LBI Board Agrees to Postpone School Consolidation Discussion

File photo by Ryan Morrill.

Ship Bottom — The Long Beach Island Consolidated Board of Education last night agreed to temporarily suspend a June decision to develop a plan to relocate the entire student body and staff from the Ethel A. Jacobsen School, effectively putting to rest all discussions about consolidation until after a December referendum for renovations to the LBI Grade School.

“Be it further resolved, that there will be no decisions about consolidation, and all discussions should be focused on restoring the LBI School and updating and maintaining the E.J. School until the referendum vote. There will be no decisions about the E.J. School until the referendum vote has occurred. The future of our district will be considered and discussed by including it in our Strategic Plan,” says the motion, a blend of separate motions by board Vice President Bonnie Picaro and former vice president Collette Southwick.

Picaro accepted Southwick’s suggestion of including the wording about updating and maintaining the E.J. School because she doesn’t want the board to be accused of neglecting it at a later date, saying, “I would never not want to upgrade the E.J. School.”

Kristy Raber was the only board member in attendance to vote against the motion, withdrawing her early support for Southwick’s proposal. Board member Marilyn Wasilewski took up Raber’s seconding of the motion to move it forward. Picaro, Southwick and Wasilewski, along with board President William Fenimore, James Donahower, Georgene Hartmann and Eileen Bowker, all voted in favor of it.

Anthony Sciarrillo, board attorney, said the motion does not make it impossible for a counterproposal drafted by members of a parent group opposed to the closing of the E.J. School, which requests the school board to postpone a $7.68 million December referendum and continue to operate both schools for the duration of the debt service, to be reviewed by bond counsel for clarification.

Earlier in the meeting, Sciarrillo said he believed the language would not be acceptable as written,because the referendum is a bonded contract. The money is earmarked specifically for the renovations to the LBI School and can be used only within the scope of that proposal.

“That language,” he said of operating both schools for the duration of the debt service, “is a pledge.”

Whether the counterproposal can legally move forward isn’t completely clear. What is known is that there is no way to tie a future board to a decision currently being made. Any decision, including the referendum, is good only through Dec. 31, according to Sciarrillo. A new board could vacate any and all decisions the current board has made, regardless of the outcome of the Nov. 5 board election.

It gets a little more complicated to walk away from the referendum once that money has been allocated and received by the district. Returning the money would result in a financial penalty, Sciarrillo said.

— Gina G. Scala

Reposted from The Sandpaper