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Friday, April 29, 2016

Start shooting for Plainfield Library's 11th annual photo contest

Mayor Adrian O. Mapp distributes flags to children
at a recent July 4th Parade.

Plainfield shutterbugs take note! It's time to start shooting for the Plainfield Public Library's 11th annual photo contest.

This year's theme is: The Best of Plainfield: People, Places and Things.

The contest, which has become a favorite of both amateur and professional photographers in the Queen City, helps the Library augment its growing collection of photographs documenting daily life and scenes from the viewpoints of its diverse residents.

Entries in the contest become part of the Library's permanent collection of photographs documenting Plainfield over the past one hundred plus years.

Details, including submission requirements and entry forms, are available on the Library's website (see here) or on the information table at the Library, Park Avenue at West 8th Street.

This fun contest is free to enter and open to all -- amateur and professional -- regardless of age. Submissions become the property of the Library and part of its Local History collection.

You may begin submitting entries immediately; the deadline for submissions is Friday, September 30, 2016.

Entries will be on exhibit from November 12 through the end of the year in the Library's Anne Louise Davis Gallery.

The opening reception on November 12 will feature cash awards and/or ribbons to those whose work is judged to best meet the year's theme.

For more information, contact the Library's Local History Department at (908) 757-1111 x136.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

(Board of Ed) Does Plainfield District's sports program need complete review, revamp?

The Plainfield District's teams bear the Cardinal logo.

Among those who spoke at Tuesday's Plainfield Board of Ed meeting were several who voiced concerns about the District's sports program.

The particular concerns voiced this past Tuesday had to do with programs at the middle school level, which act as feeders for the high school varsity programs.

From a need for more coaches and equipment to questions of the timing of recruitment and training for the competitive seasons, these speakers looked to the Board for help in addressing their concerns.

While I appreciate their earnestness, it reminded me of many presentations before the City Council on various matters -- where the Council actually is not the body to make the corrections.

Other issues with the District's sports programs have cropped up at recent meetings, including problems getting student physicals (necessary before they can participate in sports programs) completed on a timely basis.

There have been complaints of politics in the hiring, firing and shuffling of coaches, as well as turbulence over the position of Athletic Director, who oversees the complete program.

Add to this confusion about the fate of the plan for artificial turf at the Hub Stine complex and assertions that work has never been done on the Joe Black baseball field.

While Plainfield has had many athletes from various programs move on to high profile college and professional sports, its teams' rankings in recent years have been sub-par (this year's boys' baseball being the exception).

The walk-on resolution to send 16 varsity track team members to this week's Penn Relays also raised questions about why such a routine -- and foreseeable -- request had to be handled as an urgent and unscheduled matter.

While the Board does not have authority to manage the sports programs and certainly would be unwise to involve itself directly, it can require the Superintendent to complete a top-to-bottom review of all the sports programs, highlighting any deficiencies and proposing a detailed plan of action to address the situation.

While a point can be made that things should not have been let slide by the Superintendent for so long, fixing it late is better than never fixing it at all.

And the Board can certainly make sure THAT happens.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

(Board of Ed) Big changes apparent even before new members are seated

One change in the PHS Library since last the Board
met there is the comfortable and handsome stackable
chairs with PHS Cardinal cutouts.

The first sign of changes afoot was when another resident and I arrived for the Board of Ed meeting at the same time to find the doors to the Plainfield High School Auditorium locked. A neat small note taped to the inside announced the Board of Ed meeting had been moved to the PHS Library. Hmmmm.....

The crowd in the Library eventually grew to about seventy people or so, most sitting on sturdy stackable chairs with a cardinal cutout (see above).

The library had been the favored location for Board of Ed meetings when Dr. Larry Leverett was superintendent. The room is bright, spacious and welcoming. The Board sits close to the audience and the whole feels like a community meeting, which is what it is supposed to be. It is really hard to understand why Wilma Campbell resisted the move for so long, even after people complained loudly about how "unfriendly" the auditorium was.

The next big change came with the agenda.

As I had written in advance, and as many attendees made obvious, the sentiment was that the Board should refrain from any but the most minimal business -- especially avoiding hires and fires and walk-on resolutions.

After the roll had been taken (President Campbell was absent because of a "family emergency"), Superintendent Anna Belin Pyles disclosed that she had consulted the School Boards Association and been advised that the Board should take no action which would "bind" the incoming Board.

Accordingly, she said, the entire Human Resources Committee resolutions and all but two of the Finance resolutions were being withdrawn. The crowd received the news with satisfaction.

During privilege of the floor, resident (and former BOE member) Terri Slaughter-Cabbell protested the inclusion of any items except bills in the agenda, citing state statute. She also insisted that the newly elected members should have been sworn in prior to the meeting. (By way of comparison, Newark's board, also elected on the 19th, was reorganized WITH its new members last night -- see Ledger story here.)

Resident David Graves crossed swords with Board attorney Lisa Fittipaldi over the same issue. Fittipaldi found a loophole, but it seems to me that Ms. Campbell and Superintendent Belin Pyles were proceeding on the assumption that she would be re-elected and overlooked rejiggering the meeting schedule to reflect the change of election dates to April. Precision execution has been an ongoing problem, as this gaffe underscores.

Dr. Inez Durham, also a former Board member, closely quizzed the Superintendent on whether the District has taken advantage of the two opportunities the state provides for objections to charter school proposals. Though Belin Pyles said she had, she was unable to tell Dr. Durham just when she had objected and what her objections were. Looks like the heat will be turned up on the Board and Superintendent on this issue.

The most testy item during the meeting was the announcement that there would be a walk-on resolution. The audience erupted with shouts of "No!".

Walk-ons had been a sore spot during the campaign, and even though all the candidates (including Campbell and Moore) protested they disliked them, the practice has persisted unabated.

Last night's audience was having none of it.

They were additionally riled up when they learned that no copies were available for the public.

After Board secretary Craig Smith exchanged whispers with Superintendent Belin Pyles, he announced the resolution would be available AFTER the meeting.

Again, the audience protested no action should be taken without the public's knowledge of the resolution and opportunity to comment.

Smith relented and said copies would be made and passed out. While that was being done, the Board adopted a number of resolutions -- primarily class trips -- by a single consent vote, though not without murmurs of protest from the audience.

Also while the copies were being made, Smith introduced Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp who spoke briefly, noting that the City looked forward to working even more closely with the school district in the near future.

At long last, Business Administrator Gary Ottman appeared with the copies of the walk-on and distributed them to the audience.

On inspection, it was an unobjectionable motion to approve sending 16 varsity track team members to the Penn Relays in Philadelphia today and tomorrow.

The Penn Relays are a big deal in the mid-Atlantic, over 125 years running (I went to them in my college days in the 1950s). However, they are held every year at the same time, like clockwork.

So, I find it hard to understand why the trip had to be handled as a walk-on.

Clearly, the new Board will have its work cut out for it in holding the Superintendent and her staff accountable for the TIMELY transaction of business. I can't understand why such a routine, foreseeable item wasn't submitted in time to be in the printed agenda (or even the previous month's).

If the Board has been lax about its expectations up to this point, I have a suspicion that is about to change -- dramatically.

The days of the Superintendent not having to pull her oar look to be numbered.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Concert at FUSP Saturday benefits French School of Music

The French School of Music has been inspiring Plainfield
youngsters to love and pursue music for nearly 90 years.

A concert Saturday at the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield (FUSP) will benefit Plainfield's French School of Music.

Now under the direction of Judy Mae Waters, the school has been a Plainfield fixture for almost 90 years, and in the same West 8th Street location since 1937.

A number of professional musicians -- including several who are alumni of the school's founder Yvonne Combe -- will present a program including classical music and jazz as well as show tunes.

Traveling perhaps the farthest to perform are Timothy and Suzanne Waters of California. Timothy was Mme. Combe's last Senior student, and will perform the last pieces she taught him. Suzanne, a session singer employed professionally in Los Angeles and also an alumna, will offer some show tunes.

Other performers include artist-in-residence Carolle-Ann Mochernuk, Plainfield composer Dennis Hyams, and Plainfield Symphony Orchestra members Robert and Wendy Romano, as well as Van Wyck Brooks District musicians Vicky Griswold and Gladys Kitchell.

Eileen Sauer, a composer and alumna who is also an information technology expert, will premier a piano composition. It was Eileen whose inquiry about alumni inspired Judy Waters to continue the school after her husband Stephen's untimely passing.

The concert is at 3:30 PM on Saturday, April 30. FUSP is at 724 Park Avenue and is an accessible building. Suggested donation is $15/adult and $5/children. Parking is available on the street and in the public lot across Park Avenue from the church.

All are invited to an Open House with light refreshments after the concert, at the French School of Music, 210 West 8th Street (directly across from Higgins Home for Funerals). It is a short walk from the church.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, April 25, 2016

(Board of Ed) Wilma's farewell agenda contains a big no-no

Tuesday's agenda was created on Sunday morning.
Did someone have to come in on Sunday because the Superintendent
and/or the Board President couldn't get their act together?
The agenda for the Tuesday Plainfield Board of Education meeting appeared online Sunday afternoon. As you can see from the screenshot above, it was finished about 11:30 AM on Sunday. The agenda can be found online here.

Officials at the NJ School Boards Association were surprised to learn of Tuesday's "lame duck" meeting. The normal procedure is for a Board's last business meeting to be conducted BEFORE new members are elected. The next meeting after a school board election is then after the newly elected members have been sworn in.

The agenda appears to be mostly routine business, including end-of-year class trips and activities. A number of items appear to approve activities that have already taken place, which raises the question of why the Superintendent didn't get them to the Board in a more timely fashion.

One item that strikes me as a "no-no" is in the Human Resources Committee report (see page 14, item R), concerning the appointment of a "Supervisor, Athletic", for which the person's name, hire date, and prorated salary are all designated as "TBA" (to be announced).

This suggests Wilma is planning to walk-on an appointment at her last meeting.


People need to come out and comment on this.

The same section also contains administrative leaves/reassignments, two fitness for duty evaluations, and one termination, all of which might be more seemly addressed by the incoming board.

The agenda also contains budget transfers (pages 39-41) totaling $666,921, made between March 1 and March 31. It strikes me as curious that the Board is approving the transfers apparently AFTER THE FACT.

This is quite unlike the City, where the Council must approve such transfers BEFORE they are made, and may only do so at stipulated times during the fiscal year. The public should be enlightened on why things are done this way in the District.

It was interesting to note that one school's overnight trip to Washington, DC, for 33 students included 29 adult chaperones.

And I learned that a class trip to a water park was pegged to the NJ Core Curriculum Content standards, including "demonstrating a variety of ways to move in the air and land with control". The students will also write "a standards-based narrative based on their experiences".

Now I'm wondering if my childhood class trips had to be justified in such a way. And we just thought it was an outing to have fun. Who knew?

The Board of Ed business meeting is slated for 8:00 PM in the PHS Auditorium. Parking available in the Stelle Avenue lot and on the street.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

(Board of Ed) Agenda for Wilma's final meeting still not posted

Screenshot of BOE website Sunday morning shows
no agenda for the Business Meeting slated for April 26.

Today is Sunday. Do you know where the agenda for the Plainfield Board of Education's Tuesday, April 26, meeting is?

It's not online, which is where you would reasonably expect to find it.

Tuesday evening, Wilma Campbell will preside at her final meeting as Board of Ed president. Officials at the NJ School Boards Association were surprised to learn of a "lame duck" meeting. The normal procedure is that the next meeting after a school board election is after the newly elected members have been sworn in.

The meeting is slated for 8:00 PM in the PHS Auditorium. Parking available in the Stelle Avenue lot and on the street.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, April 22, 2016

(Board of Ed) Wily Wilma wigging out?

Is wily Wilma wigging out over losing her Board seat?

Is outgoing
Plainfield Board of Education president Wilma Campbell wigging out over losing her seat on the board?

The rumor making the rounds on Thursday is that wily Wilma is twisting arms of various board members to get one to resign so that she can be appointed by the lame duck board to the "vacancy" before the newly elected board members are sworn in on May 3.

This would echo in a way the games played on the Elizabeth Board of Ed when a member was defeated. The tactic did not turn out well for them.

Funny thing is, at the Anderson-Hurtt-Pile victory celebration on Tuesday evening, someone turned to me and said, "Don't be surprised if so-and-so resigns." I thought the idea strange and the person named unlikely, but I can be soooo naive at times.

I think the scheme unlikely on two counts --

  • First, Wilma would also have to resign in order to be eligible to be appointed to any vacancy, something I cannot see her doing; and

  • Second, there would be blood in the streets if the Board were to try a fast one like when they appointed Wilma's husband John to the Board without the public being able to weigh in.

Nevertheless, the incoming Board members and their allies on the current Board should be prepared to resist taking any action at the last, lame duck Board meeting on April 26.

The Board should also show some gumption and ethical spine by refusing to take care of any but routine business -- primarily the paying of bills.

There should be no contracts, no settlements, no hires, no fires, no forward-looking financial commitments. And especially, no walk-ons. All these matters should await the new Board's action after May 3.

As Jerry Green likes to say, "Am I right or am I wrong?"

The final business meeting of the lame duck Board, with Wilma presiding (if she doesn't resign first) is next Tuesday, April 26, 8:00 PM in the Plainfield High School Auditorium.

Mark your calendars.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

A funny Plainfield election day story

The local focus was on the school board elections...

While Plainfield voters were focused on Tuesday's school board election and budget proposition, there were other events in the political universe.

Next door, in New York state, Democratic and GOP presidential contenders were duking it out for the state's delegates to their party's respective nominating conventions. The presidential races dominated TV and cable coverage.

For many years, I was a regular "challenger" at Richmond Towers, where Ward 1 districts 3 and 5 polls are located. The poll workers and I developed an easy working relationship over the years, and I stop by every election day to chat now, even though no longer as a "challenger".

On Tuesday evening, I dropped by for a visit. While chatting with the poll workers, a worker from the other district's table -- where residents of Richmond Towers vote -- came over and asked the senior poll worker for assistance.

An elderly gentleman this worker had helped into the voting booth was having difficulty voting.

When the worker I was chatting with went over, the man could be heard loudly complaining that he could not find Donald Trump's name on the ballot.

Ah, Plainfield, where the unusual is usual.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

(BOE Race) Campbell Krew crushed in school board elections

With 33 of 34 districts reporting, the
Anderson-Hurtt-Pile team crushed Wilma's krew.

The Focused on What Counts Team gathers at
campaign headquarters. From left: outgoing board member
Deborah Clarke, Lynn Anderson, Dorien Hurtt, Carmencita
Pile, Emily Morgan and Mayor Adrian O. Mapp.

Anderson-Hurtt-Pile team crushed Wilma Campbell and her krew in Tuesday's school board election. The winners were backed by up-and-coming Union County Democratic figure Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp.

The image above is captured from the spreadsheet of returns kept at the candidates' headquarters. It shows the unofficial results with 33 of 34 districts reporting. The missing district, in the 4th Ward, is expected to contribute at most about 20 votes to each candidate.

Results are always preliminary until certified by the County Clerk.

Campbell team member James Plummer texted Mayor Mapp that though he was disappointed at his loss, he was extending congratulations and best wishes to the successful team. A class act! No one else from the Campbell slate was heard from.

This means that Lynn Anderson, Dorien Hurtt and Carmencita Pile will be replacing Campbell and Frederick Moore, Sr. Incumbent Deborah Clarke chose not to run.

The members-elect have set their sights on several issues --

  • Setting a vision for developing a District of excellence

  • Holding the Superintendent accountable for performance measures

  • Curbing waste and abuse with tight fiscal management

And you can be sure that one of the first things will be to make the meetings more friendly for parents, teachers and community members -- maybe even with a more friendly venue.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

(BOE Race) Dirty tricks on election day...

Superintendent is breaking the law by having
these posters put up in school buildings,
most of which are polling places.

The image above is of a poster Plainfield
Superintendent of Schools Anne Belin Pyles is having printed and posted in the public school buildings today, which is school board election day.

The poster, advocating passage of the public question (the budget) is in violation of New Jersey election law (NJSA 19:34-15) which I am quoting below --
19:34-15. Electioneering within or about polling place; disorderly persons offense.

     19:34-15. If a person shall distribute or display any circular or printed matter or offer any suggestion or solicit any support for any candidate, party or public question within the polling place or room or within a distance of one hundred feet of the outside entrance to such polling place or room, he shall be guilty of a disorderly persons offense.


The matter is being reported to Municipal Clerk 'AJ' Jalloh, the city's chief election officer.

This is crazy!

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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(BOE Race) Let's review the candidates in today's school board race...

Since the District screwed up the ballot positions,
you can click on this reminder, print it
and take it along with you to the polls.

Carmencita Pile

Dorien Hurtt

Lynn Anderson


Plainfield school board election is Tuesday, April 19, from 2:00 to 9:00 PM. Because of a screw-up on the District's part in the candidate lottery, you will find that the designations on the ballots do not match the numbers candidates drew in the ballot drawing conducted by the District. Just another reason why the move to April is a bad idea.

Let's review the lineup --


If you are happy with declining graduation rates, the lack of textbooks for English language learner (ELL) students, and frivolous spending on separate elections and billboards, be sure to vote for the Campbell-Moore team.


If, on the other hand, you think that the Board of Ed needs a real vision to lead the district to excellence, strict fiscal supervision to get rid of waste and abuse, and holding the Superintendent responsible for performance targets, vote for --

      • Carmencita Pile (D)
      • Dorien Hurtt (F)
      • Lynn Anderson (H)


Of the two remaining candidates, Jackie Coley has run as a Wilma protege before, so you can count her as an extension of Wilma's team. Ms. Horton-Mays is friendly with former Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs -- if that's what you want, you know what to do.

Lynn, Dorien and Carmencita's friends and supporters will gather at their headquarters, 31 Watchung Avenue (next to Antojito's Restaurant) after the polls close at 9 PM as the numbers come in. All are cordially invited.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, April 18, 2016

(BOE Race) Wilma's misplaced priorities

Replacement windows at the old high school building.
Installation has been going on for weeks.
For the second year in a row, Plainfield's English language learner (ELL) students are without textbooks. The scandal of students not having textbooks -- THE most fundamental resource -- is due to Wilma Campbell's misplaced priorities.

Not only that, ELL students make up more than half the district's student population. Is the District facing a civil rights issue here?

Take the photo at the top of this post as just one example of Wilma's misplaced priorities.

It shows windows being replaced in the old high school building. You may have noticed a dozen or so cream-colored shipping containers stacked in the school's parking lots along Arlington and Kenyon for weeks now.

They contain windows for the replacement project.

(You might want to ask if the shipping containers mean the windows were manufactured overseas. Would they be putting Americans out of work as well?)

So, while tens of thousands of dollars can be spent on windows, students go without textbooks?

At both the LWV and PEA forums, Wilma touted work on the District's buildings as a "high priority". So, here's a question for Wilma: If your team is putting "children first", how come windows are a higher priority?

The school board elections are tomorrow, April 19, from 2:00 - 9:00 PM. It is your opportunity to vote for putting sensible priorities in place: Textbooks, graduation rates, educational equity.

I urge you to support --
  • Lynn Anderson (H)
  • Dorien Hurtt (F)
  • Carmencita Pile (D)
THEY are truly focused on what counts -- our children.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

(BOE Race) A school board candidate billboard your taxes DIDN'T pay for

The Anderson-Hurtt-Pile team will have mobile billboards
on Plainfield streets. Unlike Wilma Campbell, they
are not using taxpayer dollars to promote their campaign.

As the Plainfield Board of Ed campaign nears the finish line, keep your eyes open for a candidate billboard that your taxes did NOT pay for.

In contrast to Wilma Campbell, who plunked her campaign billboard right next to one paid for by the taxpayers and extolling -- guess who? -- Wilma, the "Focused on What Counts" team of Lynn Anderson, Dorien Hurtt and Carmencita Pile will feature mobile billboards up through election day.

The billboards, pictured at the top, will be seen traveling through Plainfield business districts and residential neighborhoods now through Tuesday, which
is election day.

Wilma's campaign billboard is on the right,
on the left is a billboard paid for with your tax dollars.
In contrast to Wilma, who uses taxpayers dollars to promote her campaign, these mobile bllboards -- in English and Spanish -- are brought to you by the candidates and their supporters.

No taxpayer dollars involved. Ain't that nice!

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Women rally against Trump at Plainfield march

Marchers nearing Netherwood Station

Banner along South Avenue drew honks from passersby.

The march also had a hashtag.

First Lady Amelia Mapp emceed the rally.

Speakers included African American Muslim
Faheemah El-Amin.

Flor Gonzalez of the Latin American Coalition.

Anna Booker shared her 90-plus years of experience.

Longtime Plainfield resident Lisa Hetfield also spoke.

One of the protest signs skewered Trump with a photograph.

Saturday was a gorgeous day to hold a march and rally, and that's just what a diverse group of Plainfield women did.

The "Women Against Trump" march drew upwards of seventy-five area women, men and young people to protest the hateful rhetoric of presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The group assembled at Netherwood Station. Led by police, they marched from there eastward on Seventh Street to Terrill Road and returned to Netherwood for a spirited rally.

Area media were notified and the Ledger (see here) and News12 (see here) sent reporters and photographers. Attendees were able to purchase commemorative T-shirts.

Kudos to the ad hoc committee that pulled the event together: Alexis Moloney, Jen Gregory, Amelia Mapp, Faheemah El-Amin, Flor Gonzalez, Ellen Livingstone, and Linda McLeod.

Congratulations to all on a job well-done.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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