The Borough of Spotswood is a small town of 8,257 residents dispersed over 2.3 square miles located in southern Middlesex County, one of New Jersey’s most populous areas. Although it is composed of various ethnic backgrounds, the majority of the Spotswood population is Caucasian and falls into the middle socioeconomic range, with a median family income of $74,696. The town landscape is crowded by residential homes (many of them small), apartment complexes, and senior citizen communities. Spotswood houses only two small industries and a number of independently owned businesses. These few rateables, combined with property taxes, provide a limited financial base for education leaving the Spotswood School District to continually contend with its most pervasive and perplexing problem: how to meet the present and future needs of a diverse student body in the context of limited enrollments and constrained financial resources.
To partially alleviate this problem, Spotswood has developed relationships with the boroughs of Milltown and Helmetta, our neighboring sending districts. Milltown sends students to the high school while Helmetta utilizes the entire K-12 system.
Milltown is slightly smaller than Spotswood, with 6,893 residences dispersed over 1.6 square miles. Despite a similar ethnic composition, Milltown’s median family income is $101,685. Milltown is also able to raise more revenue thanks to a growing business district.
Smaller than both Spotswood and Milltown, Helmetta contains 2,178 residents over 0.8 square miles. While similar to the racial composition of Spotswood and Milltown, Helmetta’s median family income of $74,554. With less space and fewer residents, like Spotswood, Helmetta has fewer rateables to help comprise its tax base.
With the joining of these three communities, the Spotswood School District serves 1,713 students. Because the student body is heterogeneous, diverse in interests, capabilities and needs, the school community has striven to provide as rich and diverse educational and cocurricular programs that our budget and enrollment will allow. In most major subjects, students are offered various instructional levels including Advanced Placement courses at the High School. Numerous electives have also been created to meet the interests and needs of our students. With many of our students tending to choose county and state colleges rather than more expensive alternatives, Spotswood has forged strong links between the high school program and these institution in term of curriculum alignment and dual enrollment options.
Despite the difficulties posed by budgetary constraints, a fairly small enrollment, and faculty turnover, Spotswood has achieved remarkable success. Among our district factor group (DFG), our PARCC test scores continue to outperform DFG, State, and National Consortium data. In the past, Spotswood Schools have been accredited by Middle States, recognized by the United States Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School, and acknowledged in New Jersey Monthly as one of the states’ great public schools. While numerous personal accolades have been awarded to our faculty and student body, Spotswood has achieved its success as a result of the collective imagination, energy and commitment of the staff, students, parents and community members who give it life and purpose. Without their enthusiasm and engagement, the programs and procedures developed to meet the educational challenges posed by our circumstances would become empty and ineffective. It is the spirit that forms institutional structures and makes them viable. Despite the numerous obstacles, at Spotswood we have found a way to nurture that spirit, to build productive relationships and to prove the truth of the African adage, “It takes a whole community to raise a child.”