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Regional School Board Reps Get Send-Off in Final Meeting

Mendham Borough's Jacke Schram, Chester Township's James Johnston end respective terms on board of education.

Jacke Schram and James Johnston at their final board of education meeting Monday, Dec. 9.
Jacke Schram and James Johnston at their final board of education meeting Monday, Dec. 9.

For more than eight years the West Morris Regional Board of Education has had one constant – its members from Chester Township and Mendham Borough.

Jacke Schram of Mendham and James Johnston of Chester Township spent their final night on the school board Monday night in front of a crowd of more than 50 teachers and community members.

Johnston has served on the board since April 2001 and chose not to run for re-election in 2013 for another three-year term. He is being succeeded by Gary Lakritz, who beat out Bruce Sullivan and Russ Cembrinski in the November election. Johnston is the current board president and has held just about every position possible during his 12-year tenure.

Schram, who was appointed to the board in July 2005, lost in this year’s election to board member-elect Brian Cavanaugh. Schram served in a number of capacities during her time on the board, including vice president, finance committee chairperson, and a member of the policy committee, among others.

Both board members received rousing applause from the audience and colleagues after being honored with proclamations for their respective times of service.

Before the meeting could end, Schram read a statement to the room, saying she felt politics had worked its way into the board – an educational venue – and there was no room for it.

“Politics has come to this board. And it doesn’t belong here. Politics runs counter to the board’s mission to see that the district is well run and that the existing students receive the best education possible. Some people are seeking a path to dissolution of the district. This board cannot accomplish that. Working to support dissolution from inside the board as a board member is disingenuous,” she said.

“It is an insult to the existing students who seek their education in our high schools now. It is an insult to the staff who work everyday to provide and support the education of those students,” Schram continued. “This board owes to all of them and the communities that support this district to provide that education now and in the future. If dissolution is your game plan, pursue that outside of the board arena. Do not sacrifice the educational welfare of the district for a political agenda.”

A lengthy round of applause erupted from the crowd once Schram completed her statement. The meeting moved along at a quicker-than-normal pace, and was followed by a celebratory dessert for the leaving pair.

Lakritz and Cavanaugh will be sworn into their seats at the board’s reorganization meeting in January. 

RepubBaby December 10, 2013 at 12:21 PM
It is interesting that Jacke asserts, “Politics has come to this board and it doesn’t belong here.” According to its Wikipedia definition, however, “Politics (from Greek: politikos, meaning "of, for, or relating to citizens") is the practice and theory of influencing other people on a civic or individual level. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance.” How is politics, therefore, not appropriately the very essence of board of education activity? Ms. Schram further bemoans support for dissolution among board members. She is unable, however, to provide a single example of any board member “working to support dissolution” inside “of the board arena” because it has never happened. Nor is she able to provide a single example of board member activities that “sacrifice the educational welfare of the district.” Perhaps Ms. Schram’s real complaint is that two thirds of Mendham voters disagree with her. It is for her trademark mutterings of untruths and inaccuracies and her (and J. Johnston's) refusal to support the students in their own constituencies that the recall effort which began in the early summer of 2011 was made successful.
Abner Doubledown December 10, 2013 at 04:08 PM
Repub - you must have slept through the recent campaign and for the several months prior. Button and Cavanaugh have twisted the role of the school board and sold their agenda to the voters and it is based on dissolution of the district. I guess you never saw any of Brian's presentations to the town councils or paid any attention to his campaign rhetoric. Here is a verbatim quote from one of Cavanaugh's presentation slides regarding how one goes about 'fixing' the tax inequity "How to Fix This • Dissolve WMRHSD and reconstitute a new school district for WM Mendham HS serving the Mendhams and Chesters" Is this not clear? Hello? Is this thing on? You've got blinders on there Rbaby.
Barbara December 11, 2013 at 10:14 AM
"Politics runs counter to the board’s mission to see that the district is well run and that the existing students receive the best education possible." Maybe the Board should change it's mission since its ability to deliver on its objectives seems to have vanished way before the disparaged Board members got elected.
philip schlegel December 11, 2013 at 10:16 AM
For thirty years people who live 10 miles away in Washington township have run Mendham high school. In the largest election turnout in the 40 towns that make up Morris county, the good people of Mendham borough overwhelmingly elected Brian Cavanaugh ( 2 to 1 ) to the school board, making a clear and loud statement: We don't want Washington township running Mendham high school anymore. We don't want to spend $1200.00 a year more on the students at West Morris Central than on our own children at Mendham high. When the Washington township controlled school board made budget cuts, it cut school busing. This effected a handful of kids in Washington township. But it effected hundreds of kids and families in Mendham and Chester. Each year, year after year, six million dollars of our taxes flow into Washington township, effectively subsidizing them. And then, to make things more outrageous they spend $1200.00 a year more on the kids at Central! I presently have four children in school. I sincerely hope and believe things are going to change.
Chester Boro Resident December 11, 2013 at 12:48 PM
Well said Philip! Ditto
Kathy S December 12, 2013 at 10:01 AM
Unfortunately I was not able to make Monday's meeting but my husband went. After Jacke's speech he applauded with the rest of the audience. He did note that the two board members at the front of the side table just sat there and stared at each other. I guess they felt politics SHOULD be part of BOE's agenda. Sad ...
Barbara December 13, 2013 at 07:29 AM
Kathy- maybe you also missed the meetings where she snickered, sneered and publicly chastised them.
Kathy S December 14, 2013 at 10:28 AM
Barbara - I was there for a few of those and in all cases they deserved it. And when Jacke did "chastise" them, it was quiet and respectful. My MT rep is rude, disrespectful and an embarrassment.
RepubBaby December 14, 2013 at 10:52 AM
No elected representative "deserves" a patronizing chastisement from a fellow board member. Especially from one with misplaced allegiances and a propensity for playing fast and loose with the facts. I have the same hope as Mr. Schlegel -- that the new board will be more harmonious, at least in public. They can beat the crap out of each other in their closed sessions. Nevertheless, I do not expect my representatives on the board to roll over just to get along, even if it provokes outrage from one of their colleagues.
Barbara December 14, 2013 at 03:43 PM
Kathy- we must have attended different meetings. One of the main ongoing issues with this board is the lack of effective and appropriate leadership, resulting in a total breakdown in trust. Leadership is both a talent and a skill. When you have a succession of Board presidents with neither (talent or skill) this is what you get.
savetaxdollars December 19, 2013 at 10:07 PM
This string sounds like a tit for tat making mountains out of molehills type of conversation. It is my understanding that it is up to the voters and the State Dept. of Education as to a change in the WM district. If my understanding is correct, the the issue as to whether the district should dissolve really would not be a BOE issue I would think. On the other hand, it is squarely a voter issue. However, we need to also think that the result of a dissolution would be a duplication of the chiefs in the district (i.e school super., etc. and any savings may be offset by these expenses. I gave some thought about this and it seems that it would be hard to get the votes necessary to make a change. Also, a recent published court opinion showed that the State has very limited powers to step in and impose a more equitable funding allocation. If anyone promises that they can achieve dissolution, they are probably being too optimistic.

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