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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Plainfield artist, designer featured at "Mansion in May' showcase in Morristown

Alnwick (The Abbey) on Madison Avenue
is the site of this year's "Mansion in May" showcase.

Plainfield artist Gerry Heydt, well known for her landscapes, garden and floral paintings, is partnering with Bill Santoriello, owner of Plainfield Restoration and Reproduction, and Studio 7 gallery of Bernardsville (where Gerry's work is on view and for sale), to decorate a space in the "Mansion in May" showcase house this year.

The showcase is a fundraiser for Morristown Medical Center and is organized by their Women's auxiliary.

The mansion -- originally known as Alnwick, and subsequently "The Abbey" -- sits along the mansion row on Madison Avenue between Morristown and Madison.

Sixty-four top designers from around the region have renovated and decorated 41 spaces in the 20,000 square foot mansion and 17 landscapes on the spacious property. Over 1,300 volunteers will staff the showcase during May.

"Along the Passaic II", painted in the Great Swamp,
is among the works of Heydt being exhibited.

Heydt, Santoriello and Studio 7 are in space #13 on the second floor, where 17 of Gerry's works are featured. Gerry's website is here, where she displays a variety of her works; Studio 7's website is here, where you can see more of Gerry's work. Plainfield Restoration and Reproduction's website is here (you may want to check Bill's Angie's List rating here).

The "Mansion in May" showcase is open 10 Am - 3 PM every day through the month of May. Tickets may be bought online here ($40/person if bought in April; $50 if bought in May). The showcase website also has useful information on offsite parking, as well as on the work of the Women's Association.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Friday, April 28, 2017

(2017 Dem Primary) Hockaday event rocks Ward 4

Hockaday event Thursday rocks Ward 4.

Feasting on shrimp, pasta salads and an enormous fruit platter, supporters, friends and family of Ward 4 Democratic candidate Steve Hockaday crowded the candidate's home on Monroe Avenue near Calvary Baptist Church Thursday evening.

The home, where Hockaday has lived since 2001, is a warm and inviting presence in the heart of the 4th Ward for supporters of the Democratic nominee.

Attendees got to hear from the Mapp team -- Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, who is seeking re-election; Hockaday, and Joylette Mills-Ransome who is running for the Wards 2/3 at-large seat -- talking about the progress Plainfield has made under Mapp's leadership and the need to keep moving Plainfield forward.

Hockaday told of encounters with residents who shared with him surprising things they are doing in their neighborhoods. One story was told of a resident telling a canvasser how happy they were to see them, saying "No one ever comes over here (meaning the 4th Ward)."

Emcee for the evening was Hockaday's campaign manager, Derel Stroud, who noted he was using his "indoor voice" for the event.

Also on hand and making brief remarks were Wards 1/4 at large Councilor Barry Goode; Citywide at-large councilor (and Council President) Rebecca Williams and Ward 3 councilor Charles McRae.

Hockaday drew the program to a close with a call to "Vote Column A all the way ... to Hockaday" -- bringing laughs from those present.

Attendees were reminded of opportunities to help the candidate by walking with him door-to-door and spending time at headquarters making phone calls to neighbors.

Plainfield's Democratic headquarters is at 31 Watchung Avenue (next to Antojito's restaurant). The phone number is (908) 561-5038. Headquarters is open daily from Noon to 8:00 PM (Sunday opening is 1:00).

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

(2017 Dem Primary) Brown opens Headquarters. Why does that address ring a bell?

Brown's campaign headquarters suggests Malcolm Dunn
is a backer.

Mayoral candidate Tracey Brown has announced the opening of her headquarters this Saturday. The address is 320 Park Avenue -- which will probably ring a lot of bells for Plainfield politics watchers.

The 1920s-era red brick building includes office in the front and a still indoor parking ramp in the back.

Signs in the window indicate the building houses the Plainfield Chamber of Commerce, the SID office, SCORE (a  nonprofit aiding businesses) and a Small Business Development outpost.

The building has for decades been under the control (one way or another) of former Councilor Malcolm Dunn. May we guess that Mr. Dunn is supporting Tracey Brown in the upcoming primary?

Those with really long memories will recall that the building became an embarrassment to Dunn, who was sitting on the Council at the time, when a review of tax records during the term of Mayor Al McWilliams revealed that Dunn owed more than $40,000 in back taxes and prior city administrations had done nothing to collect on them. After that news flash, the taxes were paid up.

Resident Alan Goldstein put Dunn's son Jeffrey through the ringer over a jobs program that was questioned about its record and evidently exorbitant rents for programs housed on site that were funded from grants.

We should not forget that Dunn, as a newly appointed PMUA commissioner, engineered the wrecking of severance negotiations for former PMUA Executive Director Eric Watson and his deputy David Ervin. As a result, the PMUA board settled with Watson and Ervin in 2011 for $1.2 million (see my post here).

At the time, Tracey Brown sat as a commissioner of the PMUA. Though she carefully avoided participating in the milion-dollar-giveaway, Brown did suggest that the way to clean up the resulting fiscal mess for the agency was to furlough its workers to pay for the cost of the settlement (see the last page of February 9, 2012 PMUA minutes here).

After all this, Brown revised her PMUA history (see my post on that here).

So now we have Mr. Dunn aiding Brown's campaign through renting her office space. If indeed there is a rental agreement and Brown actually pays anything. Dunn could give it as an in-kind gift if it meets the ELEC rules, but Brown would have to declare the gift or show rent paid on her ELEC reports. Which I'm sure we won't see until after the vote is over -- if then.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Plainfield Symphony wraps up 97th season with Ravel

Maurice Ravel. Would you have guessed he was a
perfectionist -- and probably gay?

The Plainfield Symphony's music director Charles Prince leads the orchestra in closing out its 97th season this Saturday (April 29) with a program focused on French composer Maurice Ravel.

Three Ravel masterpieces are on the menu -- the 'Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2', 'le Tombeau de Couperin' (his homage to that famed Baroque composer), and the mesmerizing 'Bolero'.

Helen Shen, YPCNJ gold medal winner, rounds out the program with a performance of Chopin's 'Piano Concerto No. 2 in f minor'.

Immediately following the concert, Peter and Libby Price will be honored at the Conductor's Circle after party at the home of Vickie White and Michel McCarthy at 1440 Prospect Avenue.  Tickets to the after party are $50/person, payable at the door.

The concert is a 7:00 PM at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church, East 7th Street and Watchung Avenue. Tickets are $25/person at the door. Parking in the church lot on First Place, on the street, or in the Swain Galleries lot.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

DuCret Annual Spring Student Show and Sale Friday

The duCret School of Art is housed in a distinguished
Plainfield mansion.

duCret's annual student art show and sale takes place this Friday (April 28), with some exciting new wrinkles!

Members of the public who attended Monday evening's Planning Board hearing on the draft Muhlenberg Redevelopment Plan got a sneak peak at some of the student pieces for Friday's event.

Many students make the first commercial sale of their art careers at these student shows, so there is always an air of excitement as the budding artists show their work.

Students work in a variety of media, including oil, acrylic, and mixed media; digital art, ceramics, jewelry and sculpture. Juried winners will be announced and their works highlighted.

Among the new twist this year: a raffle of an original painting from the 'duCret Collection' (raffle proceeds will benefit the Ceramics Department), a live jazz band, cash bar and "tasty bites". Table will be available for seating.

The event runs from 7:00 PM to 9:30 PM in the Auditorium at the rear of the complex. Parking and entry from the rear parking lot. duCret School of Art is at 1030 Central Avenue (across from Cedar Brook School)

For more information, visit the school's website here, or call (908) 757-7171.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Monday, April 24, 2017

(2017 Dem Primary) Did Tracey Brown break the law by not reporting 2016 billboard?

A billboard in support of Tracey Brown from last year's
Dem primary. She has never reported it on her campaign

The required "paid for" declaration says the billboard
was paid for by Tracey Brown's campaign. What gives?
(click image to enlarge)

Did Tracey Brown break the law by not reporting a billboard used in her 2016 campaign to ELEC?

New Jersey has some of the strictest requirements for reporting political campaign expenses and contributions in the country. And considerable fines when candidates or their proxies fail to abide by the rules -- which include not only truthfulness, but timeliness in making the required reports.

I noted during the 2016 Democratic primary -- in which Councilor Brown ran against Coundilor Williams for the citywide at-large Dem nomination -- that Tracey had a large billboard atop the store at the southeast corner of East Front Street and Watchung Avenue (see above).

I kept waiting as her ELEC reports dribbled in to see the disbursements for billboard design, production and space rental. The total for a month's exposure could come to as much as $2,500 (or more, depending on the designer's fee).

Nothing ever came through.

I checked all Tracey's 2016 filings again over this past weekend. Nada. She was quite scrupulous about reporting expenses -- except for the billboard and a number of mailings (at at least $3,400 each).

So, we have a mystery. Did Tracey fully and completely declare all her campaign donations and expenses?

Even if the billboard and some of the mailings were paid for by a donor or donors, Tracey was required by ELEC to report those items as in-kind contributions, whe she evidently did not.

Right away, we are starting off the campaign season with a trust issue.

Has Tracey Brown knowingly misled not only the ELEC officials, but her supporters and the community at large.

Trust is what makes it all work. Can Tracey Brown be trusted?

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Revised draft Muhlenberg Redevelopment Plan to be taken up Monday

The striped area is the subject of the proposed
Muhlenberg Redevelopment Plan.

The Plainfield Planning Board will meet Monday (April 24) in the auditorium of duCret School of Art at 7:30 PM for another look at the proposed Muhlenberg Campus Redevelopment Plan.

There are TWO versions of the draft plan online. The first (see here) is numbered 033117; the revised draft (see here) is numbered 042417.

Bernice has done an excellent job comparing the two (see her post here), noting several items to which attention should be paid.

Though questions about the housing component have dominated public discussion so far, attendees should note there are other issues of importance.

Monday's meeting is a Planning Board meeting to discuss the draft redevelopment plan. The developer will not be present. The Planning Board must adopt a redevelopment plan for the former hospital campus in order for the project to advance.

The public will have opportunity to ask questions and express concerns.

duCret School of Art is at 1038 Central Avenue, across the street from the Cedarbrook School. Follow the drive around to the rear of the complex. Parking is in the rear lot, with direct entrance from the lot into the Auditorium.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Friday, April 21, 2017

Opening Reception for 'The Welcoming' popup art gallery Friday evening

Opening reception is 6 - 9 PM tonight.

'The Welcoming' is a popup art gallery opening in Plainfield's North Avenue Historic District Friday (April 21), beginning with an opening reception at the gallery location, 144 North Avenue, from 6:00 to 9:00 PM.

The popup gallery is a public-private partnership between the City of Plainfield, Landmark Developers (who are developing a number of mixed-used properties in Downtown Plainfield) and Yendor Productions, a non-profit focused on using the arts in downtown renewal projects.

You may be familiar with the popup gallery idea, though not by that name. Years ago, vendors put together Christmas boutiques at Plainfield locations including the Elks Club on Watchung Avenue and the Armory on East 7th Street. They were very popular and would operate for a stated period of time and then move on.

The idea is simple: Use a temporary gallery in a vacant commercial space for a stated length of time to act as a focus of interest for the neighborhood.

'The Welcoming' is the exhibit for this popup gallery and has been curated by Yendor Productions, providing "approachable and interactive public art". Landmark Developers is contributing one of its downtown
commercial spaces for use in the project and the City of Plainfield is helping with marketing.

The popup gallery will run through May 19, with the gallery open Thursdays and Fridays from 6:00 to 9:00 PM, and Saturdays from Noon to 4:00 PM.

With all the apartments being developed in the Queen City, many people are asking about next steps -- creating destinations is one of them.

Parking is always in demand on North Avenue. The gallery is in the short one-way block between Park Avenue and Gavett Place. There is more parking in the portion of the block by the train station, and in Lot 2 across from Gavett Place on East Second Street.

Come on out and see what's happening in Downtown Plainfield!

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Plainfield Recreation Division plunges into Summer readiness

Training teaches lifeguards lifesaving techniques.

Plainfield's Division of Recreation is winding up its 8-week early Spring programming and preparing to plunge into Summer programming preparations -- when the community's three pools will be open.

Once again, the Recreation Division is offering two series of lifeguarding classes set for the first three weeks of May.

Those wishing to become lifeguards must meet the following criteria --
  • Must be at least 15 years old;
  • Must be able to complete 12 laps;

  • Must have the ability to retrieve a 10-pound object, the return to surface and swim 20 yards on back to return to starting point, and
  • Attend a mandatory Prerequisite Course.
All classes will be held at the Plainfield High School pool, 950 Park Avenue.

To register, go to the city's website here, click on the button for "Recreation" and then scroll down to the link "Register on Community Pass here". For more information call the Recreation Division at (908) 753-3097.

Next week will mark the conclusion of three 8-week programs: Youth and Adult learn-to-swim classes at PHS, and Archery lessons at Washington Community School.

Meanwhile, Chess classes continue on Fridays (from 6:00 to 7:00 PM) at Hannah Atkins Community Center. The sessions are designed for beginners to advanced, from ages 5 to 17. Register on Community Pass (see instructions above) or call (908) 753-3097.

The Division of Parks and Recreation is on the first floor of City Hall Annex, 510 Watchung Avenue.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

(2017 Dem Primary) With Breakfast on Saturday, campaign kicks into high gear

2017 campaign kicks into high gear Saturday.

With a hot breakfast and a rally this Saturday (April 22), the Mapp team kicks the 2017 primary campaign into high gear.

Supporters and city committee members will gather at Plainfield Democratic Headquarters, 31 Watchung Avenue, at 10:00 AM.

Candidates Adrian O. Mapp (mayor), Joylette Mills-Ransome (Wards 2/3 at large) and Steve Hockaday (Ward 4) will say a few words. Candidates for city committee seats will also be on hand.

There will be opportunities to volunteer to walk with the candidates, make phone calls, deliver signs and other activities.

You will want to be part of this year's history-making campaign.

Plainfield Democratic Headquarters is next door to Antojito's restaurant and adjacent to the municipal Parking Lot 8 on Watchung Avenue.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

(Board of Ed) Conducting a Superintendent Search

Some of the issues and concerns in a
superintendent search.

Hardly had the dust settled in the BOE's "transfer" of former superintendent Anna Belin Pyles back to her pre-super position and the appointment of Dr. Sheard as "Acting Superintendent" than there was a buzz to hire Dr. Sheard as the permanent superintendent and move on.

Not a wise move, by my lights.

There are a couple of things the District obviously needs -- a breather from all the turmoil, and a sense of stability for teachers, staff, students and families.

But the Board of Ed has a tremendous amount of work facing it.

In order to even hope to recruit a Superintendent with the skills and the moxie to move the District forward, the Board must assess the educational situation districtwide, consult with ALL stakeholders to help shape a well-focused strategic plan for the next six years or so, and create a profile of sorts for a successful candidate. (Not to mention arming themselves to spot a candidate who is great at the interview, but brings nothing or little else to the table.)

All of this will take time.

As a survivor of several pastoral searches, all I suggest is that the Board takes the time necessary to prepare thoroughly for a search and not rush its execution.

In the meantime, best practice would be to hire an interim superintendent and line up some consultant help to advise in the search process.

Current staff who may wish to be considered for the permanent job should not also be acting as superintendent. Common sense dictates it. If Dr. Sheard wants to be considered, she can throw her hat in the ring once an interim super is in place.

This is the time for those who are always saying "put the children first" to actually step up to the plate and do it, giving the Board the input and support they will need -- and deserve.

How far should the net be cast? The idea of a "nationwide search" seems a bit excessive, but we should learn from experience that hiring from a local pool has its shortcomings, too.

Now that the decks have been cleared, it's time to gear up and get moving.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Monday, April 17, 2017

(2017 Dem Primary) Monday's geography lesson: Where is Siberia?

"Siberia" is to the far right of the ballot;
the reason for the nickname is obvious.

As the 2017 Primary election process moves forward, today (April 17) is the drawing for ballot positions.

The candidates for county and state offices will draw for positions at 3:00 PM at the Union County Courthouse. Columns A and B are reserved for the nominees of those parties' official committees. Challengers (there are several, both Democratic and Republican) will fill out a number of the next columns.

Meanwhile, in Plainfield, Municipal Clerk 'AJ' Jalloh will conduct the drawing for ballot positions for the local candidates for City Council. (Candidates for City Committee will appear beneath Council candidates in the final ballot).

County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi will have to massage all this data into the final ballot form.

The Mapp team, including Joylette Mills-Ransome and Steve Hockaday, and running on the RDO ticket will appear in Column A or B, depending on the draw.

All other local candidates (Tracey Brown, Bridget Rivers and their respective running mates) will appear in columns way to the right of the final ballot form -- known by the nickname "Siberia" for obvious reasons. Could they be farther out than Column H? We shall have to wait and see.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Greetings

Women at the Tomb, a quilt by
Marysia Kowalchyk (more here).

Easter greetings to all today! Orthodox Christians greet one another on Easter with the phrase "Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!" or "Christ is risen".

Those greeted respond with "Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!" or "He is risen indeed," affirming the declaration.

The custom is also observed in the West among Catholics, Lutherans and Anglicans.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Friday, April 14, 2017

(2017 Dem Primary) Brown campaign hampered by a thicket of challenges and charges

Is Tracey Brown responsible for this string
of unforced errors?

In the ten days since the 2017 Primary filing deadline, candidate Tracey Brown has faced a thicket of challenges and charges.

Some of these arise from Plainfield Democratic City Committee chairman Adrian Mapp's formal challenges, others arise from the
unforced errors by Brown's own team, and some are still to be resolved.

When things go wrong, they usually start with something fairly simple: in this case the slogan under which the candidate's team wished to run.

Brown and Co. chose "Plainfield Democratic Organization". The problem here is that Mapp's team previously ran under this slogan. Municipal Clerk "AJ" Jalloh ruled that Brown's team "did not have the requisite permission" to use the slogan and advised them to change it. They did, and are now running on the slogan "Plainfield Democrats for Change".
Next is the matter of petitions invalidated for a number of reasons.

Wards 2/3 at-large. Ellen Carter Haygood needed 50 signatures for her petition. She submitted 53, 10 of which turned out to be duplicates.

This suggests that no one on the Brown team checked that the petition met the minimum requirements.

Haygood's petition was invalidated by Municipal Clerk 'AJ' Jalloh. A costly unforced error.
  • Stanley Haygood's petition failed to specify the office being sought and was disqualified.

  • Dematra Wallace's petition for Ward 3, District 9, was ruled ineligible as the circulator was not a registered Democrat.

Mayor Mapp challenged several other petitions from the Brown team on the following grounds, on which Clerk Jalloh did not rule --

Ward 2, District 10: Invalid signatures on petition of Claudette Thompson;

Ward 3, District 6:  forged signatures alleged on petitions of Anna Sutton and Wydell Sutton;

Ward 3, District 7:  forged signatures alleged on petitions of Daniel Williamson and Michelle Gallaway Williamson; and

Ward 3, District 10: forged signatures alleged on petition of Alma I. Watkins.
Clerk Jalloh advised Chairman Mapp that if any determinations were deemed unsatisfactory (for instance, in the case of the alleged forgeries), the matter could be pursued in a court of competent jurisdiction (that would be Union County Superior Court).

But these apparently are not all the Brown team's unforced errors.

Because their petitions for Freeholder were disqualified on filing day for being filed with the Plainfield Clerk's office instead of the Union County Clerk, former Mayor Sharon Robinson Briggs and her running mate Erica Brown were prevented from giving Tracey Brown's team more heft in the drawing for ballot positions by having candidates running for county as well as local office.

Last, but not least, Brown's Ward 4 Council candidate Terri Briggs appears to have run afoul of ELEC regulations by starting a GoFundMe fundraising page before she had filed with ELEC as a candidate for public office.

With all these issues, Tracey Brown's team will have an uphill challenge painting themselves as competent and trustworthy as the campaign unfolds.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

More on Tuesday BOE meeting, including Rutherford 'recusal'

Was Rutherford's recusal cuckoo or did he really have a conflict?

There were three more matters of interest from the Plainfield Board of Education's Tuesday meeting besides the transfer of former Superintendent of Schools Anna Belin-Pyles to her former position.

The first was Board president Emily Morgan's decision to begin the meeting by taking action on the Belin-Pyles matter and a walk-on resolution that appointed Dr. Sheard the Acting Superintendent

It is the presiding officer's prerogative to take up agenda items in the order the chair wishes. What happened, though, by taking the resolutions first and out of order was to technically deprive the public from an opportunity to comment or ask questions before the vote was taken.

When challenged on the point by audience member David Graves, Morgan let him speak even though she did not formally yield the floor. This opened the door for another audience member to ask a question, which Morgan answered.

Not much of a kerfuffle, but definitely an unusual move.

The second was BOE member David Rutherford's decision to recuse himself on both resolutions.

The usual procedure is to vote with or against a motion, or to abstain. (There is another maneuver -- "present, not voting" -- which is used in Congressional votes primarily to establish that a quorum is present (see more here).

To recuse oneself is done when a person either has a conflict of interest over the matter (or person) at hand, or is believed to be unable to act impartially.

In either event, I have never seen the recusal statement made during the voting itself. Normally, the person who wishes to recuse themself addresses the presiding officer before discussion or deliberations begin, advising that they are recusing themselves and will participate in neither the deliberations nor the vote.

Maybe we should just chalk it up as another "Weird NJ' story.

Finally, the report on Food Services by BOE member Lynn Anderson was a model of how these reports can be done effectively.

Anderson began with an overview of concerns raised by students and Board members and detailed her meetings with Aramark (the vendor) representatives to address the District's concerns.

It was quite a lengthy report that ended by summarizing the state of affairs from the Board's point of view at the moment.

Two Aramark representatives (a regional manager, and the Plainfield manager) were on hand to answer any other questions the Board or the public had.

Questions got down to the nitty-gritty and both the company representatives and community members seemed satisfied that it was an excellent and fair conversation. In fact, one community member was moved to come to the mike and praise Anderson for the manner in which the report had been handled -- suggesting it should be used as a template for future committee reports.

I'll second that motion.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Plainfield Board of Ed transfers Belin-Pyles; Sheard to be Acting Superintendent

With eight members present (Terrence Bellamy was absent), the Plainfield Board of Education approved the transfer of former Superintendent of Schools Anna Belin-Pyles to her former position as Director of Student Intervention and Family Support Services, effective April 12.

BOE member John Campbell announced he was voting 'no' on the motion and member Richard Wyatt also commented, though his remarks were inaudible (and I was sitting in the front row).

With the recusal of David Rutherford, the vote was 5-2 in favor of the motion.

The second action item for the evening was a resolution making Dr. Debra Sheard the Acting Superintendent.

Pending approval by the County Executive Superintendent, Dr. Sheard would serve until the Board appoints a full-time Superintendent, or until it appoints an Interim Superintendent or until the close of business on June 30, whichever comes first.

At that point Dr. Sheard would resume her position as Assistant Superintendent.

The resolution again passed 5-2, with Rutherford recusing himself.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Plainfield Board of Ed set to take up Superintendent issue tonight

Resolution of this long-standing matter
is expected this evening.

The Plainfield Board of Ed plans to bring a measure of closure to the matter of the status of Anna Belin-Pyles, who is looking to transfer from her position as Superintendent to her prior position as Director of Student Intervention and Family Support Services. Action is expected to be taken at tonight's (April 11) Work/Study meeting.

After the switch was approved by the NJ Commissioner of Education on March 21, the Board originally scheduled the resolution to effect the change for last week's aborted work/study meeting.

At last Wednesday's budget presentation, it was state publicly that the matter would be addressed "next Tuesday" (April 11).

Over the weekend, the agenda was posted to the website, duly containing the pertinent resolution.

Owing to expected large turnout, the Work/Study session has been schedule for 8:00 PM in the PHS Cafeteria.

Enacting this resolution will give the green light to the Board to declare the Superintendent's office vacant and begin to move on the process of searching for a new superintendent.

Parking available in the Kenyon Avenue lot, with entry directly from the parking lot.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Holy Week in Plainfield is devoted to the 2017 Budget

Citizen volunteers will scrutinize the numbers.

As Plainfield enters Holy Week, the agenda is full of consideration of the CY2017 Budget from Monday through Thursday --
MONDAY - April 10
A public hearing in the CY2017 Introduced Budget is slated for 8:00 PM in the City Council Chambers / Courthouse, East 4th Street and Watchung Avenue. The hearing will take place during the regular Council business meeting.
TUESDAY - April 11
The Citizens Budget Advisory Commission (CBAC) takes up the Department of Public Affairs and Safety. This covers the Police and Fire Divisions. CBAC meetings are open to the public and take place in the City Hall Library, beginning at 7:00 PM. Parking and entry from the lot behind City Hall.
WEDNESDAY - April 12
On Wednesday, the CBAC will go over the budget proposed for the Department of Administration and Finance, the city's largest department. CBAC meetings are open to the public and take place in the City Hall Library, beginning at 7:00 PM. Parking and entry from the lot behind City Hall.
THURSDAY - April 13
On Maundy Thursday, the CBAC will continue its review with the Department of Public Works and Urban Development. , which includes Planning, Public Works and Recreation, among others. CBAC meetings are open to the public and take place in the City Hall Library, beginning at 7:00 PM. Parking and entry from the lot behind City Hall.
Friday is a good day to meditate on what all of this means.

Holy Saturday is one of the shortest services in the Christian calendar, and also one of the most dramatic. If your religious community observes it, do not dawdle or you will miss it.

With sundown on Saturday, the Easter Vigil begins with the blessing of a new fire, a new Paschal candle, the singing of the ancient Exsultet, the baptism of the catechumens and the first mass of Easter.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Plainfield's Mapp named 'Mayor of the Year'

Mayor Mapp with his awards; Public Safety Director Carl
Riley is behind him.

The Plainfield contingent poses with Mayor Mapp.

Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp was named 'Mayor of the Year' at the Gateway Regional Chamber of Commerce's 28th annual Mayor's Dinner this past Thursday (April 6) in Elizabeth.

The good-natured competition is a feature of each year's banquet. This year, Mapp was up against the mayors of Linden (Derek Armstead), Rahway (Samson Steinman) and Union (Manuel Figueiredo).

Each mayor gave a 5-minute presentation; Mapp's highlighted Plainfield's aggressive economic development projects under his leadership.

Since Mapp was sworn in January 2014, more than fifty projects have been finished, are currently under way, or are in the planning/permitting stages. Completed projects can be found throughout the city and include a large age-restricted apartment building between Roosevelt and Westervelt Avenues, a warehouse and offices for ABC Building Supplies on South Second Street and a new Dunkin' Donuts at West Front Street and Clinton Avenue.

Developer Frank Cretella is putting the finishing touches on two project that anchor Gavett Place, steps from the Plainfield Train Station, and conversions of the former Sears store and the Red Cross Building, both on West Front Street, are proceeding apace.

This is in addition to two large residential projects on South Avenue and on South Second Street. All of this is exciting because for decades almost nothing transpired in Plainfield (the only exception being the County Office Building, which was brought to fruition by the late mayor Al McWilliams and Assemblyman Jerry Green).

Mapp's short speech brought attendees to their feet with thunderous applause (see video here), according to a press release. He was also awarded a trophy for 'Best Speaker of the Night'.

"What I do as Mayor, I do because I love and care for my community, the City of Plainfield," Mapp said. "To be recognized for doing what is right and what you love is a blessing. I can’t do it alone, and I share this moment with members of the City Council, members of my administration and the people of this Queen City who share my vision for a greater Plainfield."

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Reader points out BOE member Rutherford's weirdness

David Rutherford, devil's advocate?

Regarding Board of Ed member David Rutherford's intemperate outburst this past week, a reader points out his inconsistency --

David is disingenuous at best! When he says 5 board members didn't show up, he is complaining about his own running mates, Terrence [Bellamy Sr.] and Carletta [Jeffers]--what's up with that?? I usually think he is more on the ball than this--but the vitriol about "Mapp's board members" is just plain weird, since his friend Terrence was absent.
Was David just having a bad day?

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Easter Egg Hunt Saturday at Cedar Brook Park

The Easter Egg Hunt begins at 10:15 AM

Plainfield's Division of Parks and Recreation is sponsoring an Easter Egg Hunt Saturday (April 8) at 10:15 AM SHARP in Cedar Brook Park. The hunt will last until all eggs are found.

It will take place in the grove across the street from the back of the Hartwyck at Cedarbrook Nursing Home.

There will be a petting zoo, games, kite flying and more.

The first 200 children will receive a free chocolate bunny.

Families should bring their own baskets to collect eggs.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Friday, April 7, 2017

(Board of Ed) Member David Rutherford is an embarrassment, Board plugs $8M budget shortfall

Rutherford rants; Board averts budget shortfall.

Plainfield Board of Ed member David Rutherford took a page from the Donald Trump playbook in an angry rant posted to his blog Tuesday evening (see here): when something that doesn't make you look good comes up, stir up a fuss over a different issue where you might look better.

By this time, everyone knows (or should know) that the Board is struggling with moving the district ahead in educational outcomes. Before that can be done, the problem of what to do about the Superintendent must be resolved,

Anna Belin Pyles is a nice person (I have known her for many years), but she is in way over her head as Superintendent. Morale among teachers and staff is abysmal. The only strategy seems to be to constantly shuffle staff around like chess pieces.

Teachers don't know what to expect next. Students cannot thrive in an atmosphere of so much turmoil.

What does Rutherford do?

He blames all the issues in the District on Mayor Mapp, ignoring his own role as a Board member in the situation entirely.

He admits he was planning to "start a conversation" on food service at the Tuesday board meeting. Food service?

Even as David's fingers were typing those words, reporters for Gannett papers were working to absorb the news from the state's release of the 2015-16 School Performance Report (here) (story posted on the Courier's website Wednesday afternoon, see here).

While David was fussing about the state of student meals, he was able to deflect his readers from Plainfield's appalling performance in the PARCC tests, one way to make comparisons between various school districts throughout the state.

Whatever you think of the PARCC tests, at least it is a uniform standard. Every district's students are evaluated on their proficiency in English and math, among other concerns.

How does Plainfield compare?

The percentage meeting or exceeding expectations in English language proficiency was 15 percent. Compare that to Franklin Township (47%) and North Plainfield (37%), two communities with demographic similarities to Plainfield.

In math, Plainfield came in at 6%, compared to North Plainfield (16%).

What is David doing about boosting this distressing performance instead of ignoring it?

On Wednesday evening, the Board of Ed's presentation on the revised budget for 2017-18 included news that the $8M shortfall was being addressed (through attrition, among other measures) and there would be no layoffs of security and other personnel as originally proposed.

With state funding flat from year to year, plus a cap on how much school taxes can be raised (a maximum of 2% per year), the alternatives going forward are either raising cash from other sources or cutting expenses (through layoffs or outsourcing).

There was some talk (including suggestions from audience members) about getting more grants by hiring grant writers or establishing an educational foundation as a fundraising arm.

(The foundation suggestion puzzled me, as I distinctly remember a fuss over having established just such a foundation quite a number of years ago. What ever happened to it?).

There will be more opportunities for community input on the budget before the mandatory submission date of May 12.

This includes next Tuesday's meeting (April 11), at which -- it seems possible -- the Superintendent question may be finally resolved. Check the District website for location of the meeting.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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