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