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Montague, Excessive Level Colleges Focus on Shared Companies Following Litigation

Once divorce was considered, the Montague and High Point Regional High School districts not only renew their vows, but seek to extend the marriage through joint service.

Montague, a preschool through eighth grade broadcasting district at High Point Regional High School in Wantage, recently suspended its legal efforts to get out of the broadcast-receive relationship between the two districts since 2013.

With their litigation behind them, members of the two school boards planned to meet privately on Thursday to explore a merger of services expected to include a joint business economist and a children’s studies team.

The talks can finally culminate in a joint superintendent.

However, Montague’s acting superintendent, John Nittolo, is expected to remain in his current role through at least the summer and likely into the fall, according to school officials. Nittolo was appointed to his post in April after Superintendent Timothy Capone was placed on paid leave.

“We are creating a vision here where our community and school, including High Point, can begin to work together for the benefit of all Montague students,” said Montague President Barbara Holstein. “This also includes providing employees with all the tools they need to help our students.”

High Point Board President Wayne Dunn said the development will allow districts to identify opportunities for efficiency and financial savings, an important consideration for a high school that has seen its enrollment drop by about 40% since the early 2000s before it recently stabilized.

High Point Regional High School

The two boards have established permanent shared service committees that will include Montague’s side Holstein and Denise Bogle, the board’s president and vice-president. The new board member Krista Mikulski will also be there.

The High Point committee includes Dunn and Spencer Arnold, president and vice president of that board, and board members Deborah Anderson and Patti Nugent.

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However, with less than 30 days to go until the schools start their new fiscal year on July 1st, the timeframe for working out details is limited and business staff sharing is expected to be a priority.

“And if we negotiate shared services with another county, there is a lot to be done,” said Bogle. “It’s not just about sitting down and discussing what you want. You have to draw up contracts, make decisions about those contracts, people have to sign things and the legal department has to get involved. It doesn’t just happen overnight.”

There remain unanswered questions about some of the trickier details – like how it would work if the same business graduate issued tuition fees from a sending district (Montague) and made those payments on behalf of the receiving district (High Point).

Also, not everyone is involved in sharing some services such as the Child Study Team, which former Montague board member Jennifer VanNess Caramucci fears could work at the expense of students with special needs.

To begin with these issues, the Montague School Board has added a third workshop meeting for Monday to their June calendar in addition to the two regular sessions scheduled for June 14th and June 28th.

Holstein and Dunn said they expect to release more information to the public in the next few days.

Montague’s only school has around 265 students in preschool through eighth grade. The district also has about 130 students in grades 9-12-80 attending High Point and 50 attending Sussex County Technical School.

High Point has approximately 860 students in grades 9-12. The high school serves students from Montague as well as Branchville, Frankford, Lafayette, Sussex Borough, and Wantage.

Montague used to send his middle and high school students to the Port Jervis School District of New York, but began to let the relationship run out in 2013. At the time, Montague was the only school district in New Jersey that still sent its students across state lines for part of their education.

Eric Obernauer can also be reached on Twitter: @EricObernNJH or by phone at 862-273-5349.

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