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Manchester Officials: High School Switch Study Contains Inaccuracies

Manchester schools administrators address study commissioned by Lakehurst educators

The following letter authored by Manchester school administrators charges that several areas of a recently released feasibility study commissioned by the Lakehurst Board of Education are inaccurate. The study will be presented and discussed during the Lakehurst Board of Education meeting Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., in the borough's elementary school gym. 

After reading the recent article in Patch and reviewing the Feasibility Study On The Termination of the Sending-Receiving Agreement Between Lakehurst Borough Board of Education and Manchester Township Board of Education that will be presented at the Lakehurst Borough Board of Education meeting, we feel obligated to point out several inaccuracies and omissions that seriously affect the validity and completeness of the report. By detailing several of these items, including financial, board representation, educational and extracurricular areas, we hope to present a more accurate comparison of two distinct districts.  

First, in reviewing the financial comparison of the two districts, a major flaw was discovered in how the potential tuition and tax savings was calculated.

The financial section of the study compares two tuition rates to determine a potential cost savings. The rate that is being used for Jackson Township is their "budget cost per pupil" for grades 9-12. This rate is $11,332.  

The tuition rate that is being used for Manchester Township is an estimated contract rate for the 2012-2013 school year. This rate is $14,000.

This is not an "apples to apples" comparison. If the estimated rate charged is more than the state certified rate at the completion of the school year, the difference is refunded to Lakehurst. That is why you cannot determine a savings based on a budgeted rate and an estimated rate because the savings presented in this study does not reflect any amounts that are refunded to Lakehurst. The refunded tuition amount would reduce the savings in this report.  

Manchester’s "budgeted cost per pupil" for grades 9-12 as per the 2012-2013 budget is $12,452. Therefore, for this comparison to be fairly presented, we should be comparing Jackson’s budgeted cost per pupil for 2012-2013 to Manchester’s budgeted cost per pupil for 2012-2013.  

When the Department of Education compares school districts, they compare budgeted cost to budgeted cost and actual cost to actual cost. To compare two different sets of numbers makes little to no sense and any conclusion using these numbers is totally invalid. Therefore a conclusion of a $2 million savings is significantly overstated and completely unrealistic.

In regards to the extracurricular area in the report, it was reported that Jackson may have more activities to choose from but there are no significant differences. What the report failed to mention is that Jackson does charge a participation fee for athletics and activities. Currently there is a $50 fee for participating in each sport and a $25 fee for participation in any club. There is no charge for participation in Manchester. In this regard we feel that there are more opportunities for Lakehurst students to be involved since there is no financial commitment that could limit participation. Currently 40 percent of the students from Lakehurst are involved in Manchester school activities and are also actively involved in outside activities with Manchester students from a young age.  

Another significant item that was omitted in the report was the fact that Lakehurst would no longer have a voting member of the Board of Education at the high school level. Currently, Lakehurst has representation on the Manchester Board of Education with voting rights on high school matters. The member also has a right to attend and participate in Executive Sessions of the Board of Education. We feel that it is very important for the Lakehurst parents and community to have a voice and vote on issues that pertain to the high school and Lakehurst students. Lakehurst would not have a voting member of the Board of Education in Jackson since the population in Lakehurst is significantly smaller than Jackson.

Finally in regards to curriculum matters, it is noted that Jackson and Manchester have similar scores in testing areas, but Jackson has more Advanced Placement class offerings than Manchester. It is also noted that Manchester has added several AP classes over the last several years. The changes in electives in Manchester are a result of the changing needs and choices of the students.  

One other area listed is that the average class size in Manchester is significantly lower than Jackson. In 9th and 10th grade the class size is about 5 less and in 11th and 12th grade, Manchester has about 7 fewer students. Class size does have an effect on the availability of the teacher to individualize and differentiate instruction.  

While we respect the Lakehurst Board of Education’s right to decide what is best for the Lakehurst students and believe that the Jackson district is also an excellent district, it is important to note that Manchester has several unique characteristics that have traditionally benefited the Lakehurst students.  

It is critical that the Manchester Township School District be accurately represented. Clearly it is totally unrealistic and false to state that there will be a $2 million dollar savings. In regards to the other factors such as educational, extracurricular and board representation, it is our hope that this letter more accurately describes the Manchester Township School District. Thank you.  

Sincerely,

David Trethaway, Superintendent of Schools
Donald Webster, Board of Education President
Craig Lorentzen. Business Administrator

WhitingBoy October 16, 2012 at 03:49 PM
A very good start...this is what we need. We want the BOE to extol the virtues of our district and ensure that the report used to make such a serious decision is accurate. Since the original report used a figure that claimed a 23% savings, and this letter states the savings is a bit less than 10%, I think the Lakehurst BOE should demand the report be re-written and not only compare apples to apples, but address point-by-point this and any other statements of the Manchester BOE. Lakehurst still needs to keep the best education in mind, but they need accurate #s to do so. I am glad the Manchester BOE was quick in its response, and I hope they continue to work on ways to show the value for all its students (I say this not only for Lakehurst, but because I want to make sure my tax dollars are being spent properly).
We Own The Night October 16, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Nothing but smoke and mirrors from the Manchester BOE. The Jackson tuition proposal also includes busing which is seperated under the Manchester tuition contract.
WhitingBoy October 16, 2012 at 06:38 PM
I suppose it could be smoke and mirrors; but it is important that the report be correct. So that we are also correct in what we say, I’ll point out that the report was not a Jackson proposal (it was a study by an independent review commissioned by Lakehurst), and Jackson is not footing the bill for transportation. The report reads “…if Lakehurst severs its relationship with Manchester Township it will have to negotiate or contract through public bidding for the transportation of all Lakehurst students.”
Lakehurst Resident October 16, 2012 at 08:11 PM
MTHS also failed to mention the cost of Resource Room for Lakehurst special education students. That's a cost of over $250K annually and rises every year according to the budget Lakehurst provides. Additionally, according to reports from many students, that service is inclusive of Manchester students so why does Lakehurst foot the bill for services for both Lakehurst and Manchester students? If we are paying for extras for our kids, they should benefit only our kids or stop charging us the extra money!!!
Lakehurst Resident October 16, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Where did they get their numbers for tuition? The report I read was third-party and objective; looking at NJDOE website, Jackson charges are significantly less than Manchster per pupil so it is questionable why the cost rises annually (except this year after Lakehurst mentioned the feasability study). Ridgeway School's failing budget and reduction in income from other districts who are choosing to keep their special needs students in house created a financial catastrophe that Manchester had attempted to have Lakehurst shoulder the difference in income. What are we getting for our tax dollars~ I think it's time Manchester residents look at that as well as Lakehurst.
Hawks October 17, 2012 at 03:43 AM
At Lakehurst Resident - I believe everyone has a right to their opinion. However, at least have the correct facts before you give it. First, there was no mention of a feasability study when the tution rate was agreed to back in March for the 2012-2013 school year. We were not made aware of a study until August. The rate stayed the same based the cost estimated to provide educational services to Lakehurst for the school year. Second, what is charged for resource room services for Lakehurst is strictly for services provided to Lakehurst students. It does not and never has included any services that are provided to Manchester students. The BOE has the audited reports that determine the cost of services provided to Lakehurst. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact me and I will provide you any information you need. I don't think arguing through a blog gets you anywhere and most times is counterproductive but I felt I needed to provide the correct information. - Manchester BA.
onthecuff October 17, 2012 at 11:15 AM
I understand to a degree, however I am in agreement that we should be comparing apples to apples. Lakehurst does have seperate classes for special needs children, Does Jackson offer the same? I know that the class for special needs is only about 5 - 10 pupils with three teachers. Which is a positive, because they need that. Another thing that caught my eye, I am not a big fan of having to pay for my child to play sports in high school. Honestly, I think thats ridiculous. Back in the day when I went to High School, there was no fee to play sports, only try outs, so you made the team or you did not. I get it that it possible would be cost effective per student to send them to Jackson, HOWEVER for the kids that play sports, apparently there is an additional 50 per kid per sport and who knows what else. My personal opinion, these kids that play recreational sports that live in Lakehurst, play within Manchester, so when they get to high school, they are going to school with the kids that they grew up with, within the sports program. I understand the underline but in the bigger picture it seems like it would just be more beneficial to keep the program the way it is.
Lakehurst Resident October 17, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Maybe this feasibility study might motivate you to reconsider your rates~ Lakehurst tuition has been raised annually, with the exception of last year and this year's rate remaining stagnant. What is the cost of education for a Manchester resident's student versus a Lakehurst student? I don't need to contact you offline; transparency is something that should be encouraged by MTHS and to suggest that we don't have all the facts after reading through the feasibilty study is ridiculous. Be open and honest to the people who pay your salary~ it sounds like the history of doing business behind doors is a factor in why Lakehurst even considered a move. Are we getting the best bang for our buck is a legitimate concern: as taxpayers we need more open dialog within the public eye, not less!!!
Manchester resident October 17, 2012 at 01:43 PM
@ lakehurst resident I to have read the study and no transportation fees seem to be in there and it is not apples to apples but let me say this GO please GO I do not mind I welcome it as a whole I liken lakehurst and its students to a cancer/ parasite that manchester finally has a shot of getting rid of go and let jackson deal with you whey will want to get rid of you as fast as they can. Manchester people rejoice the lakehurst anchor might finally be cut from our necks and no longer be pulling us down
lorrie October 17, 2012 at 08:29 PM
My daughter is a freshmen at Manchester. One of my main concerns is something that she finds frustrating, Many of the students (and a few teachers) look down at our Lakehurst students. By several of the comments made on here by the "Manchester Adults" I now understand why kids have this attitude. Children learn what they live. You should be ashamed!
disheartened October 17, 2012 at 08:39 PM
I have many concerns about this possible move. Last night sounded like an attempt to get Manchester to lower its prices. I also got a strong feeling we were being deceived and not by Manchester. Your own "study" showed how worthy Manchester is. Not sure what the motivations were but the Lakehurst board is being careless with our children.
disheartened October 17, 2012 at 08:44 PM
It is a shame that your daughter had some bad experiences. I went to Manchester and hopefully my children will as well. I had a great time in High School and was always treated well. I honestly am not aware of any bias.
Lakehurst Parent October 18, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Lakehurst Board Member stated at the meeting last night that they would be willing to pick up the additional expenses associated with Jackson sports and clubs. Considering the amount of students from Lakehurst and the percentage of those students that participate, the cost would be manageable.

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