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Residents, School Board Discuss Post-Secondary Education Options

Members defend 'balanced approach' taken to prepare students after graduation

Residents and school board members discussed the post-secondary educational options available to Lacey students after graduation at a meeting Tuesday night.

During the public comment session, resident Tim O’Connor said that he attended a recent meet-and-greet event with Lacey’s Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Sandra Brower, where the Creative Studies Charter School was discussed, a proposed facility whose application was .

O’Connor said he's in favor of a "variation" on the type of school , which would incorporate music, art, drama and movement more heavily into the academic curriculum.

“In one of the articles I read, 40 percent of the students in Lacey have gone on to a two- or four-year school. That basically leaves 60 percent of the students that don’t go to college,” O’Connor said.

Martenak explained that 77 percent of Lacey Township High School students went on to attend a two or four-year school last year, as opposed to the 40 percent quoted by O’Connor, and that an additional percentage of students also entered the military as well.

“The gap you’re talking about is much smaller, I just wanted to clarify that for the public.” said Martenak.

O’Connor continued by saying that college is not an option for every student, and that instruction in various trades would instead be a valid choice for those students.

“I see the vocational program as more a program for after high school, or is as they are in vocational school and attending high school, it’s still heavily-geared in a college preparatory direction,” O’Connor said.

“Whether it comes under the guise of industrial arts or a charter school, when you hear me talk about this, I want to qualify something important to me. What I’m proposing is under the direction of the school board and superintendent, using union teachers. I’m not talking about moving the students out of the school into another building,” O’Connor stated.

O’Connor continued by saying that he believed that the district is currently creating “false expectations” for students to whom college may not be their most viable post-secondary education option.

“What are we doing to prepare them,” he asked.

Board of Education President Jack Martenak said that there were “many tangents” involved in O’Connor’s proposal, and invited him to speak on the subject in more depth at a later time.

O’Connor said that this issue was something that could be addressed within the school district instead, and advocated that the district find a “middle ground” between the current system of education in Lacey and that which was proposed by the charter school.

“For our economy to turn around, we need to get back into trades and manufacturing,” he said.

On a separate note, resident Regina Discenza later said that despite its denial, she thinks the charter school application will return in some form.

“I believe that arts-based curriculum could have some merit in our classrooms,” she said, referring to her past experience in teaching C.C.D. and music to young children. Discenza said that when she taught, she noticed that children responded differently to interactive lessons than they do to books.

“Children learn at different paces,” she said.

Discenza said that rather than having a charter school established outside the district, it would be “worth a try” to incorporate some of those same art-based curriculum concepts into the district.

Board member Frank Palino later commented that he agreed with O’Connor about the mood in society today being college-driven “to an extent”, but that such a feeling comes from the homes and not necessarily the school district.

Palino pointed to the Ocean County Vocational-Technical School as an example of opportunities available to students, and said that an apprenticeship program could be an option that the district explores. However, he did maintain the board’s opposing position to the idea of a charter school in Lacey.

“I don’t necessarily think that placing a charter school here is going to increase anything for our children,” and emphasized that the Lacey Township School District is “not failing.”

Board member William Quist launched into a passionate response regarding vocational education in Ocean County, and labeled the Ocean County Vocational-Technical School as both a “gem” and the “best-kept secret” in the county.

“They have tough, challenging, state-of-the-art programs. If you go through these programs, you’re going to hit the ground running (when it comes to finding a job),” said Quist.

Quist said that Lacey taxpayers are financially supporting the Vocational-Technical School’s state-of-the-art programs and excellent teachers, and that they should take advantage of those opportunities.

“I see it every day,” Quist said.

“There is so much good stuff that’s already here, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Let’s take advantage of what we have here in this county,” said Quist.

Board member Maureen Tirella said that this conversation is “not a new dialogue,” and that the county has been providing these opportunities for years in as cost-efficient a way as possible.

“There are opportunities for every student, whether it’s child care, graphic arts, etc. Every child’s interest could be satisfied,” said Tirella, adding that perhaps more could be done to raise public awareness of vocational-technical programs.

Board Vice President Eric Schubiger said that in the nine years he’s served on the board, he thought that the current issue being raised was an example of things “coming full circle.”

“I thought our goal as a board was not to make sure that students go to college, but to make sure that they become positive people when they graduate and contribute positively to society, and I still believe that,” Schubiger said.

“Our job as a board is to provide opportunity. The opportunities are there; it’s incumbent upon the students and their family support to make sure those opportunities are taken advantage of. That’s what our job is here. Whether they go to college, whether they become a plumber or go into apprenticeship – no matter what they do, we have the opportunities here for them to succeed,” Schubiger said.

Martenak continued the discussion by saying that starting a dialogue on this evening was “10 or 20 years too late”, and that the Lacey Township School District has adjusted course offerings over the years based on the interest levels of both students and parents.

“We are also interested in ensuring that we provide our students with the opportunities to go to college, and pursue even graduate school or professional school, if that’s what they want to do,” said Martenak.

“We’re always striving to find better ways to prepare them to get into college, and better ways for them to succeed when they do get into college – and help them and their families find ways to pay for college,” the Board President said, referring to district support of both college and vocational-technical programs as a “balanced approach.”

Later, O’Connor emphasized that the school board needs to adapt to the changing times in society, explaining that progress has been made in the past by exploring different paths then arriving at a balance.

“It’s because we find a middle ground, that’s what I’m proposing right now. Just because we’ve done something for 10 years, doesn’t mean it’s going to be useful in the future,” O’Connor said.

Seaside Polecat January 18, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Its nice that all of these students go on to college, but what percentage of them graduate? How about showing us those figures? It would seem that most go to OCC and don't graduate. Please let us know how many Lacey grads graduate from a 4 year college in 5 years. You must have those figures. Also how may Lacey grads drop out of college before graduation?
Tim O'Connor January 18, 2012 at 08:48 PM
There is no problem in having the discussion. Currently the Lacey High School ranks 225 of the 325 public high schools in New Jersey. Last night, I was proposing we start a dialog to address this statistic. Dr. Brower is working on a transition plan, I am asking for input from parents and residents for their ideas. Let's discuss it in open public meetings. Above VP Schubiger said this is a topic coming ful circle. With the ranking of our high school in the state, something must not have worked and we need to reassess to topic!
jeffrey January 18, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Tim get a life or clue or both, and while you are at it, learn to type spell check or both. Lacey ranks at the upper end of public schools in NJ for percent attending college, not at the bottom. The best thing you could do is stop mis-informing for whatever personal agenda you have,
Tim O'Connor January 19, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Per http://njmonthly.com/articles/towns_and_schools/highschoolrankings/top-high-schools-2010.html Lacey High school was ranked 225 out of 322 in 2010. That is an improvement from 2008 when Lacey ranked 238, an improvement of 13 schools.
Tim O'Connor January 19, 2012 at 01:49 AM
Hey Jeffrey, what are you talking about with the spelling? I missed a l in full? Also if the number is between 10% & 20%, of students not going on to college, means almost 500 students in the school fell thru the cracks. UNACCEPTABLE!
tr January 19, 2012 at 01:52 AM
This subject was first brought up, to this same board in July 2011, while they were still under the influence of the previous king, sorry I meant emperor , oh, sorry again, I meant superintendent. Hopefully NOW they will be less AFRAID to follow their hearts in the best interest of ALL the kids, not just those deemed gifted and talented. This will also be a more effective use of Lacey education tax dollars that has already been paid by all the citizens.
jerry January 19, 2012 at 11:34 AM
Let's see, 1200 students in high school times 20% equals 240 students over four years. Hey timbo you fail math too???? Give up loser.
Tim O'Connor January 19, 2012 at 12:08 PM
If we are failing 10% of the students we send thru the district and there are almost 5000 students, would equal 500 students.  Even using your math, the number is still unacceptable.
Tim O'Connor January 19, 2012 at 01:50 PM
According to the NJ Monthly out of the 337 grade 12 enrollment, 36% went on to a four year college and 48% went on to a two year college. That's 84%, what happen to the other 16%, did they all go into the military?
FR Grown January 19, 2012 at 02:16 PM
How about they got a job or went to a technical school.
Tim O'Connor January 19, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Or jail?
DC January 19, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Some graduates do not attend college because it is too expensive. There is a limited number of scholarships and aid offered to students who want to attend college. The State of NJ and the Federal Government reduced "aid" packages in 2011. The problem is not only the District providing the adequate education but the fact that a four-year college can cost upwards of $35,000 per year. In this economy too many families are unable to send their educated and deserving children to college.
FR Grown January 19, 2012 at 07:05 PM
The problem with the current generations is that they have lived for today and not prepared for tomorrow. The Great Generation lived within their means; save for a rainy day; had core family values and in the end were able to own a house and get their kids raised properly and through college. They sacrificed. Generations since have evolved into the current, self centered 'ME' generation. They only care about themselves, today and how to get something for nothing. Then want to the government to do everything for them and take responsibility for nothing. They emerge as groups such as Ocupy Wall Street and blame those who work hard for their problems. In short, they have evolved into socialists and are trying to make this Great County a socialistic state. And that's the way it is.
Tim O'Connor January 19, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Thank you, my point exactly! The economy is bringing about changes in society. Unfortunately not in a positive direction. The need is not to reinvent the wheel, but to adapt to changes forced upon us. In the near future, there will be less students going to college. That is just a reality.
DC January 19, 2012 at 09:44 PM
So what you are saying is a family of five where both parents work to put food on their table, clothe their there children, have a nice roof over their head should be able to save $30,000+ per year just to send one maybe two of their children to college? The fact that a college education is so expensive has nothing to do with the fact that less and less children are attending college? Where are your statistics? Do you have a child or children in college? How can the average family save that kind of money? FR Grown and Tim I guess you are both wealthy individuals who were fortunate enough to save thousands of dollars each year just to be able to send your children to a good college. Good for you.
Tim O'Connor January 19, 2012 at 10:13 PM
My point is more people can not afford college for their children. Those of who are still employed; are under employed! No overtime, no second job and no side work. It is time now, to take a serious look at this for middle school age children. They are going to be hit the hardest with our poor economy.
FR Grown January 19, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Yes, I have put three children thru college and i sacrificed for it. I did not blame anyone for my responsibility to educate my children. That was my choice. Today's generation wants to spend it all and ask for help. Doesn't work. Think about your kids and not yourself and you will be able to give them a better life. To you you people from the 'ME' generation, you may be suffering from a guilt complex for thinking about your self and your needs and forgeting about your kids. Extra bottle of wine? Extra dinner? Bigger Car? Bigger House? Better than the Jones'es? Than'ts your problem, you should have thought less about your needs and more about the futrure of your children. You can blame whoever you want, but when you look in the mirror you will see who cause the problem. Just a person with old time work ethic and values. Sorry if I offend you.
FR Grown January 20, 2012 at 12:24 AM
PS. When I paid for my children to go to college, there were no free hand outs for me. I sacrificed for years to give them an education, just as my immigrant grandparents did for my parents and my parents did for me. Wake up and take repsonsiblity. I'm a proud AMERICAN who doesn't want this Great Country to become a socialist european society. Just my thoughts.
Bewildered January 20, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Timmy one question, where did you get the idea that every child should or needs to go to college? Most college grads can’t get a job or if they do, they can’t work the register at McDonalds. Do you know that students who go to a trade and tech schools complete their training in a year or less, have over an 80% job placement and will make two to three times more money than that graduate with a general liberal arts degree? Ask the new superintendant to research these facts instead of taking bus rides, and hosting coffee cloches. Enough is enough she is supposed to be the top administrator who is overseeing 76 million dollars of our tax dollars. Also, those who do go to trade and tech programs have fewer student loans than those college grads. But if you are going to use statistics then you need to look at everything. The BOE doesn’t want you to look at how many of our graduates that do go to college dropout after the first year, or don’t complete their degrees. Nor do they want you to know how many must take remedial classes, or go to prep schools. Oh let’s not forget the ones that take five or even six years to complete a four year undergraduate degree. Or how well the guidance department helps prepare students for college that some change their majors, two, three, four or more times. I’ll bet you Tim if you research it more than half of college grads are not nor will ever work in the field that they majored in.
FR Grown January 20, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Tim, Are you a college graduate? If so, how did you pay for your education? I'm sure it wasn't a government handout if you did go. Thinks are different today, Obama entitled every one for every thing. Can you spell SOCIALISM? GOD Help the USA.
Tim O'Connor January 20, 2012 at 01:54 AM
No I did not go to college. I was educated in a trade in the traditional apprenticeship method. Started learning my fathers trade at eleven years old as a surveyor. I am still surveying today. I love my job! Been doing it for 45 years now. My education is based on principals that date back over 2000 years.
Tim O'Connor January 20, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Last January when I started going to BOE meetings, the hecklers would repeat that all go to college over and over. The BOE President basically said it at the last BOE Meeting.
joey d January 20, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Thats what i am talkin bout Tim , people in trades ?? These kids have masters degrees and cant or wont check the oil in the car??? Too bad these So called job creators have the choice to hire u w a college degree or the next guy without one?? U know which one they want..Go to vocational do an apprenticeship or just work in the trades the day of the man workin w his HANDS WILL RETURN !!! Too bad MOST will all hit bottom before this happens, BUT IT WILL HAPPEN !!!
Bewildered January 20, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Tim he is a pompous ___ what do you call it? The BOE think that Lacey’s residents are stupid. Oh wait, they voted for them. Oh well!
Smartdude January 20, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Tim 84% going on to secondary education (4 or 2 year) is pretty damn high. Not to mention that MOST that go on to local 2 year (O.C.C.) soon transfer to a 4 year college after that. And furthermore, please click on the link within the resource you provided where they describe the methodology used for tabulating their "ranking". The fact is that Lacey is a blue collar town for the most part. We are average middle class. As someone stated above, MANY cannot afford college, or at the most can afford a community college like OCC. The ranking that this website devised automatically causes our numerical average to tank because of the high number of students who go to OCC for at least 2 years. (Whether or not they transfer to another school afterwards is irrelevant to the "ranking"). Mathematically, we're not going up. Couple that with the "Wal-Mart education" that this town insists on providing (huge class sizes, no tax increases, lowest amount spent per student compared to most districts.{reference Toms River, Southern, or Central and see what cost per pupil is}) and we're mathematically never going to move up in this "ranking". If you want to really see how our schools are doing, check out the NJDOE school report cards.........
Tim O'Connor January 20, 2012 at 04:28 AM
The economy is not good. How many college graduates do you know, that can not get a job or if they got a job are buried in debt? How many of those graduates got a job in what they went to school for? Things & times are changing. Almost a $70,000,000.00 price tag for a school district that has a high school rating in 225 of 322. I am only trying to start a dialog. Is what we are doing, the right thing? Is there some middle ground here?
tr January 20, 2012 at 05:47 AM
smartdude: Why would you want to refer to the NJDOE report card that said that Lacey High School has a much HIGHER DROPOUT RATE than the state average? When the previous emporer, sorry, I meant king, opps, sorry again, I mean superintendant was asked about it at 2 BOE meetings in 2011 he said the numbers were wrong. He said, like you, that he questioned the "methodology used" in finding their results. He did not apolgize or offer a solution. He said everybody else is wrong. The report card reported to the tax payers that our kids are dropping out of our high school at a faster rate than most other schools in New Jersey. This is unacceptable performance for the dollars spent.
Smartdude January 20, 2012 at 11:56 AM
I reference the school report card because its a validated source prepared by the NJ DOE. And do you know how many students make up that difference between the approximate 1% state average of dropout and 2 or 2.5% average you're referencing out of a class of 300 Seniors? Maybe 2. 2 Kids. Or maybe 3. I'm not one to sit here and figure it out to the exact decimal point. You should note that our graduation rate is much higher than the state average also.
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