HOPATCONG, NJ – The Board of Education voted to form a task force on the high school of the future at its Monday, August 27 meeting.

Hopatcong High School’s ranking in the New Jersey Monthly annual survey of high schools dropped a number of points and members of the public expressed their concerns about the education their children would receive there. Board President Clifford Lundin said the task force would be an important part of the effort to bring the school’s ranking back up.

The ranking is based in part on the results of the High School Proficiency Assessment and attendance.

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Lundin said the board has taken steps to improve the entire school system.

“We did a complete vertical realignment of the math, science and reading curricula,” he said, adding they are now more closely allied with the state test. 

The board also shifted administrators from school to school and hired a new high school principal.

In addition, Lundin said, the state is making changes in the test to make it more subject specific, making it closer to a Regents Exam.

A decrease in the number of students who passed the Advanced Placement exams caused the school district to take one AP subject at a time and revamp it. Last year, 12 out of the 12 AP psychology students passed the test.

Parents attending the meeting said many students are opting into the school choice program and attending Lenape Valley Regional High School in Stanhope. The board’s data indicates 11 freshmen from Hopatcong will enter Lenape Valley next month. Director of Guidance Gina Cinotti said the number of students attended Sussex County Vocational-Technical School has remained the same for several years.

Parent Nancy Boehm said up until two years ago the only alternative to the public school was Pope John. “Now we have the school choice option.”

Lundin pointed out anonymous blogs attacking the school district have exaggerated the problem.

In answer to questions about the reasons for the drop, Board Member Joanne Passerini noted the school budget has only been approved by votes eight times in the past 26 years.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Charles Maranzano explained, “when the budget is voted down, it hurts the district geometrically; it reduces programs and opportunities for students over the course of several years."

Another problem for the district is the result of something it does right. Maranzano said, “We do so well with students who are identified (classified) people move here because of it.”

The HSPA is “one-size fits all,” Marazano said.

Special education students, “take the same test,” Passerini said.

They are expected to pass the test so a district with a disproportionate number may look bad. Maranzano said the state average is 14 percent of a district’s school population. Hopatcong has 24 percent in special education.

The NJ Monthly list also takes into consideration the number of students who graduate in four years. Since the state allows special education students to attend school until they are 21, they may not graduate in four years, throwing off the rate.  

Regardless of the reasons, the board is determined to take action, Lundin said.

Boehm asked about parents of younger children.

Lundin said while the board is concentrating on the high school for now they welcome parents of children of any age to be on the task force. “I know too many people on the task force would make things crazy,” Boehm said.

The board will take volunteers for the task force until Sept. 15, but Lundin said, “we won’t slam the door on anyone after that.”