PRESS RELEASE December-3-2019

Sweeney Tours Pinelands Regional High School

Touts Benefits of School Consolidation

Trenton – Senate President Steve Sweeney toured the Pinelands Regional High School today and met with school officials to discuss potential K-12 regionalization efforts. Pinelands Regional, a grade 7-12 district, serves students from the K-6 districts of Little Egg Harbor, Bass River, Eagleswood, and Tuckerton.

“The Pinelands Regional and Little Egg Harbor Township School Districts are a prime example of how school districts can cooperate to coordinate curriculum and share tax dollars,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “The two districts now share a superintendent, Dr. Melissa McCooley, who is a strong proponent for the benefits of regionalization.”

Dr. McCooley is currently serving as superintendent for over 80 percent of the students in the five combined districts. K-12 regional districts and countywide school districts were a principal recommendation of the bipartisan Economic and Fiscal Policy Workgroup, created by the Senate President in 2018. The task force of economists, academics, fiscal policy experts, and legislators issued its Path to Progress Report in August of 2018.

“It was great to have the Senate President tour the high school and explain to him in greater detail how we’ve set things up here. I’ve been working with the Senate President and his staff to discuss how we can consolidate the districts to better align our schools,” said Dr. Melissa McCooley. “I am grateful to see Senator Sweeney pushing for greater school consolidation so we don’t have so many K-5 or K-8 districts sending to larger regional high schools. It is a common sense solution that would go a long way in lowering property taxes and aligning curriculum.”

The legislature put funding for school regionalization and consolidation studies in the budget adopted in July. The state Division of Local Government Services, in consultation with the State Department of Education and the shared services czars, is putting together application guidelines for $2 million in school regionalization grants that will be posted December 16.

“School regionalization was a top priority of the State Department of Education a decade ago, under Education Commission Lucile Davy, who served on our Economic and Fiscal Policy Workgroup,” said Senator Sweeney. “We have the best schools in the country, and we can make them even better and more cost effective by moving to regionalized districts that coordinate curriculum and share administrative overhead costs.”