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About the Board

The West Morris Regional High School District (WMRHSD) Board of Education is comprised of nine members who represent five municipalities in western Morris County; Mendham Borough, Mendham Township, Chester Borough, Chester Township, and Washington Township. Because Chester Borough and Chester Township have joined to form a consolidated K-8 school district, there are a total of four separate K-8 districts that send students to the WMRHSD. 

The nine members of the WMRHSD Board of Education (BOE) are elected on a rotating basis every three years. Elections are held in November, and residents from each municipality are given the opportunity to cast their votes for their representative to the regional BOE. The WMRHSD budget is automatically adopted as long as it meets the state mandate, which states that the increase in the annual property tax levy must not exceed 2%.

The New Jersey Constitution puts responsibility for public education on the New Jersey State Legislature. The legislature may neither delegate nor abdicate its function to make laws affecting public schools. Many believe that “local control” means that the educational function of government takes place exclusively at the local level. However, New Jersey’s educational system is based on the concept of lay control, not local control, and the decision making is shared among officials at all levels of government, including BOE members. State laws and regulations govern nearly all areas of public education, including curriculum, transportation, policy, personnel, and finances.

Boards of Education are created by statute to perform a state function at a local level. Their authority is derived from the state legislature, and they perform duties that are expressed in state law or in the rules and regulations of the NJ State BOE. 

FAQs

Q. What is the function of the Board of Education?
A. All Boards of Education have four main functions:

    1. The BOE provides guidance through policy development in the areas of curriculum, personnel, general         administration, fiscal and business management, facilities and community relations.

    2. The BOE provides a program of quality instruction by adopting state mandated curriculum standards. It also assesses district needs to ensure student achievement of the standards, supports staff training, and reviews reports on the results of students’ assessment.

    3. The BOE provides for the effective management of the district by employing and evaluating the                       superintendent and establishing policies for monitoring district finances, curriculum, facilities, and personnel. It also reviews reports on the results of policy implementation.

    4. The BOE provides for two-way communication between the Board and the communities it serves by informing the public about its schools, promoting parent involvement, and working to secure public support for its schools and public understanding of its policies and district goals.

Q. What is the board's role in setting policy?
A. Policies articulate the board's philosophy and goals for the district and its students. A policy statement includes an explanation of the policy, its purpose, and whom it will affect. Board policies address issues related to curriculum and instruction, personnel, general administration, fiscal and business management, buildings and grounds, and community relations. The staff is responsible for deciding how to implement policies, documenting plans, taking action and evaluating results.

State law requires readings in two public board meetings prior to voting on a new policy. Recommendations for re-approval or changes to an existing policy can be voted on with one public reading, and can be voted on at the same meeting as the reading.

Q. What is the board's role in personnel decisions?
A. Board policy sets the district's expectations for staff expertise, skills and performance standards. The superintendent, administrators and supervisors are responsible for staff evaluations and recommendations regarding hiring, tenure, promotions and other personnel decisions. After reviewing the administration's recommendations and supporting data, the board votes on any required action. All discussion regarding personnel must be made in closed executive session; decisions must be voted on in public.

Representatives of the board and the West Morris Regional Education Association negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. This agreement governs working conditions, salaries and benefits of the teaching staff, secretaries and teacher assistants. The board and association members must approve the proposed contract before it goes into effect. The board is also responsible for hiring and evaluating the superintendent.

Q. What is the Sunshine Law?
A. The NJ Open Public Meetings Act ("Sunshine Law") went into effect in 1975 for all public bodies organized by law and empowered to spend public funds or affect people's rights. Its purpose is to ensure that citizens hear all discussions dealing with policy formation and decision-making. All meetings attended by a majority of the board must be held in public unless the board is discussing agenda items which would endanger the public interest or violate the personal privacy or guaranteed rights of an individual. These typically include items related to negotiations, personnel, individual students or legal matters.

Although the Sunshine Law requires that the public be allowed to observe a meeting, it does not require that the public be allowed to participate. Board meetings are working sessions where the board carries out its responsibilities of reviewing and setting policy, and the board has the authority to permit, regulate or prohibit active participation by the public at its meetings.

Q. What is the role and responsibilities of the Superintendent?
A. The Superintendent of schools is the only employee in the school district who has a direct reporting relationship to the Board of Education. While the BOE approves all hiring, it does not participate in the selection or dismissal process for teachers and support staff.

A superintendent has three main responsibilities:
    1.To serve as the BOE chief executive officer and advisor in all efforts of the BOE to fulfill its governance role
    2.To serve as the primary educational leader for the district, and chief administration officer for the district’s            professional and support staff
    3.To serve as a catalyst in proposing needed BOE policy changes

The Board of Education, by law, is generally responsible for all school programs and operations. All Boards delegate some portion of that authority to the superintendent. How much authority is delegated is a matter for each BOE and superintendent to determine. In general, the BOE must give the professional administrators and staff authority to carry out designated responsibilities, and the administration must give the BOE assurances that duties assigned are carried out.

Q. What is the Business Administrator/Board secretary?
A. By law, all BOEs are required to have a BOE secretary and Business Administrator. In most districts, including WMRHSD, the Business Administrator serves in a dual capacity as the BOE secretary. He or she reports directly to the BOE as the Board Secretary and directly to the superintendent as the Business Administrator.

The Business Administrator keeps an accounting of the district’s financial transactions and is responsible for providing financial information to the superintendent and the BOE. The Board Secretary has numerous responsibilities, including noticing meetings, ensuring compliance with the Sunshine Law and issuing the official meeting minutes. He/she also administers oaths and swears in all new and returning BOE members.

Q.What is the proper procedure for bringing concerns forward?
A. Any concern that a parent or member of the public has about an aspect of the West Morris Regional High School District (WMRHSD) should be brought to the attention of the person in the school who is closest to the situation. This is called “Chain of Command”.

The normal chain of command runs from the classroom teacher, through the principals, to the central office administrators, then to the superintendent, and finally to the Board of Education (BOE). At times, residents may present problems to an individual BOE member first. BOE members have no authority to take action in response to concerns or complaints. If the matter concerns a student or teacher, the BOE member will refer the resident to the appropriate teacher or administrator. If the matter concerns district policy or governance issues, the BOE member may ask the BOE president to place the item on the agenda of a future meeting for discussion by the full BOE.

Sources used for information provided on this page include:
The NJ School Boards Association website - www.njsba.org
"Basic Boardsmanship" by Toby R. Simon, New Jersey School Boards Association, 1986, ISBN 0-912337-06-0.