On Dec. 6, approximately 200 school board members, school administrators and members of the public attended a special panel discussion program on school district regionalization held by the Sussex County School Boards Association at Sparta High School. The topic has been of interest in Sussex County, where many school districts have had significant enrollment declines in recent years.

The discussion centered on the regionalization process; the financial, educational and governance factors districts should consider; the ingredients of a successful regionalization effort; and the potential stumbling blocks to regionalization. One of the participants, Dr. Louis Muenker, is superintendent of South Hunterdon Regional, the district which was formed in 2013 after four districts consolidated.

In his remarks to the group, NJSBA Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod noted that NJSBA has a long history of supporting efforts to promote cost-efficiency through regionalization and shared services. “Over the years we have engaged in several studies of shared services, as well as school district regionalization,” he said. “One of our first endeavors in this area dates back to 1981. In partnership with the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, we sponsored a study that resulted in a ground-breaking report that focused on schools and municipalities sharing services. The title of the report was “The Art of the Possible.”

Dr. Feinsod also reiterated the importance of allowing communities to decide their own future. “We believe that it is the voters in the affected communities – and not the state—that must have the final say.”