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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

School Board: Whose emergency is it anyway?

I was struck by a quote by Assemblyman Jerry Green in Sunday's Courier ("School board under fire after Howard resignation") regarding the situation with the School Board:

"'Even if this was legal what they did, was it really an emergency? Green said."
You should recall that when the story of Paula Howard's resignation first broke in the Ledger ("Schools leader quits in Plainfield") on Thursday, June 7, (via a leak to the press), Green was quoted as saying the state should appoint an interim because of the 'crisis':
"If Howard's resignation is accepted, said Assemblyman Jerry Green, the state Department of Education should appoint an interim superintendent. 'We have to get somebody to manage us through the crisis,' he said."
In Friday morning's Courier, before the Board of Ed's emergency meeting Friday evening, Green rehashed events as he saw them:
"According to Green, the district, without a business administrator, doesn't have anyone authorized to sign paychecks and thus can't pay employees. The district's previous administrator/secretary, Victor Demming, resigned June 1 for a similar job with the East Orange school district.

Green said a reluctance by the board to hire a qualified business administrator became a prime argument with Howard, and Centuolo was set to address the issue during Thursday's meeting.

'In so many words, (Howard) was saying you have to be qualified to sign checks, and we don't have anybody in the district that's qualified,' Green said. 'By them not pursuing what she recommended to them, she felt it jeopardized her career as well as the district itself.'

Green said the board was putting the district in a 'crisis situation'."
Is a 'crisis' an 'emergency'? Hmmmmmmmm.

Meanwhile, of course, the Board of Ed, to resolve the issues at hand, had to call an EMERGENCY MEETING. This is because of the public notice requirement of the 'Sunshine Law'. If there is an emergent situation (as in the need to have personnel in place for financial reasons), and there is no time for ordinary public notice, an emergency meeting can be held to deal with the matter at hand. Who would it have served to delay the resolution of this matter?

Seems possible the 'emergency' here may be that the Board of Ed, instead of turning to the Assemblyman for direction, turned to the NJ School Boards Association. (An option which I pointed out in my post for Thursday, June 7, "What next for the schools?")

The Association has a solid reputation for encouraging nonpartisan and independent leadership in school district affairs. What could be the problem with that?

Should Howard have been given a few weeks to 'wrap up'? The lawyers will settle that question. Dare I say that 'money' will be one of the words bandied about?

Meanwhile, the Board of Ed took leadership of the situation and made moves to get the district on track for the next step, the search process.

PERSON TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Debbie Myers, whose term on the Board of Ed was filled with contention, appears to be being recast by the Assemblyman as a potential savior of the situation. (See my "Schools: Howard as victim? Green as hero? Who's the villain?" Meanwhile, Myers is getting a handsome subsidy for technology training. Stay tuned.

The Board of Ed meets tonight at 7 PM in the Library at Plainfield High School, 950 Park Avenue. The public is welcome and each will have 3 minutes to ask questions of the Board.

-- Dan Damon

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