About 50 borough community members, including parents, students, teachers, and board members came out to the first Task Force meeting Monday night to brainstorm ideas for how to improve Hopatcong High School.
Board President Cliff Lundin said the focus of the group, which was created in late August after New Jersey Monthly ranked the high school number 289th in the state, will be on "the high school of the future," while starting to create the strategic planning process.
Lundin, who facilitated the meeting with high school principal Noreen Lazariuk, said he was "pleasantly surprised" with the response on Monday night.
He said there were parents of students at both the high school and lower schools, as well as parents who grew up in Hopatcong and now have kids going to the schools.
"This group of parents that we had there last night was really involved in their kid's education," Lundin said. "I was pleased in that this was a very well-qualified and very active group, and they were not afraid to express their concerns."
There was also a mix of teachers, administrators and principals, both current and retired, he said.
"I think there's a very good talent base among the task force that we have," he said.
Lundin said that in the beginning of the two-hour meeting, every member stated their name and their purpose for joining the group.
He said the main reason members said they were there was "concern for the education of the kids."
Issues about the low ranking, where the school dropped down 89 spots from 2010 to 289th, which is the lowest in Sussex County, were brought up as well.
"A lot of it was how did this ranking get there, and how can we improve it," he said, "how much of this is public perception versus reality."
The members broke up into groups of about 7-10 people each, where they discussed the school's strengths, weaknesses, and what should be done for improvement.
Lundin said each table filled out a summary sheet of the discussions. While there wasn't time at the end to go over each group's responses, Lundin said the board will summarize each sheet, and distribute them before the next meeting.
Lundin also pointed out that members of the Task Force are encourgaged to participate in the new superintendent selection process. He said the first meeting of the selection forum will be held on Jan. 10 at the high school auditorium at 7 p.m. for the general public.
He said similar questions will be asked at that forum that were asked on Monday night, about areas the school can improve in, and what its strengths are.
Lundin said that although no strategic plan wil be implemented until the new superintendent is hired, the results of the task force will help start the planning process.
He said the last time the district adopted a strategic plan was back in 2007.
No date has been set for the next Task Force meeting yet, but Lundin said he expects the date to be set in late January or early February.
He said the date will be decided on once the superintendent forum is held, and the board goes through the summary sheets.