Meeting Confusion Spurs Tension Over High School Switch Study
Lakehurst educators claims lack of communication from Manchester over comparative study on sending-receiving arrangement
The Lakehurst Board of Education recently aired grievances that Manchester administrators held meetings over a feasibility study commissioned to determine the future home of the borough's high school students without alerting anyone on Lakehurst’s board
Currently, high school students from Lakehurst attend Manchester Township High School, but the study was initiated some months back by administrators in borough to determine if those students could receive more opportunities at Jackson Liberty High School while potentially saving taxpayers money.
Lakehurst Board of Education Vice President Kevin Oliver said Tuesday during his board's regular meeting that Manchester has been calling high school parents about meetings, but "they’re not notifying the [Lakehurst] Board, or the school, nor anybody else. I’ve actually been taken off the reverse 911 list from them."
A few borough board members did show up at a meeting to make their voices heard and asked Manchester administrators why they were not given notice, Oliver said.
“They would not answer. They actually returned a response of, 'This is not your business, this is Manchester’s business.' Meanwhile, the meeting was for Lakehurst high school students, period. There were no students or parents from Manchester there," Oliver said.
Manchester Superintendent of Schools David Trethaway had a different take on the matter.
“We put out a reverse 911 call on the mold situation [at Manchester Township Middle School]," Trethaway said when reached by phone Wednesday.
His district was informed that some parents of high school students living in Lakehurst did not receive those recorded messages. Those parents were then notified about a meeting that Trethaway said was to talk about how middle school students are sharing the high school while mold cleanup is completed.
"When the parents got [to the meeting], we went over the split session schedule,” Trethaway said.
Oliver said that by listening to voicemails left by the Manchester schools on parents’ cell phones, the Lakehurst board learned that the reason for the meeting being held was two-fold: the split session schedule and discussion on the "Manchester-Jackson high school issue."
“When we confronted them about that, they denied that was even part of the meeting," Oliver said. "Yet, when we replayed the voicemail for them in the meeting, and it specifically said they were going to discuss that, they still tried to deny it. Nothing was addressed and nothing was discussed."
Trethaway confirmed that Lakehurst board members also attended that meeting and asked questions regarding the feasibility study.
“There were questions on what we are doing, but it’s not a Manchester situation. It wasn’t Manchester initiating the study. That was done by the Lakehurst BOE," Trethaway said.
On Tuesday night, Lakehurst board members approved a motion to switch their liaison to Manchester Schools from Board President JoAnn Septor to Oliver.
“That’s the reason Kevin Oliver is taking over the position with Manchester," Septor said. "They seem to be trying to strong-arm or bully us, and we’re not going to allow that in our decision-making."
Trethaway said that Manchester willingly participated in the feasibility study. They welcomed a representative from the company conducting the study to the high school and gave them a tour of the building. The school was also thanked for its cooperation, he said.
Trethaway continued that he and Manchester administrators are waiting for the results of the study to arrive.
“We’ll wait for the process to happen. We’ve always treated Lakehurst students the same as Manchester students. They’re an important part of the district, and we’d like to keep them,” he said.
Lakehurst board members received the third-party report on the findings of the feasibility study comparing Manchester and Jackson during its closed session meeting on Tuesday night.
The firm that conducted the study will present its findings at the board's next regular meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in Lakehurst Elementary School's media center. A copy will be available on the district's website the day prior, and the public is welcome to offer comment at the meeting.
It was learned in June that Lakehurst school administrators were investigating a possible switch of sending students to Jackson Liberty High School instead of Manchester Township High School, after they said that it may save borough residents money and provide more educational opportunities to those students.
Lakehurst is charged the actual cost to educate each pupil it sends to Manchester, that district's business administrator has said. For the 2012-13 school year, 155 Lakehurst students will attend high school in Manchester at $14,000 per student, a fee that remained stable from the previous school year.
According to the Jackson School District, its 2011-12 cost per pupil cost was nearly $12,000.
Manchester Patch Editor Gregory Kyriakakis contributed reporting to this story.