The needler in the haystack.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bd of Ed: Cathcart, Rivers and Shephard

Plainfielders will go to the polls on Tuesday to elect members of the Board of Education.

Of the five persons running for the Board, I will be voting for all three incumbents: Lenny Cathcart, Bridget Rivers and Vickey Shephard.

They have served the families and taxpayers faithfully over the past three difficult years, in which we have seen turmoil and turnover in the top ranks of the District, as well as a crucial vote by Assemblyman Jerry Green to dismantle the Abbott districts and put in place a new funding pattern for the schools will mean tax increases for local taxpayers.

I have confidence their experience and commitment will enable them to help lead the District into a new -- and hopefully more stable and productive -- era when Mr. Steve Gallon assumes the superintendency this summer.

Voters vote in their regular polling places. The polls are open from 2:00 - 9:00 PM for school board elections.

-- Dan Damon

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Anonymous said...

I differ with you regarding Cathcart. I have seen him at meetings when he was president of the board. He was ineffective and never let the superintendent answer for herself. I found him having little to no leadership abilities or vision for the board and the school district.

Anonymous said...

The three candidates you are endorsing are a big part of the reason this district has experienced so much turmoil over the last three years, and now you want them back to continue. The three have shown absolutely NO Leadership abilities or vision. I am surprised at you Dan!

Anonymous said...

The three candidates you endorse spent 3 years giving Dr. Howard everything she wanted with no serious oversight. That's a big reason why our schools have been sliding downhill for the past 3 years. Dr. Bailey has done a good job repairing some of the damage and I hope Dr. Gallon will be able to continue that effort but he will need support from Board members who pay attention.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you. Cathcart has led many young men in the community long before he became a board member. Maybe it was discussed that the president answer the questtions for the sup at the meetings you were at. Remember, Change ain't change unless you change! As long as the people in Plfd keep the crab mind set, we will always be looking for new sups and principals. CHANGE and let others CHANGE!

Christian Estevez said...

The Plainfield School District has experienced a tumultuous year that has resulted in many changes. Many people speak highly of Dr. Bailey (as they should) and also see the coming of Dr. Gallon as a good thing (as well they should). What some people tend to omit is that these good decisions did not make themselves, they were made by the current members of the Plainfield Board of Education. Bridget Rivers, Vickey Sheppard and Lenny Cathcart have played an important part in helping to bring back this school district from the reckage left by the former superintendent when she left. While there is still a lot of work to be done, we must ask ourselves if our schools are better off than they were a year ago. If we think that Dr. Bailey is a positive asset to our schools, then we should re-elect those board members who brought her on board. If we think that Dr. Gallon was a good choice as our next Superintendent, then we should re-elect those board members who worked hard through an exhaustive national search to bring him on board. If we believe that we are finally moving in the right direction, then we should re-elect those board members who help steer our schools toward a better future. We need to re-elect Bridget Rivers, Vickey Sheppard and Lenny Cathcart so that we can keep on making progress toward excellence for all of our children.

Anonymous said...

I have regard for your opinion, but if this is the best that we can do, it is a commentary on the lack of participation often found in a community where the status qou represents change.

Dan said...

I appreciate the comments of those who express frustration over the turmoil in the district.

Like our other public institutions, public education is a three-legged stool: All depends on the quality of the hired hands (esp. the Superintendent), the quality of the elected leadership, and the intelligent participation and support of the public.

There are a couple of hard truths to be taken into account here:

1. The problems the BOE must address are of long-standing, not the responsibility of any one (or two or three) Board members, and CANNOT be fixed by the Board alone.

2. Public participation in school-related matters -- from attendance and participation in Board meetings to community input sessions and events like the League of Women Voters forum (NINE people showed up; ten if you count me, tho I left to go to Council) -- is, to be blunt, abysmal. And that is not even taking into account turnout at the school elections, which is always low.

I was raised on heartland values: If one is gonna carp, one must help.

toby j said...


I couldn't agree more on your comments, particularly the part about public participation. Every one of us (citizens of Plfd) are responsible and accountable for the current state and failings of our public education system and we need to accept that reality and play our part to turn it around. During my military tour, my children attended public schools in Virginia, Louisiana, Florida, California, Washington, and Pittsburgh, PA so we've seen our share of good and not so good schools. Regrettably, the schools here in my home town are the worst that my children have had to endure. However, I am hopeful and optimistic and I believe in being a part of the solution. In addition to strong public participation and interest in schools, the most successful districts that we have been in have also had consistency and momentum. Regardless of whether or not I "like" or "dislike" the current members personally, I do respect their dedication and the fact that they have taken on this responsibility. I would like to see this board continue to improve in understanding their role and being effective stewards of our schools. There have certainly been some missteps along the way but I think that they (and we) are a lot better off because of those experiences and so I support your endorsements as well as Mr. Estevez's comments with the hope that it will mean continuity and stability.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Dan,

I must chime in on the lack of public participation in events such as the League of Women Voters of Plainfield Annual School Board Forum. Please note that while I am a member of the league who assisted in getting this event organized, I am writing as a resident.

The LWV-Plainfield is a non-partisan organization, and we host this annual forum as a public service to the residents of Plainfield. We use a league-trained moderator sent to us by the state league, and the forum is always held the Wednesday before the Tuesday election (as it was this year), unless the library is unavailable on that day.

To advertise the forum, we run an ad in the Courier-News for two straight weeks. Our annual ad contains biographical profiles and positions of all the candidates. Additionally, the local news blogs post the information about the event, and the candidate info is posted on the League's website.

I was truly dismayed by the low turnout, given the extraordinary amount of work involved on the part of members (such as myself) who do the work of the League on a voluntary basis. However, there are upwards of 7,000 students in the Plainfield district, and only 9 people (and 2 were children!) came out to ask questions of the candidates--that means there were 7potential voters in attendance.

Surely the parent groups and booster club folks and the other local organizations can agree on sending at least 1 representative to come out?? I understand that in our modern age it is sometimes difficult for residents to come out to events, but that is a copout when you consider the size of our town. 7 voting age residents??

However, I must add, in the interest of public communication, that when I served as station director for Plainfield's public access television channel under the previous administration, I made sure that the League's non-partisan candidate forums were aired over Ch. 74--gavel to gavel. I sent out press releases to the media and to the station's subscriber list to make sure that citizens who were homebound or at work or otherwise unavailable would be able to hear the candidates' views.

It is part of the mission of a PEG (public,education, government)cable station to provide subscribers with this kind of programming so that they remain informed. Unfortunately, there is no advocate to ensure that the station lives up to the laws governing public access--the so-called cable "advisory" board has been thus far been unwilling, apparently, to assist in fulfilling the station's mission. This, of course, is a separate (but ongoing) issue, but it is related to citizen participation.

As far as the extremely low turnout for the school board candidate forum, all I can say is, we get the government we deserve. It's unfortunate that Plainfield's children, who cannot vote, are the ones who suffer from the willful ignorance of the adults whom they depend on.