NOTE: This story appeared in the Courier's print edition only, transcribed by DD.
Published in the Courier News, Wednesday, June 13, 2007, page A-9.
Few attend Plainfield school board meeting
BY BERNICE PAGLIA
About 25 people turned out Tuesday for the first school board meeting since the top administration changed in an emergency session Friday, many with questions about the board's quick acceptance of former School Superintendent Paula Howard's resignation.
But Board President Patricia Barksdale told the audience that only questions related to agenda items would be taken from the audience. The agenda included no personnel matters.
Before the meeting, former school board member Debbie Myers said she was among 10 people who met with Union County Schools Superintendent Carmen Centuolo to discuss the process in which the board accepted Howard's resignation, hired an interim superintendent and also an interim business administrator Friday night. The group met in Assemblyman Jerry Green's office and included former school board members and clergy.
"We are concerned with the status of children and disruption at the end of the school year," Myers said, questioning whether the board had overreached its responsibilities.
Howard resigned June 6 and the board accepted her resignation effective that date.
While he did not attend the meeting with Centuolo, another interested party was Sam Howard, Paula Howard's husband. Before the meeting, he questioned the effective date of the resignation, suggesting it was effective 60 days later.
"The interpretation of the date is where they're having a problem," he said, but declined further comment due to possible litigation.
He said his wife was attending a district event with Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs at the same time that the board was holding the emergency meeting.
"She didn't know," he said. "Basically, she has not been formally informed of anything at this point."
He said he was there to attend the meeting Tuesday because his wife was out of town. She is not looking for another job, he said.
"She was happy here, doing her job and moving the district," he said. "Her problem was with the governing team."
As the board and audience assembled in the high school library, Interim Superintendent Peter Carter went around introducing himself and shaking hands.
In remarks as the meeting opened, Carter said he received a call last Wednesday "advising me there was a situation where I could possibly be of service to the children of Plainfield."
The former superintendent of Ringwood and Essex County schools said he agreed to do what he could for a short time.
Alluding to "disputes that have lain dormant," he said, "Peter Carter is not here for that."
Carter borrowed a phrase from the late singer James Brown in stating his goal for the district to "get back on the good foot."
As of Courier News deadlines, people were still arriving for the meeting under the impression they could state opinions to the board.
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