School

Emma C. Attales School in Absecon

Absecon will plead its case to an administrative law judge sometime next year in a bid to sever its send-receive agreement with the Pleasantville School District, Superintendent Dan Dooley told the school board Monday night.

Absecon, which filed a petition with the state last summer, is seeking to send its high school students to Absegami High School in Galloway Township instead of Pleasantville. The case was supposed to be heard over the summer, but Dooley said Pleasantville has sought to delay the proceedings repeatedly.

“For a while, those delays were limited to slowing the exchange of necessary information, the details of which are not necessarily pertinent for a public discussion. However, earlier this month, the Pleasantville Board of Education filed a motion seeking an indefinite delay in the proceedings, based upon a complaint filed over a year ago in Mercer County Superior Court by a number of public interest groups asserting that the state needed to take certain measures to desegregate New Jersey’s public schools,” Dooley said.

Dooley was referring to a case filed in May 2018 by the Latino Action Network against the state of New Jersey over segregation in schools here. The case is pending before Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson.

Pleasantville School District in-house counsel Karyn White said Dooley’s comment “is not wholly accurate as the attorneys for the ABOE have also ‘slowed the exchange of necessary information’ by not providing some discovery responses in a timely manner.”

“The PBOE will continue to strongly oppose Absecon’s petition to end its sending-receiving relationship with Pleasantville and intends to show through its own expert testimony that there will be a substantial negative impact racially, educationally and financially on the Pleasantville district if the petition is granted,” White said.

Absecon, a K-8 district, submitted its request to the state Department of Education in August 2019 to sever its decades-old agreement with Pleasantville, citing the cost and quality of education there. In response, the Pleasantville district maintained its commitment to providing a quality education.

A hearing was set for July, but the judge postponed the hearing, Dooley said. The hearings have been rescheduled for dates between Jan. 19 and March 2, 2021, and will include about a week’s worth of testimony, he said.

“The administrative law judge believes it will be more appropriate for her to assess the credibility of the fact and expert witnesses by having an in-person hearing,” he said. “Assuming the hearing is held in the first half of 2021, assuming we are successful, it is possible that we will be able to begin to send our incoming seventh-grade students to Absegami in September of 2022.”

According to Dooley, Absecon’s special counsel, Vito A. Gagliardi Jr., does not believe Pleasantville’s motion or the Mercer County case will have any impact on the district’s petition.

Although Absecon and Pleasantville have an agreement for high school students, most students from Absecon attend the Atlantic County Institute of Technology after middle school. Less than 10% of eighth-grade students from Absecon attend Pleasantville High School. In 2017-18, 37 students in grades nine through 12 from Absecon attended Pleasantville.

Contact: 609-272-7251

CLowe@pressofac.com

Twitter @clairelowe

Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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