Published On: Tue, Apr 5th, 2016

South Hunterdon Regional School District prepares for change at final strategic planning meeting

A mix of parents, administrators, teachers and board members discuss in breakout groups at a recent strategic planning meeting

A mix of parents, administrators, teachers and board members discuss in breakout groups at a recent strategic planning meeting

Two years ago, the South Hunterdon Regional School District was created after voters approved the merger of four local districts (Stockton, Lambertville, West Amwell and South Hunterdon Regional High School). Back then, Board members and administrators promised voters that a low impact transition would take place in the first three years of the district’s existence, and that many things would remain status quo.

True to their word, the transition is on schedule and the district is being proactive in preparing for the next four to six years.

On Monday evening, the third and final strategic planning meeting took place, and parents, community members, administrators and teachers gathered, broke out into groups, and shared their visions for the future. They focused on four goal areas:

  • Curriculum Instruction; Technology Learning
  • Social Emotional Learning
  • Finance/Facilities
  • Communications and Community Engagement

Highlights from the dialogue included a shared desire to reconnect with alumni and increase community engagement, as well as a concern for making the environment inclusive for all.

The “curriculum” breakout group expressed the need for universal Pre-K for all Stockton, Lambertville and West Amwell children. Currently, Lambertville Primary School only has free pre-K for qualifying children, and Stockton has a private tuition pre-K.

The finance/facilities group was charged with one of the most significant issues — whether to merge or realign district buildings in some manner. This group’s focus arose from a study by McKissick Associates of Harrisburg, which listed 10 options for what might become of the current school buildings in the district. The recommendations ranged from “status quo,” to creating a district-wide upper and lower elementary school, to what three attendees called “the New Hope model,” i.e. having most of the grades on one campus.

An outline of the 10 proposals by McKissick Associates

An outline of the 10 proposals by McKissick Associates

The Free Press obtained an outline of the ten options and asked Superintendent Dr. Louis Muenker how the public could become more engaged in the process. Muenker explained that besides these strategic planning meetings, residents can attend Board meetings and express ideas during public comment periods.

Muenker was present at Monday’s session, but did not interfere with the small breakout groups.

“I took a step back from these meetings because you have to let the people work it out,” he said. “I don’t want to bias opinions during this part of the planning — these discussions are the same as any large district, just on a smaller scale.”

Dr. Muenker and other administrators will take the information collected from the three meetings (the students had input at the first gathering) and present it as an action plan before the Board of Education at a meeting in May. From there, the process would be for the Board to make their recommendations.

A recommendation requiring major funding would most likely become a referendum, which would make its way onto a ballot in a future election.

The “Strategic Planning Action Plan” will be presented to the Board of Education on Monday, May 23, at 7 p.m. at South Hunterdon Regional High School, and is open to the public.

 

About the Author

- Steve Chernoski is a writer, film director and teacher who lives in Lambertville. Here's his website: http://stevechernoski.com.

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