At the annual New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) Conference in Atlantic City, Toms River Regional Schools Superintendent David Healy and Business Administrator William Doering, along with other district leaders, were provided an audience at the New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA) workshop held Oct. 24. There, they testified to the impact of state aid reductions to TRRS, and the steps they’re taking to fight the matter.
The NJASA meeting was specifically to discuss adjustment aid reductions to school districts, and some 70 leaders in NJ education participated including superintendents throughout the state, board of education members, business administrators, district lawyers, and NJSBA representatives. Part of the Support Our Schools (SOS) initiative, the meeting focused on how to advocate with legislatures, the impact of state aid reductions, and education about the flaws in the formula calculation for aid, something TRRS has touted for years.
Moderated by NJSBA Government Relations Director Melanie Shulz, the meeting also provided open discussion time for affected districts to detail their situation, an opportunity TRRS was not going to miss. Joined by Assistant Superintendent James Ricotta, Jr., Board President Russell Corby, and Board Member Dan Leonard, Healy and Doering outlined the projected, drastic affect the loss of $70 million over the next six years will have on the district and its capacity to provide a thorough and efficient education.
SOS is a coalition of school districts throughout the state being negatively impacted by the reduction in state adjustment aid, with a mission to to advocate with legislators and convey their message to the public, ensuring that students continue to receive the quality education they deserve and are entitled to in accordance with the state’s mandate for a thorough and efficient education. The meeting echoed that mission, seeking to regionalize and coordinate efforts through data, research, and collaboration.
The workshop was a continuum of district efforts to publicly decry state cuts they view as unjust and based on a flawed formula, and these efforts have included a press conference and rally at High School South; multiple trips to Trenton; a “State of the District” video address; leading a coalition of affected districts; official letters to parents and the community; the support of parent-led petition; and countless meetings with legislators and local and state leaders.
Regarding state leaders, TRRS representatives took advantage of the opportunity to speak personally with NJ Senator Steve Sweeney, whose bill helped drive the state budget that resulted in drastic cuts to districts like Toms River Schools. Healy and his colleagues relayed to Sweeney on a personal level the uniqueness of Toms River’s plight, including factors like Superstorm Sandy, non-restored aid going back years, and the district’s foresight with regard to the funding formula.
The senator agreed to meet face to face with Healy at a later date which is tentatively scheduled for next week in Trenton. There, Healy will have the opportunity to describe the Toms River community, its proud history and accomplishments in the face of numerous challenges, and outline how $70 million in cumulative losses in the next six years will prove decimating.