The following Letter To The Editor is from Carmine C. Bonanni, Jr., a former Ventnor school superintendent:
I arrive at the following perspective on merging the Margate/Longport and Ventnor School Districts by having lived in Margate for over 50 years and serving as VECC (Ventnor) School Superintendent for 9 years from 2002 through 2011.
For purposes of this article, let’s call this merged school district the “Downbeach School District”. The VECC would be the facility for this Downbeach School District.
My first consideration in this merger is, as it should be, the children. The resulting rich mix of cultures that such a merger would create a true microcosm of the world that the children would enter at high school and beyond.
The blending of each district’s excellent teaching staff, the high academic and disciplinary standards of the districts, and the consistently strong achievement level of students in both districts would benefit every child attending our Downbeach School District. Every year, both districts feature students in the top tens of the graduating classes of receiving high schools.
But there are many other benefits to such a merger.
The VECC (Ventnor Educational Community Complex) is situated at the geographical center of both Margate and Ventnor. Wide streets surround the complex and the entire complex is easily accessible. Student drop off and pick up procedures are organized, safe, and smooth.
In the past, the VECC has comfortably housed as many as 1250 students. The current combined enrollments of the two districts is less than 900. The resultant Downbeach School District class sizes would average in the mid to high teens. Plenty of space for quality teaching and learning to occur.
The VECC has more than ample parking available, two gymnasiums, a theater with a capacity of several hundred, an attractive cafeteria, a large campus that includes a soccer field and other open surrounding space for future outdoor applications.
The VECC houses two libraries, a tech and science labs, a TV studio, and 1000 sq. ft. classrooms throughout. The VECC is currently divided into two grade level sections — Elementary grades PK-3 and Upper Elementary/Middle grades 4-8.
The complex is safe, secure, clean, and attractive.
Our Downbeach School District would open up possibilities for more robust and competitive sport programs with more athletes available to participate.
To serve the administrative needs of the Downbeach School District, one Superintendent/Principal would administer the PK-3 levels and one Principal the 4-8 Elementary/Middle levels. Those two administrators would be supported by one Special Education Supervisor and one Curriculum and Instruction Supervisor.
However, those two positions could possibly be merged into one with an individual who possesses appropriate experience and credentials. Thus, a total of three or four administrators could capably handle the required administrative tasks.
Other matters that would need attention:
Board of Education — the composition of the new Board would require balanced representation. Research into how other towns/cities have merged their school districts would be in order. Longport would need representation. County Education Officials would be of great help in this matter.
Tax implications — business agents and other stakeholders would need to examine the impact on each town’s tax base. That would involve county government and education officials as well. Transportation needs would be reduced and one lunch staff would be required to provide lunches. Also, the following thoughts should have a positive impact on our tax base, as well.
Re-purposing of existing school buildings in Margate (Ross, Tighe):
Demolishing Tighe for potential housing units, but keeping the Potena Performing Arts Theater open and available to the community to contract regional artists and agencies to present shows, performances, concerts, guest speakers and other community events
Adapt the Ross School to create “Margate’s Ross Executive Office Complex” for usage by architects, attorneys, accountants and other professions that require office space.
The gym could be a multi-purpose room for community use. Perhaps move City Hall to the Ross Complex. Plenty of available parking, too.
Of course, there are other matters that need careful consideration. Please share.
I would be happy to discuss these matters if there is any interest in making such a merger possible.
Carmine C. Bonanni, Jr.