UPDATED: 2 Sussex Tech shops to stay open

SPARTA. The Sussex County Board of County Commissioners shifts $100,000 from the college to the Sussex County Technical School to help fill its budget hole.

Sparta /
| 14 May 2024 | 05:17

The Sussex County Board of County Commissioners reached a deal to allocate $100,000 to the Sussex County Technical School, which will allow two shops and the Drama Club to continue.

The Sussex Tech Board of Education previously proposed closing the architecture, graphic communications and theater arts shops because of a hole in the school’s budget.

At the commissioners board meeting May 8, its director, Jill Space, said the $100,000 meant for education would be transferred from the Sussex County Community College (SCCC) budget to the Sussex Tech budget with the agreement of college officials.

That will allow the architecture and graphic communications shops to remain open. Juniors now in the theater arts shop will be able to continue in the program next year.

”Should additional funding become available, the technical school has pledged to explore future reinstatement of the (theater arts) program,” Space said.

At a special meeting of the Sussex Tech school board Monday, May 13, Superintendent Gus Modla said the late bus, for students in sports and other extracurricular activities, also may continue. Cutting the late bus had been proposed as well.

The Drama Club will be able to present its shows during the 2024-25 school year, Modla said. The theater arts shop will be at least two periods and may be three depending on funding, he noted.

Sussex Tech and SCCC administrators have met and discussed the possibility of holding dual-enrollment courses at the high school, which would allow students to earn college credits in subjects such as theater, architecture, graphic arts, sociology and psychology, he said.

Parents offer help

During public comments at the May 13 meeting, parents told the Sussex Tech board that they are ready to help raise funds and write grant proposals to ensure that no shops need to be closed.

They asked board members not to wait until next spring to let them know about budget problems.

Several asked school officials to provide enrollment and cost figures for the various shops.

A Parents Advisory Committee to the school board has been proposed.

Sussex Tech students have been invited to participate in the New Jersey Governor’s Awards in Arts Education contest next year at no charge, one mother said. The students have not entered the contest in recent years because of a lack of funds.

Several people proposed other areas that could be cut, rather than thee shops, including junior varsity sports and administrators’ salaries.

Sussex Tech history teacher Erin Ashton praised theater arts shop teacher Jaime Villani, telling the school board members, “You guys would be foolish to let this teacher go.”

Meeting time change

Modla said the board will look at changing the time of its regular meetings from 4 p.m. to the evening to accommodate working parents who want to attend.

A change would not occur until the next calendar year, he noted.

On May 8, Space said the commissioners recommended the meeting time change.

Space, whose three children graduated from Sussex Tech, said at the May 8 meeting that SCCC and Sussex Tech administrators met recently “and they are going to be having a better working relationship together moving forward.”

Between the county, SCCC and Sussex Tech, “I see a much better relationship, which is beneficial to the children, the college students, and the county residents and taxpayers,” she added.

Chris Carney, the commissioner board’s deputy director, said county officials plan to hold budget meetings earlier in the year with SCCC and Sussex Tech officials.

“That way, things like this don’t happen again. We’re well aware early enough that we can kind of get a grasp on things and put money aside and try to help out as much as we can obviously without burdening the taxpayers,” he said.

Space also proposed quarterly meetings of the commissioner board liaisons and officials of SCCC and Sussex Tech. “I think it’s better that we have an open relationship. It’s better for everyone.”