As the South Orange-Maplewood School District prepares to tackle the potential hot button issue of redistricting this year, Board of Education members approved a “Guiding Change Document” for the process at its August 22 meeting.
The resolution to approve the document was introduced by Beth Daugherty, former Board of Education president and the longest currently serving Board of Education member, on behalf of the FFT — Finance, Facilities & Technology — Committee. (FFT member Chris Sabin had first presented the document at the July 2016 Board of Education meeting.)
Daugherty explained the document for fellow board members (see full document below), noting that a consultant had been hired to take a holistic look at the district, enrollment issues, how buildings are used, etc. and make recommendations.
While Daugherty said that the Board wanted the consultant to have the freedom to think “outside the box” on redistricting, she also stressed that any potential recommendations should be “reasonable” (a cost/benefit analysis stipulation is included in the Guiding Change Document).
She also stressed that the consultant would be getting into the schools and meeting the community.
In June, the Board of Education approved a resolution hiring Ross Haber and Associates, LLC of Milltown, NJ to provide Redistricting Consulting Services at a total cost of $19,500 as follows:
- Enrollment Projections $ 6,500
- Facility Utilization Analysis $ 6,500
- Redistricting Services $ 6,500
The resolution noted that Ross Haber and Associates “has been providing similar services to New Jersey school districts since 1995 and have provided services to approximately 150 school districts, the majority which have been in New Jersey. Ross Haber will complete an analysis of enrollment projections and a facility utilization study and will use these results to develop redistricting scenarios. As part of the redistricting services, Ross Haber will participate in community, school based and public meetings.”
The Guiding Change Document itself stresses a thoughtful approach, noting possible competing issues such as the desire for families to access schools in their own neighborhoods, but also for the need to “provide equity and excellence in education for all students,” and “the desire of many to have choice in the educational program for their children.”
As noted by Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Ramos earlier in the meeting, school capacity is at its limits in many of school buildings. Ramos reported that enrollment is now closed for 2016-17 for a number of grades at Tuscan Elementary. The guiding change document acknowledged this issue of enrollment exceeding projections — a problem that has persisted in the district for the past 10 years.
After her presentation, Daugherty received no questions from fellow Board members, but did receive a compliment from Board member Johanna Wright.
“Good work,” said Wright.
Read the full SOMSD Redistricting Guiding Change Document here: