Beach Haven School District Moving on From Discussion with LBI Consolidated Officials

Feb 27, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill Beach Haven Elementary School.

Long Beach Island will continue to be home to two elementary school districts for the immediate future, until or unless the state decides otherwise, after a recent discussion between school board representatives from those districts went nowhere.

“After careful consideration, it was determined that their proposal would not benefit the Beach Haven students or taxpayers,” Irene Hughes, Beach Haven Board of Education president, said about a meeting with counterparts from the Long Beach Island Consolidated school board.

However, William Fenimore, the sophomore representative from Ship Bottom who serves as the LBI school board president, said he viewed the meeting with Beach Haven representatives as an initial discussion, “an opportunity for synergy between the districts,” he said, “for the betterment of students and to save money.”

Hughes said the meeting was held at the request of LBI Consolidated officials. In January, Colette Southwick, a member of the LBI Consolidated board, suggested the district reach out to Beach Haven about “joining us.” It’s unclear whether Southwick’s suggestion was to begin discussions on bringing the two LBI districts together ahead of a decision by the state. Currently, Barnegat Light, Harvey Cedars, Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom and Surf City feed into the consolidated school district. Beach Haven educates its own students at the elementary school there.

While Beach Haven school officials will not move forward with the consolidated school district, Hughes said, “Beach Haven officials are open to receiving students from surrounding towns on a tuition basis. This decision does not affect discussions regarding potential future agreements between the Beach Haven school board and any school.”

Richard Starodub, interim superintendent for Beach Haven, has reached out to Southern Regional High School District about using its special services director to review the elementary district’s special education program as it prepares for an upcoming New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum review. The NJQSAC is the state education department’s monitoring and self-evaluation system for public school districts. The system focuses on monitoring and evaluating school districts in five key components that, based on research, have been identified to be key factors in effective school districts: instruction and program, fiscal, governance, operations and personnel, according to the state Department of Education.

“This request was necessitated by an upcoming Beach Haven learning disabilities teacher consultant retirement that may challenge Beach Haven’s readiness for the QSAC review,” according to Craig Henry, Southern Regional superintendent of schools. “This endeavor is not as a shared-service agreement, but rather an articulation and collaboration which we frequently do with the elementary districts who send students to Southern.”

The review would entail Southern’s special services director developing a child study team needs assessment for personnel and program for Beach Haven, Henry has said.

“Going forward, the needs assessment could lead to a shared-service agreement, but we are not there yet,” he said, noting the benefits and cost of a shared-service agreement depend largely on the circumstances of the two agencies that enter into an agreement and vary greatly depending on said circumstances.

What seemed like a renewed push by state lawmakers to revisit elementary district regionalization in 2018 as a way to reduce the tax burden on residents of the state seems to have stalled. If the state agrees with the recommendation to merge elementary districts, Beach Haven, Long Beach Island Consolidated, Stafford Township and Waretown would be impacted. All of those feed into the Southern Regional School District.

Consolidation was discussed about a decade ago with Southern Regional and the Stafford Township Elementary School District, but it did not proceed. Melissa McCooley, superintendent of schools at both the Little Egg Harbor K-6 district and the Pinelands Regional High School District, said consolidation has been discussed there, but the cost, at the time, was too significant. Students from Little Egg, Eagleswood, Tuckerton and Bass River attend Pinelands junior and high schools.

Since June 2018, Pinelands and Little Egg Harbor have been sharing McCooley’s services, meaning each district is responsible for paying half her salary instead of one district paying it in its entirety. Additionally, special education services make up a large chunk of the shared services, especially with Bass River, which is located in Burlington County.

Occupational therapy, a world language teacher and technical services are among the other resources the districts share. In the future, the districts will take a closer look at food services, McCooley has said.

Perhaps the biggest bang for the buck, though, is the sharing of facilities.

“Little Egg makes a little money and Pinelands Regional doesn’t have to go on split sessions,” McCooley said, explaining a deal that has sent Pinelands seventh graders to the George J. Mitchell Elementary School while construction takes place at the high school. This move, along with some temporary classrooms, allows high school students to attend the junior high school.

— Gina G. Scala

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