Belhaven Avenue School in Linwood

LINWOOD – The apparent passage of a referendum to change Linwood from a Type I school district with an appointed Board of Education to a Type II district with an elected board has settled a contentious issue here that started with a grassroots effort.

The referendum, which was placed on the ballot via a successful petition, divided voters across the city, with "Vote Yes" and "Vote No" signs popping up all over in the past month.

The switch will involve a number of changes. By law the board will go up from seven members to nine. The district will also have to foot the bill for a special April 2017 election to vote in the members whose terms expire at the end of the year, plus add the two additional members. The election could cost the district up to $20,000, according to Board of Education President Richard Sless. The board will then most likely opt to hold subsequent elections in November.

“It was never really about an appointed or an elected board of education," Sless said Tuesday night after the results rolled in.

"It was about putting politics in the education system that we were fighting against. I know that I will certainly be running for the board and working with any new members and any transition that occurs to insure that the kids of Linwood and the taxpayers still have a high-quality education and that the board provides fiscal accountability to our residents,” he said.

The Committee of the Petitioners that placed the referendum on the ballot issued a statement thanking "all of the tireless volunteers in our community who worked hard to obtain signatures and educate the public regarding Public Question 4."

"We are proud to announce that your hard work has paid off and Linwood is now a Type II district with a future board of education members elected by the registered voters. The people of Linwood have always worked hard the greater good of the community and we are certain this tradition will continue for generations to come,” the statement continued.

Linwood has been a Type I school district for more than 80 years with its members appointed by the mayor and its budget approved by the Linwood Board of School Estimate. Linwood is one of 17 Type I school districts in New Jersey. There are more than 500 Type II districts.