LBI School Board Meetings Moving to Ship Bottom

Board Members Divided on Decision
Feb 20, 2018

The Long Beach Island Consolidated Board of Education is on the move – to the LBI Grade School. The board voted, 6 to 2, last week to change venues for its monthly meeting from the Ethel A. Jacobsen School in Surf City to the grade school in neighboring Ship Bottom.

The decision came after a brief discussion, including a reminder the board had voted twice before with a deadlock vote, four in favor and four against. A tie-breaking ninth vote was unavailable since November due to a special runoff election that didn’t occur until Jan. 23. John McMenamin won that seat from incumbent Allyn Kain. The Feb. 13 meeting was the first time the board had a full membership since its Dec. 19, 2017 assembly.

Board President James Donahower, along with longtime board members Colette Southwick, Tom Beatty and Bonnie Picaro, and newcomers William Fenimore and McMenamin, voted in favor of the move. Incumbents Kristy Raber and Marilyn Wasilewski voted against the move. Long Beach Township representative Georgene Hartman wasn’t present for the vote.

The meetings will be held at the LBI Grade School beginning with the board’s next session, March 13, and will remain at the school on Central Avenue in Ship Bottom until the board’s January 2019 reorganization meeting. Earlier discussion had included alternating between the two schools.

When the discussion first began, Southwick seemed in favor, saying, “People will be able to see we do take care of both schools” before also remarking the attractiveness of the school was on the surface only.

Whether the LBI Grade School has been neglected, or if its aging parts are just too old for repair, has been a bone of contention between those who favor keeping a two-school district community, and those in favor of merging LBI Grade School students and staff into an improved EJ School, complete with a major expansion. In the fall, voters in Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom and Surf City overwhelmingly rejected an $18.4 million referendum to upgrade the EJ School and get rid of the LBI Grade School. Voters in Barnegat Light and Harvey Cedars approved the two-part referendum.

Fenimore, who ran unopposed for the Ship Bottom seat vacated by former board vice president Jennifer Bott, acknowledged that public attending board meetings wouldn’t be able to see the under belly of the school, yet the decision to move the meeting venue would go a long way in public relations.

Picaro said she is looking forward to meeting in the new space because at the Surf City school meeting room, her back was always to at least a portion of the audience.

“It’s a much nicer room” at the LBI Grade School, she said before the vote.

Raber disagreed, saying she didn’t like the LBI Grade School meeting room when the board used to meet there.

In addition to a more expansive meeting space, the board will also begin using microphones. The move is to provide the public an easier time hearing all that is said by board members and district officials. It will also set the stage for the eventual, if agreed to, videotaping of board meetings. The idea was brought up last week, but Donahower said it required a policy change and a decision wouldn’t be immediately made. Superintendent Peter Kopack said he would schedule a policy committee meeting in the next few weeks to discuss the idea.

Board meetings are currently available on YouTube, thanks to a recording by Ship Bottom resident Steve Moser, but without the use of microphones, the conversations are sometimes hard to hear.

— Gina G. Scala

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