NORTHERN VALLEY, N.J. -- Voters Tuesday night approved a $11.7 million referendum for improvements at Northern Valley Regional High Schools at Demarest and Old Tappan by a vote of 2,574 to 1,882.
"It was a win-win for the taxpayers and the students," Schools Supt. Dr. Geoff Gordon told Daily Voice. "We are very pleased and very grateful to the community for supporting us."
Six of the seven towns that voted approved the referendum. Northvale voters rejected it, 229 to 183.
Closter: 526 YES / 349 NO
Demarest: 377 YES / 353 NO
Harrington Park: 387 YES / 335 NO
Haworth: 321 YES / 165 NO
Northvale: 183 YES / 229 NO
Norwood: 417 YES / 205 NO
Old Tappan: 363 YES / 246 NO
District officials emphasized that the improvements won't increase taxes.
For one thing, the state will pay 38 cents on the dollar for facility and equipment repair and upgrades, as well as for adding programs aimed "helping our students rise to the highest levels of the state and nation," Gordon said.
The rest was covered by cuts and savings in other areas of the budget, he said.
The plan includes:
• New "Career Pathways" courses tailored to students' career interests;
• Seven new Advanced Placement classes (among them, AP Macro/Micro Economics, AP Environmental Science, AP Physics 1 and 2);
• New STEM and physics labs;
• Auditorium renovation;
• Replacing/upgrading gym floor, athletic facilities, dangerous and outdated running tracks, deterioriated tennis and basketball courts;
• Upgrading security system, cameras, lighting, HVAC systems.
The "Career Pathways" program "to the best of my knowledge will be the most advanced program of its type in NJ," said Gordon, the superintendent.
It will feature Business Management and Administration; Government and Public Administration; Marketing Sales and Service; Finance; Fine, Practical and Performing Arts; Human Services; Biomedical and Life Sciences; Information Technology and Computer Science, and senior options ranging from Open Ingenuity Lab to Honor Independent Capstone, Gordon said.
NVRHS Board Trustee GC Vaghasia of Norwood noted, meanwhile, that "the tennis courts have not been changed in over 30 years. We have spent approximately $150,000 over the past three years in putting Bandaids over the tennis courts and track."
A new auditorium, upgraded security cameras and new HVAC units "are all necessities in today's competitive world," he added.
A similar referendum of $13.5 million failed last year after only 10% of voters participated.
"In my view, it was defeated due to the lack of information that was conveyed to the sending districts," Vaghasia said. "Many of us, including myself, really had no idea what we were really voting for.
"This time, things are different. [District officials] have truly taken the bull by its horns."
"The goal is simple and direct," Gordon emphasized. "We are aiming to become the Number 1 district in New Jersey -- not one of the best but the very best."