Support Livingston School Referendum - Vote YES on March 12
Friday, March 8, 2013 • 7:28am
I am writing in support of Livingston’s proposed school referendum and encourage voters to come to the polls on March 12 prepared to vote YES.
The Board and administration have made a convincing case for additional classroom space and updated media centers in the elementary schools as well as ADA compliance throughout Livingston High School. The needs assessment which began in 2011 has been thorough and the proposal is well-reasoned. Now is the time to proactively address class size, soft border reassignments, special education needs, and future enrollment increases from planned housing developments while attracting highly-qualified superintendent candidates and protecting Livingston’s home values. Livingston’s elementary schools currently have an unprecedented number of classrooms at or above state enrollment guidelines.
As a former Board of Education member, I worked with neighboring districts including Millburn, Westfield, Chatham, Madison, and Summit and was struck by the disparity in class sizes. While Livingston’s numbers flirted with maximums, other districts provided smaller class enrollments. Since class size directly impacts the educational experience, I became concerned that Livingston’s academic outcomes may suffer. Although several demographic studies predicted declining birth rates, none accounted for the high rates of migration into district. Anticipated housing developments alone are predicted to bring in up to 250 new students and that doesn’t account for the increasing number of home re-sales. Failure to proactively address future enrollment increases will lead to larger class sizes, the institutionalization of soft borders, and the cannibalization of our art and music rooms. Livingston is better than this.
The proposal also addresses the needs of special education and physically disabled students. ADA compliance at LHS will allow disabled students and staff to independently navigate the building and access nearby lavatory facilities; privileges that able-bodied individuals take for granted. Furthermore, additional classrooms will provide alternatives to out-of-district placements, reducing excessive transportation costs and permitting students to remain part of their school community.
If you don’t currently have children in the public schools, you may ask yourself “What’s in it for me besides an additional $87 (average) tax payment?” Livingston’s public schools are unquestionably its greatest asset. According to local realtors, Livingston’s home values and resale rates exceeded those of neighboring communities during the recession. Buyers are eager to move here primarily because of the schools. If we allow school-quality to suffer, our home values would be directly compromised. As the superintendent search progresses, an approved referendum would demonstrate Livingston’s continuing commitment to education.
In the face of overwhelming evidence necessitating the proposed construction, voter resistance may dissuade highly-qualified candidates. We must ensure that doesn’t happen. Finally, although my children will not directly benefit from the proposed construction, I’m grateful for the support of peers and previous generations whose commitment to education provided my children with an excellent start in life. To senior citizens, empty-nesters, and parents of older students, it’s our turn to provide that same unwavering support for the next generation. Please, get to the polls on Tuesday, March 12 between 1pm and 9pm and vote YES.
7 Whittier Way, Livingston