Hopefully this time they’ll get through this thing.
With the announcement of the award of a consulting contract, the Freeholder Board of the district of Salem is carrying out a feasibility study on the merging of all 14 public school districts of the district into one.
The so-called regionalization of the too numerous school districts in New Jersey has been examined almost to death. Historically, hoped teacher unions, better-off sectors at the socio-economic level that do not want their top performing schools to be “watered down”, potential property tax inconsistencies, and the strict house rule of our state to hasten the death of the idea of losing a mentality Treated high school name or town mascot as if a close relative had passed away.
With all of that in mind, it’s a miracle Salem’s government-funded initiative even made it this far. Full speed is ahead with the recent decision by the Freeholder Board to hire a law firm in Morristown, Porzio, Bromberg & Newman, PC, to sign a $ 143,000 contract for the trial – for now.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, has long preached the gospel of school regionalization. Sweeney’s legislative district encompassing Salem County is likely an important factor in the selection for this demonstration project. But Sweeney knows better than anyone that pilot laws and feasibility studies are only small steps towards a sound concept.
Remember when all county superintendents in New Jersey’s 21 counties were supposed to recommend districts that could be combined? The effort imploded with a whimper.
In 2007, members of the Gloucester County Education Association filled an auditorium to oppose an earlier attempt by Sweeney to select a county – Gloucester was one of ten in the running – for a nationwide pilot program. Local lawmakers have received the message from the powerful teachers’ union and have backed off for a while.
Even smaller, pre-engineered union efforts involving regional high school counties have stumbled across Gloucester County. Around 2012, an attempt to merge the Delsea regional unit with one or both of its elementary broadcasting districts, the Franklin and Elk townships, stumbled. Of course Franklin had suggested that it should be the surviving district – not Delsea – a position that did not go down well with Delsea and Elk officials.
Elsewhere in Gloucester County, the idea of making Logan Township Schools full members of the Kingsway Regional High School District has long lost tax justice issues, even though most Logan high schoolers attend Kingsway on an academic basis. Under a plan circulated around 2011, Kingsway would have become a full K-12 district after consolidation with Logan and its other primary school posting districts, Woolwich-Swedesboro, South Harrison and East Greenwich.
Salem County lacks the tortured school merger history of its northern neighbor, so this is a good place to re-start a path toward efficiency, optimal use of building space and an end to duplicate administrative posts. The relatively small number of local districts should make a combined trip smoother than districts with dozens of individual districts.
Benjamin H. Laury, Salem County’s Freeholder Director, expects the advisors to be reviewed by the end of February. Without knowing exactly what is recommended, we recommend an open attitude from everyone involved.
If the consolidation shoots down, it shouldn’t happen prematurely, as unions fear losing power by negotiating with a larger company, because sentimental alumni can’t stand the thought of changing the name of the football team or because of preconceived prejudices from parents who don’t want to hear how student diversity can have a positive impact.
Don’t introduce poison pills until a study is complete. There will be a reasonable time to resolve the above issues. It is just before local residents can decide whether to dissolve their local districts. There can be no consolidation without the approval of the voters, so that the citizens always have the upper hand.
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