From the Echoes-Sentinel

WARREN TWP. – Little has progressed in the status of Watchung Hills Regional High School’s regionalization study application, but the high school’s Board of Education is expecting a September approval date.

Board President Robert Morrison gave a brief update on the pending regionalization application at the Tuesday, Aug. 16 board meeting.

“The state is still working through getting all of their mechanics in place,” Morrison said.

While he was told that the board “should expect to hear approval” on the regionalization study application in September, he noted that “it’s always been a moving target.”

“Hopefully, by the time we convene in September, we will have heard from the state and then we can begin the process of moving this project along,” Morrison said.

After the state grants approval and funding, the next step will involve appointing a committee to oversee the study process and securing a consultant.

As far as consultants, the board has two routes to consider.

The board could acquire one through a Request For Proposal (RFP), or enlist a local university. Morrison referenced a past discussion about using Kean University in Union, which conducted the Highlands regionalization study released this past spring.

“We don’t have to go to RFP, we just choose a university vendor and we can start the process,” Morrison said. “That’s something that we can certainly talk about once we get to that point.”


Morrison also detailed efforts to “create the best possible environment for our teachers to succeed.”

In April, Morrison cited legislative barriers created by the state that stymie teachers from entering the profession. One is a state requirement that all teachers live in New Jersey. That means instructors residing in New York or Pennsylvania cannot work in a Garden State classroom unless they move in-state.

Similar obstacles also impact prospective teachers, such as the edTPA and the TEACHNJ Act evaluations.

Under current state regulations, a candidate must pass a performance-based assessment approved by the Commissioner of Education in order to be eligible to receive a Certificate of Eligibility with Advanced Standing (CEAS). That assessment is the edTPA.

Morrison reported that Bill S896 was recently passed unanimously by both Houses of the State Legislature. The bill would prohibit school boards from requiring a candidate to complete a Commissioner of Education approved performance-based evaluation in order to be eligible for CEAS certification.

“It’s been sitting on the governor’s desk for about six weeks,” Morrison said. “Certainly, we urge the governor to sign the bill because there are a lot of educators that are waiting to see what’s happening.”

The New Jersey School Boards Association, New Jersey Education Association, New Jersey Association of School Administrators, New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, and Garden State Coalition of Schools also recently sent a letter to the Acting Commissioner of Education Angelica Allen-McMillan protesting the administration requirements for the Start Strong assessment in the fall.

Start Strong was originally used during the pandemic since the state had suspended student learning assessments. Federal law requires that school districts have “some sort of assessment” in place for students, according to Morrison.

“However, the Start Strong assessment is now redundant in that it is testing for the skills that have already been assessed by the New Jersey student learning assessments, which were just held this past spring,” Morrison said.

“Five months later, we’re doing a duplicate process that wastes valuable instructional time at the beginning of our school year, and takes the time away from our teachers to be working with their students,” he continued.

‘Boggles The Mind’

The letter’s recommendations include asking the state to reconsider its Start Strong assessment implementation and allowing educators to use their own evaluations to measure student growth.

It also urges the state to allow student learning assessments to be conducted in the spring, therefore not “double-testing our students for no well-documented reason,” Morrison said.

“They’re saying the window opens for this assessment on Aug. 31. Why would we be assessing students when we’re just trying to get them to figure out how to make their way around?” he continued. “I mean, it boggles the mind.”