Regionalization-Your Money, Your Choice ... Except Maybe in Atlantic

"My concern is that the parents will not have the opportunity to hear their options and vote in November because of the process and timeline required to get a question on the ballot." said Tracey Abby-White. "While parties are urging the AH Regionalization committee to "stand down and wait" for the Tri-District study to be completed, it is important to know that two studies are different. "

Abby-White was recently name chairman of the Tri-District Feasibility Study committee in this borough by Mayor Loretta Gluckstein. She comes to the committee position well prepared and well versed in the duties and obligations of both school boards and council members. She has served on both and taught in the Middletown school system. and is serving her third term as a member of the Board of Trustees for Brookdale Community College. She is the Senior Director of Global Sales Enablement for IronNet Cyber Security currently, and is neither involved politically nor serving on any of the three school boards or governing bodies.

The completed Feasibility study commissioned by the Borough will add approximately 60 Sea Bright students, averaging 3 per grade level, to a new Pre-K – 12 district. Adding the Sea Bright students will provide funding for educational programs without taxing the families in Atlantic Highlands or Highlands. This authorized study was conducted by Prozio, Bromberg & Newman, P.C. who has handled the only three regional school district dissolutions in state history.

The Tri-District includes Atlantic Highlands, Highlands and Henry Hudson Regional. The Tri-District feasibility study, the one that is still in process, will look at consolidating Atlantic Highlands, Highlands, and Henry Hudson Regional and then also look at what other districts would be feasible to include in a new consolidated district. "It is the adverb "then "that is misleading," said Abby-White. "We are waiting to compare apples and oranges. In the meantime, the clock is ticking.”

In a recent article in, Dr. Tara Beams, Tri-District Superintendent, said, "There are some governance and operational efficiencies that we think we would find if we operated, maybe, as one district. We don't know that until we get our study back." But at the same time, Beams said she doesn't think the Tri-District will see "these giant cost savings, because we share so much as it is."

The school regionalization question resurfaced in 2019 under Mayor Randi LeGrice. Sea Bright wanted to join Highlands and Atlantic Highlands, separating itself as a sending district to Oceanport elementary school and Shore Regional High School. However, at that time, school board members here were fearful of litigation from any district from which Sea Bright attempted to withdraw and declined any further action on the feasibility study done at that time. With the passage of the state law by unanimous consent in both houses and signed by the Governor in January, new regionalization possibilities are permitted and encouraged to improve better education for students and cut costs for taxpayers.

"Today's children compete globally and need a competitive edge. Based on the findings of the completed study, we can provide more educational programs at no cost to the taxpayers." the Chairperson of the borough's Committee said.

The first step is to send a petition to the Commissioner of Education for approval to regionalize. The Commissioner can deny or approve our application. Highlands and Sea Bright have already unanimously approved the resolution and are still waiting for action by Atlantic Highlands. If approved, several steps must happen before a question can be added to the ballot by August 15.

Former and current council and board members serve on the regionalization study committee with Abby-White, including Kim Spatola, Sara Ann Weiner, Councilman Steve Boracchia, Councilman Jon Crowley, and Mayor Loretta Gluckstein. The committee has no authority other than to review the feasibility study information updated recently by the Porzio firm and inform the public of their findings.

There have been no meetings of the Regionalization committee since March because the Atlantic Highlands Council is waiting for the Tri-District study to be released. "I am hopeful that the council will pass the resolution and submit our application to the Commissioner so that we can continue the process and hold town hall meetings,” Abby-White said. “Atlantic Highlands could be among the first to set an educational precedence in New Jrsey, and our children would reap the benefits. If not, we are leaving ourselves open to having the regionalization decision made for us."


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