Send-Receive: Easy To Enter, Difficult To End
By Rebecca K. Abma
Midland Park Junior-Senior High School
Should Midland Park send its high school students to Northern Highlands Regional High School or address its aging facilities? The much-debated question that is pitting parents against parent could be addressed in a feasibility study, Board of Education President Bill Sullivan stated at the Oct. 1 school board meeting.
In an update on the hot-button topic, Sullivan said officials at Northern Highlands believe it is possible that the regional high school could accommodate Midland Park students. The next step, he said, would be for the Midland Park BOE to do a feasibility study. For that to take place, he said, the board would need to pass a resolution to fund a study. At the time, he asked the district administration to gather more information on the cost of a study.
Midland Park Press sought out unbiased experts to learn more about the next steps required should school officials want to pursue a send-receive relationship with NHRHS. What we found were some surprising information.
According to Richard S. Grip, Executive Director of Statistical Forecasting, a feasibility study would explore various options and compare them with the status quo.
“The study includes demographic elements of each community, enrollment projections, analysis of educational programs, and the fiscal impact upon all involved,” Grip explained. “We would have to know which school district would accept your children in advance of the study.”
The cost for a study, he said, is typically between $40,000 and $50,000, not including any legal fees. In his experience, the study is not usually commissioned by the Board of Education, but instead by the municipality, “especially if there is money to be saved.”
Easy To Enter, Difficult To End
Officials at the Department of Education however, pointed out that a feasibility study isn’t required prior to entering a send-receive agreement. In fact, all that is required is for the school board to approve a resolution to enter into a contract with the other district.
“Forming a send-receive relationship is basically having the school boards involved enter into a contract. No referendum is needed and no approval is required from the DOE,” Richard Vespucci, public information officer for the New Jersey Department of Education, told Midland Park Press. “The board can add additional steps to the process if it wants, but this is what is legally required.”
Terminating a send-receive relationship, on the other hand, is a detailed and often difficult process.
“I’ve had send-receive relationships described to me in a way that likened them to marriages — easy to get into (the Commissioner of Education’s permission is not required), but not so easy to get out of (the Commissioner must approve),” Vespucci explained.
According to state legislative code 18A:38-13, to terminate a send-receive agreement, the district seeking to sever the relationship must prepare a feasibility study that considers the educational and financial implications for the sending and receiving districts, the impact on the quality of education received by pupils in each of the districts, and the effect on the racial composition of the pupil population of each of the districts. The request will be granted only if there is no substantial negative impact.
Costs and Legal Issues
The question of whether another Midland Park would have any representation on the Northern Highland’s school board, state law says if the total number of students attending the school from the sending district comprises at least 10% of the total student population for those grades, the sending district shall have one representative on the receiving district’s board of education. Highlands has approximately 1,350 students and Midland Park has 333 students in grades 9 to 12, so Midland Park would have one representative on the school board.
If the Midland Park Board of Education were to decide on a send-receive agreement with NHRHS, the regional school would set the tuition, which by law cannot exceed the actual cost per pupil. In 2011-12, NHRHS’s cost per pupil was $19,927. For the same time period, Midland Park’s cost per pupil was $18,504. however, this figure represents all students in the Pre-K to 12 district, while NHRHS’s costs are for high school students only, which presumably costs more to educate.
Transportation costs are another factor. By state law, when a school district provides transportation to and from school for any public school students, it must also provide transportation to any student attending any remote school other than public school that is not more than 20 miles from the pupil’s home.
What are your thoughts about entering into a send-receive relationship with Northern Highlands Regional High School? Tell Us In The Comments!!