HOWELL – Joseph Isola, the superintendent of schools in the Howell K-8 School District, has instructed Board of Education members to keep abreast of legislation regarding school district consolidation.
Speaking at the board’s Jan. 23 meeting, Isola said he would like the board’s Legislative Advocacy Committee to consider the issue. The committee consists of board members Laurence Gurman, MaryRose Malley and Albert Miller.
The concept of forcing certain New Jersey school districts to regionalize has been floated by some legislators in Trenton in recent years.
“It has been out of Sen. (Stephen M.) Sweeney’s office in terms of consolidation of school districts, regionalization, if I may use that term. Gov. (Jon) Corzine spoke about it some years ago for those who follow this. This (issue) has reared its head again and there are a lot of conflicting conversations out there about this topic,” Isola said.
“There is conversation that all school districts that are not K-12 school districts would disappear. There is conversation that if a district has fewer than 3,000 students, which is not Howell, you would disappear. (There is discussion that) small communities such as Farmingdale, our fine neighbors, are too small and should be consumed by Howell. There are a lot of different conversations out there regarding this,” the superintendent said.
He asked board members to remain active in the conversation and to be aware of any legislation that may be proposed regarding this matter.
“We do not anticipate anything happening in the immediate election year (2019) because that would be too controversial in terms of the re-election for politicians, but we do think this is something that is on the radar of certainly a handful of elected officials. We want to make sure we have our voice in that (discussion) and we are aware and following that,” Isola said.
The superintendent asked the board’s president, Mark Bonjavanni, and Gurman to add the consolidation and regionalization issue to the Legislative Advocacy Committee’s watch list for the best interests of the school district.
“We have learned throughout the years it is the squeaky wheel that often gets the oil. We must be advocates for our situation. I believe the Howell community loves its schools and enjoys the local control it has here,” Isola said.
The superintendent said he does not believe administrators in the Freehold Regional High School District, which enrolls more than 11,000 students from eight municipalities in grades nine through 12 in six schools, would support consolidation.
“Unfortunately, there is collateral damage when there is legislation that is passed with the best intentions,” Isola said, adding he does not want the Howell K-8 School District to be collateral damage.