POLL: Should Lakehurst Consider Ending Ties With Manchester High School?
Lakehurst educators investigating possibility of moving high school students to Jackson
Education officials in Lakehurst are considering sending borough high school students to Jackson, a move that would end a longtime relationship with Manchester.
Speaking at the board's June regular meeting, Manchester's Superintendent of Schools David Trethaway confirmed that Lakehurst has commissioned a feasibility study into whether its students could be better served at Jackson Liberty High School.
"Jackson is a very nice district," Trethaway said. "I'm kind of prejudiced, though. I think we do some great things at the high school with [Principal Alexander] George and his staff."
Jackson Superintendent of Schools Thomas Gialanella said in a statement that his district is considering the possibility of educating Lakehurst students and confirmed that discussions are "ongoing."
Requests for comment made by Manchester Patch to Lakehurst interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark C. DeMareo and Board of Education President Joann Septor were not returned.
Septor told The Asbury Park Press that moving students to Jackson Liberty would save borough taxpayers a still undetermined amount of money and may offer students greater access to educational programs.
"I don’t know if Manchester has that much to offer us anymore," Septor told the APP.
If Lakehurst, a borough surrounded by Manchester, decides to move its students to Jackson Liberty, which would require about 5 more miles of travel, it would "change the dynamic" at the home of the Hawks, said Manchester Schools Business Administrator Craig Lorentzen.
"With the close proximity of Lakehurst and Manchester, these children grow up together," Lorentzen said. "They participate in clubs, sports and other activities throughout their childhood together."
Manchester's contract with Lakehurst for the 2012-13 school year is for 155 students at $14,000 per student, according to Lorentzen, a rate that remained stable from last year.
The tuition fee of $2,170,000, in addition to a $240,000 resource room component, totals $2,410,000 in Lakehurst tuition for the upcoming year.
The 2012-13 contract reflects an adjustment from the 2009-10 contract for enrollment and tuition, as Lorentzen said the state until recently took three years to certify tuition rates.
"Therefore, when the contract between Lakehurst and Manchester is developed, it is based on an estimated number of students attending and an estimated tuition rate based on the last certified tuition rate available at that time, which is the rate from three years ago."
As such, a credit of $107,180 is included in the contract, which "represents changes in enrollment and tuition rate versus what was billed during the 2009-2010 school year," Lorentzen said.
"It ensures that we are not charging more than our actual cost per pupil to educate a student," Lorentzen said, adding that the district cannot charge more than what it costs to provide an education.
According to the Jackson School District, its 2011-12 cost per pupil cost was nearly $12,000.
Lakehurst 'becomes a part of Manchester'
Losing Lakehurst's high school students — the borough has only an elementary school that teaches children through eighth grade — would have an impact on Manchester's budget, "but more importantly it would have a greater affect on our students," Lorentzen said.
Trethaway noted that the Manchester Hawks' 2012 class president Jessica Pedroza is a Lakehurst resident. At this year's graduation, she spoke about coming to school in Manchester four years ago.
"Being welcomed to the Hawks' Nest was a change compared to tiny Lakehurst," Trethaway quoted from Pedroza's address.
"That is a big thing that we see — that Lakehurst automatically becomes a part of Manchester," Trethaway said. "I think Manchester has a lot to offer."
Lorentzen said that there has been some recent misinformation that Manchester has overcharged Lakehurst for tuition.
"This is simply not accurate, nor is it allowed," he said. "Lakehurst is being charged what it costs to educate a student in our district."
The "extensive" documentation and reports from Manchester's auditors ensure that the district charges the proper tuition, according to Lorentzen, as "the certified tuition rate and resource room rate are determined by these reports."
When Manchester receives its certified tuition rate from the state for a school year, administrators compare the actual number of students that attended versus what was billed and make up the difference.
"Any excess or shortage of charges in that contract year are adjusted in the current contract," Lorentzen said. "Throughout the years, there have been both excesses and shortages in these contracts."
The decision, which has no timeframe, ultimately rests with the Lakehurst Board of Education, said Donald Webster, Manchester's Board of Education president.
Gialanella, the Jackson superintendent, said fiscal issues are not the only concern.
"There are still many things to consider other than financial issues, though," he said. "It will be something the district, the board and the Jackson public all need to talk about."