Superintendent cites capacity in declining Brigantine request

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HAMILTON TOWNSHIP – Although the Brigantine School District was hoping for a “yes,” the Greater Egg Harbor Regional Board of Education’s recent silence on a motion to entertain a sending/receiving relationship with Brigantine was a clear “no.”

“It was the decision of the Greater Egg Harbor Regional Board of Education not to enter into an agreement with Brigantine at this time,” Superintendent Steven Ciccariello said Wednesday, July 6.

Over the last year, Brigantine has conducted a feasibility study and spoken with Greater Egg Harbor Regional administration about the possibility of sending its high school students to the newly constructed Cedar Creek High School in Egg Harbor City.

 

The new school opened in September to ninth- and 10th-grade students from Egg Harbor, Mullica Township, Port Republic, and Green Bank. Capacity is expected to expand to near 650 in the 2011-2012 school year when the school takes on a third grade level, a junior class.

Ciccariello said that when the school is complete with a senior class, enrollment is expected to reach 850 to 900 students.

Brigantine’s feasibility study from the Southern Regional Institute and Educational Technology Training Center of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, which supported the transition, was accepted by the local school board there in late February.

The study showed that only about half of the high school students from the island attend Atlantic City High School under a sending/receiving relationship Brigantine has with the Atlantic City School District.

Brigantine was hoping to find savings by pulling out of its relationship with Atlantic City and paying a lower tuition per student. According to the study, Brigantine would save more than $1.5 million based on the 2010-2011 school year.

The Greater Egg Harbor Regional Board of Education, at a meeting on June 6, made its decision on the matter after an executive session where the board discussed the topic.

“There were a number of meetings that were held in the committee of the board in discussing this topic,” Ciccariello said. “It was discussed and there was a motion that was put forward in public session that no one would second, so we couldn’t move forward on it.”

Ciccariello subsequently sent a letter to Brigantine Schools Superintendent Robert Previti, dated June 10, explaining the board’s decision.

According to Ciccariello, there were a number of factors considered by the board before it came to its conclusion. He said if Brigantine were approved by the Department of Education to leave its agreement with Atlantic City and enter into one with Greater Egg Harbor Regional, it would take another petition to the Department of Education to end the relationship if it wasn’t working out.

“If we entered into this relationship with Brigantine, the relationship is pretty much forever, so it’s not like you can say, ‘We’re going to do this for five years,’” Ciccariello said.

Another large factor was capacity. Ciccariello said the district would have to hire an additional seven or eight teachers to accommodate just the 190 students from Brigantine that currently attend Atlantic City High School. However, he said, the board was careful to consider the fact that there are more than 300 high school-aged students from Brigantine who would be eligible to attend Greater Egg Harbor Regional, and the district doesn’t have the room.

“If you enter into this type or relationship, and let’s say that it did get approved by the state, we needed to be able to accommodate all of their students,” Ciccariello said.

According to Brigantine’s study, that would be 376 students in 2010, and 372 in 2011. However, the study predicts that the number of students from Brigantine would decline each year.

Ciccariello said that the 190 students was the maximum that Cedar Creek could take on top of its current enrollment.

While the school district would be taking in extra revenue for each student that would come to Cedar Creek, Ciccariello said the revenues would be offset by the teachers hired to accommodate the students.

“It’s not like this is one of those school choice programs where we’re accepting students because the school district has classrooms that are half empty. There would have been costs associated with that,” he said. “Even though there would be revenue generated as a result of the tuition being charged, that revenue would be offset by the need to hire additional staff.”

Most importantly, Ciccariello said, is the fact that the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District is comprised of four sending districts which pay taxes and whose constituents would have to be consulted before moving forward.

“There was no decision being made that evening that, yes, we are definitely going to do this,” he said. “Greater Egg Harbor Regional is a big school district…we would have done our due diligence in making sure that we met with all of our constituencies, received their feedback.”

The bottom line, Ciccariello said, was that accepting Brigantine at this time was not in the best interest of the Greater Egg Harbor Regional School District.

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