act, they've forfeited the right to be a part of this process.
The mayors state they seek "the solution that is best for our children." CBS seeks change that will be best for all residents, children and taxpayers alike. The mayors' discussed "maintaining the... quality of our schools." CBS believes we can improve the quality of our high school.
The primary agenda item for the May 10 meeting must be to decide on the scope of a feasibility study. Stop wasting time and taxpayers’ money!
Citizens for Better Schools
Charlene Arrington, Chair