This question really is for any parent — or student, or even older residents — who consider the school system of primary importance for their families, and the community at large.
Many of us moved to Bernards Township largely because we wanted our children to be able to take advantage of the local school system.
Of course we all had other reasons. But even some of those attractions (in our case, we wanted a natural and relatively pesticide-free environment for an allergic kid) were in some cases tied to school facilities or programs.
And last year, the school board heard the community say loud and clear that it values a full-day kindergarten program, when parents and others quickly raised money to keep the program rather than accept a cut to a part-day program to save money. The donations later were returned when additional state aid allowed the school district to fund that program — as well as the nine-period day at Ridge High School and the team system at the middle school, all priorities of parents.
On Monday night, the board heard a presentation by a representative from the New Jersey School Boards Association, Gwen Thornton, who offered a proposal for conducting a strategic plan that would outline the goals of the school district for the next three to five years. The proposal also would follow up to see how those goals are being met.
Part of that strategic planning — which is still under consideration — would be to pull together parents, school officials, residents throughout the community, including senior citizens, and even students, to ask for their input, Thornton said.
But we're asking early — what do you consider most important in your local school system? What are your priorities for the next few years?
If you had to choose, would you prefer that some programs (such as the elementary Spanish or enrichment program) be sacrificed to keep class sizes lower?
And do you think it was a good idea to move school elections to November — and only put the school budget up for a public vote if the annual increase exceeds two percent?
And, would you like to see a day off for Diwali to be added to a future school calendar?
But let's take an even broader view. Do you think the staff is being adequately supported and trained? Would you rather see money spent on fixing up aging schools? Are you satisfied with programs for special needs students?
What new programs would you like to see? Where might our school system be falling short — or doing well?
And also we invite parents from the Somerset Hills regional school district to let us know what they might like to keep — or change — in their local schools.
Please let us know what you think in the comments section below.