STAFFORD TOWNSHIP — A visit by Gov. Chris Christie to Southern Regional High School was canceled Thursday morning because of angry protesters who planned to converge on the school in the wake of the governor's proposed budget cuts, a district official said Friday night.
The Governor's Office announced Thursday morning that a 3 p.m. appearance by Christie at Southern was canceled. The Governor's Office did not provide a reason for the cancellation Thursday.
Superintendent Craig Henry said the school suggested the event be canceled because there was a growing concern about people protesting. Stafford Township police had organized Thursday to control the crowds that were expected, Henry said.
"It was spinning out of control," Henry said. "Planning for the event started last week on Wednesday and Thursday, and things were not finalized until Monday. It just moved too fast."
Henry added that the event was canceled partly because it would not have been the most comfortable environment for the governor's discussion.
"I felt that would reflect poorly on Southern Regional even though there were more people going to be there than just people from Southern," he said.
He said that, because of the protest concerns, the school would not have been the right forum and the district would not have been able to accommodate the governor and the public. Alternate plans to have Christie and Education Commissioner Bret Schundler do a walk-through of Southern also were canceled Thursday. Christie and Schundler originally planned to visit the school to discuss the governor's education and budget proposals.
The Southern Regional School District's state aid would be slashed by 84 percent, state Department of Education numbers show.
The district's aid for 2010-11 is expected to be $485,499. The district would lose $2,614,576. Most districts would lose about 5 percent of their total budget, according to the DOE figures. Southern Regional also lost another $1 million from its surplus last month when Christie withheld the final $1 million it was owed in state aid this year. Last year, the district received more than $3 million in state aid.
Henry said he thought the worst-case scenario would be a 15 percent reduction in state aid.
"We lost 85 percent of our state aid, and I feel a degree of sticker shock, but on the other hand, tough times call for tough stands and tough actions. We'll do what we have to do to accommodate it," he said. "You take a breath and you get to work."
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