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Task Force to Begin Considering Future of High School

More than 50 residents volunteer to discuss ways to improve school's standing.

Nearly two months after the task force group was formed by Hopatcong High School board members to improve the school district, the group will meet for the first time in the coming weeks.

Board members said at Monday night's BOE meeting that they will meet with a representative from the New Jersey School Boards Association on Tuesday to decide on the group's first meeting date.

Board President Cliff Lundin said that the meeting will either be the last week of October or first week of November.

Lundin, who said the task force's focus will be on the "high school of the future," said that 51 volunteers, including parents, senior citizens, and other community members have signed up to be a part of the group.

Members of the community had until Oct. 1 to sign up to join in for the chance to offer their input for how they wish to see the district improve.

The group was formed in late August a week after New Jersey Monthly ranked the high school number 289th in the state, an 89 spot drop from 2010.

Many parents raised concerns over the low ranking to board members, and school officials agreed with the need for a change.

Despite the ranking, Lundin has said the district has made recent improvements, including changing its K-12 curriculum in math, science and reading to match with state and national standards, investing over $500,000 in new textbooks, and hiring Noreen Lazariuk as the new high school principal.

While Lundin said the task force isn't necessarily a response to the low ranking, he said he wants the group to address it.

Lundin said Monday that this group is the first step in a strategic plan for how to "improve the school to make the system better."

"We want to get the community involved and say, 'What's the perception out there, what are we doing right, what are we doing wrong, how can we make it better,' he said. "Where do want to be in 5 years, where do we want to be in 10 years?"

Lundin also addressed the increase in number of students who have applied to attend a choice school, and said the plan should help out keeping the students in Hopatcong.

Last month the board received 21 requests for eighth-graders to attend Lenape Valley High School in Stanhope next fall instead of Hopatcong.

On Monday night's draft agenda, there were five more requests; two for Morris Hills High School in Rockaway and three more for Lenape Valley High School.

This was also one of the topics discussed at last week's Meet the BOE Candidates event, where both Lundin and board member Joan Reilly agreed that the school's repuation has taken some hits recently.

Lundin said Tuesday's meeting with the School Board Association the representative will also help them in the search for the district's new superintendent, because current superintendent Dr. Charles Maranzano Jr. is retiring after this year.

The goals for the new task force are going to be to address and assess the needs of the high school students  in academics, activities, athletics, the arts, and college and career readiness. The group would be formed as a subcommittee of the school board.

Lundin said Tuesday's meeting will outline both the date of the first task force meeting and outline what the group's procedure will be for how to move forward.

mojopin12 October 16, 2012 at 10:51 AM
So let me get this straight. Are tax dollars are paying for people that are not doing the job they are being payed for, hence the low rating, and now the taxpayer is paying for a new board to discuss how to do the job they should already know how to do>?
jonathan krieger October 16, 2012 at 10:56 AM
It's obvious the current superintendent doesn't see what the kids need and the teachers need to be successful... Get rid of him fast, and appoint someone who wants to work for the kids and teachers....
Emily October 16, 2012 at 11:16 AM
Correct!!!
Brenda Breheny October 16, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Is there a list of names for the people that are on the Task Force?
BeachBum October 16, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Good Luck - Its going to be a long road - If Camden beat Hopatcong, lots of work to do - School board is responsible but most blame should be put on the Superintendent - A new face in that position hopefully will turn things around - He should have been fired for the ranking the school received - Thanks for making the town look even worse than its current reputation
Lurky Loo October 16, 2012 at 01:11 PM
The Board of Ed members do not get paid, they are elected! 3 of them are up for reelection this year, vote them all out! Vote like your kids education depends on it!
cmc October 16, 2012 at 02:46 PM
The "Task Force" as it is being called consists of volunteers giving up their free time to try and help figure out what is going on since the people getting paid to do it, well, can't....
Lakesider October 16, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Yo Mojo! No one in the "Task Force" is getting paid. It's a bunch of volunteers trying to make a difference. I hope the board listens to them and doesn't sweep issues under the rug. They will attempt to clean up the mess the BOE made. What do you call the people in the parade that follow the horses, with shovels? Well that's them. The BOE should get their wages cut for doing such a poor job.
The "Original" Hopatcong Mom October 16, 2012 at 07:35 PM
The Task Force is a group of concerned parents and residents trying to determine how to better our schools...all VOLUNTEER!!! As a Hopatcong Graduate with children in the district I think it's a great idea to get the communities input on how to make our schools the way they were in the 80's and 90's when we had high enrollment....bring us back to our prime!!
Davidd October 16, 2012 at 08:44 PM
seems like it.
Davidd October 16, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Whats a farce is, the school board had mailed out letters a few years ago asking for parent volunteers for the special ed board,,,to get ideas and communicate with the school and parents...I volunteered , was accepted...never was called after signing the papers stating we were on the "board" as were the other 4 parents...and when I checked, I was told there was no need for anything....seems that the school board NEEDED to have this for smoke and mirror and still did what they wanted without us...we were names on a form for the state or BOE and not really used...but "USED" so things "LOOKED" right...just smoke and mirrors to meet guidlines....
mojopin12 October 16, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Well, we will see. They have to cut the superintendents pay, oh wait Christie did lol. The NJ education system is just a farce with the disparity of the the pay between admins and superintendents. The tenure is another ridiculous concept allowing the inability to get rid of bad teachers. No other place in the workforce does ineptitude reign more profoundly then in our education system, sad. Great to know we have people in the community to step up and try and make a difference, kudos to them.
Michele Guttenberger October 16, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Whether it is listening to a new BOE Candidate or New Council Candidates. The incumbents have a lock on public communication. It seems there are few public forums where Hopatcong gets to hear the view points and counter opinions of those that are currently in office. Without these opportunities to hear the other side on things, Hopatcong voters are like drones that just vote the familiar name on the ballot. I'm sure this is an incumbent strategy to insure their votes. Unless you are really angry with the way things are going chances are you are going to vote with the people already in office. That's a clever way of keeping the votes on your side - keep people in dark about new challengers. What a winning tactic. How many meet the candidate public forums have you see before elections? Do folks in Hopatcong really have a voice that our officials really listen to before and after the elections?
Ian October 17, 2012 at 08:17 AM
Why do we even have a bunch of individual school systems in such a small area (Stanhope, Hopatcong, Lenape Valley, and Byram). We should have one district that was cheaper and more accessible. The combined area really only needs one BOE and administration office to oversee all of the students, staff and educational resources currently handled by the four. The efficiencies created by the merger should quickly start to save the taxpayer money by stretching each education dollar. We could immediately save ~400K by only having to pay the one or two superintendents who are actually doing a good job considering at least one of them is not.
Michele Guttenberger October 17, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Ian - regionalizing the Hopatcong school system is a dynamic approach to the problem. However, it needs to be a grassroots effort outside of the BOE. The BOE's first priority is to maintain and improve the system that is in place. So the idea of merging the schools together would never be a proposal put on the table for discussion by the BOE. This is a proposal that needs to be addressed by the people of Hopatcong. Again without public forums and participation by the people of Hopatcong our Town is only maintaining the status quo and throwing good money to bad. What Hopatcong needs is its own Citizen Audit group for both the Town and Schools to see if are tax dollars are being used efficiently and that there is no sweet heart deals in contracts for labor and services. Regular audits from a CPA firm do not tell you this. They do not provide measurements on funding vs performance. What we spend and the quality of what we receive is an issue the people of Hopatcong with a citizen audit group can answer not the BOE or town Council members. Progressive towns have citizen audit groups to watch the $$
Hopatcongpop October 17, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Thank you Ian!.... and Thank you Lakesider, and Hopatcong Mom.... Im hopeful that this task force will make strides to get this school system back to being better.
Edubb October 17, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Hoppop...I wouldn't hold my breath. This is a downward spiral for the last 8-10 years and a "task force for the future high school" will not fix it overnight.
mkn48 October 17, 2012 at 08:45 PM
I wonder why a letter wasn't sent out to all citizens of Hopatcong? Perhaps parents of young kids who will be starting in the school system would have an opinion as well? Only goes to validate why I want to leave this town before my kids start school. All this money in taxes and the system has only gotten worse in the 10 years that I have been in this town. When we bought here, we were given this song and dance about the new superintendent really turning things around. How did that work out Hopatcong? He is retiring on a full pension that most of us would love to have as a salary and the town and school system is perceived to be just as bad as ever.
The Watcher October 20, 2012 at 04:06 AM
Unfortunately you are correct. Seems we just keep adding outrageous pensions and get nothing in return. Maybe that's why the superintendents come here.
Hopatcong Mom of Two October 22, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Don't hold your breath on this plan....It's only going to work if the input is taken into consideration and followed through on.
Peter James October 22, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Two words, "Charter School".... takeover of all Hopatcong Schools. No need for a Superintendent (at least not in it's present form) and DEFINITELY no need for a school board. Why won't it fly even though it's been proven to achieve dramatic results time and time again? You guessed it - "No Need for a school board".
anne m strangeway November 22, 2012 at 02:55 PM
It seems to me that you cannot fix the high school without first fixing all the lower schools which have obviously not been doing an acceptable job of teaching and preparing the students for whatever their next level might be. By the time a student reaches high school it is most often to late to undo the study and work habits that were accepted in the past. I hope the Task Force will look at the whole picture and start reforms from the bottom up.

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