BoE Recap 10/16/2007
Here’s the recap from the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday evening. All nine members of the Board were present. Theresa Minutillo, President, Francis Rhodes-Kearns, Vice-President, James Farina, Carmelo Garcia, Carrie Gilliard, Rose Markle, Frank Raia, Anthony Romano, and Tricia Snyder.
Report of the Superintendent of Schools
Superintendent Jack Raslowsky began by thanking the Board for their ongoing work and thanking the public for their presence. He mentioned that the Board meetings are now available for viewing on Cablevision Channel 77, but only the first hour of the last meeting was being shown because of a technical snafu that should be remedied once Patrick Ricciardi, the city’s Information Technology Officer, returns from Israel.
Board President Theresa Minutillo reminded Board members that those attending the school board association convention in Atlantic City must submit a short summary of their participation in activities. She also reminded members that the board is conducting a self-evaluation that, with the help of the NJSBA, will help create a professional development program for the board and help to set its goals.
Tricia Snyder, Chair of the Finance Committee, stated that there were two RFQ’s submitted for the district’s public relations position, both of which were over the expected budget cost. The two firms were asked to itemize their costs so that their proposals can be compared more accurately.
New: The public is now invited to comment on agenda items on which the Board will take action.
Former Board member Theresa Burns addressed an item on the agenda that will have major ramifications for the Hoboken school system so long as it remains an Abbott district. She stated her belief that the nepotism policy – on the agenda for first reading – is fundamentally flawed. Employees with family connections would not be able to move up the pay scale, as that is a form of promotion prohibited by the new policy. Such employees would also be unable to apply for extracurricular activities. Theresa suggested that it will be difficult to determine who is related to whom, and pointed out that the restrictions do not extend to political affiliations and friendships.
Read the rest of the recap after the jump.
Nepotism Policy – 1st Reading
As per NJ state law, Abbott school districts must adopt state hiring guidelines with regard to the hiring and promotion of individuals related to Board members and school administrators. The definition of “relative” in the policy conforms with the NJ statute definition:
52:13D-21.2 Restrictions on certain State employment for certain relatives of State employees, officers; definition.
13.d. As used in this section, “relative” means an individual’s spouse or the individual’s or spouse’s parent, child, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, grandparent, grandchild, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, stepparent, stepchild, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother or half sister, whether the relative is related to the individual or the individual’s spouse by blood, marriage or adoption.
No relative of a Board member or administrator may be hired to be employed in an office or position in the district. Those employed on the effective date of the policy are not affected in their current positions, nor are those who are employed prior to a relative becoming a board member or administrator. District officers and employees may not supervise or exercise authority over relatives. District officers who have an immediate family member who is a member of a bargaining unit are prohibited from discussing, negotiating, or voting on the proposed collective bargaining agreement.
Failure to institute and comply with the new policy will result in a withholding of Abbott funds from the state:
18A:55-2. Withholding of funds from district
The commissioner shall direct the State treasurer to withhold funds payable by the State from any district which fails to obey the law or the rules or directions of the State board or the commissioner.
The Board voted 9-0 to table the reading of the policy until members have had more time to review it. The Board may act to enhance or clarify the policy, but the basics as determined by the state must be adopted as is. Board member Carrie Gilliard suggested adding language that would require applicants to submit a mandatory disclosure form.
The state administrative code that requires the new policy: NJAC – Abbott BOE
Item #1: All minutes that were to be submitted for review and approval were pulled from the agenda at the request of the board clerk, Anthony David, as he needed additional time to revise them. Board member and Hoboken City Clerk James Farina opined that the preparation of minutes is time-consuming and questioned why they have to be prepared.
Item #15: The Board voted 9-0 to approve $16,500 in funding for positions relating to the school play “The Odyssey.”
Item # 27A: The Board voted 5-4 to table the appointment of Gary Enrico, president of the teachers’ union, as coordinator of the Saturday U Program, an enrichment program
(Yes to table: Gilliard, Markle, Raia, Snyder, Minutillo).
Superintendent Raslowsky stated that the program could not start as a result, and suggested that he might not put the position back up for approval and “subject the superintendent and director to such embarrassment” and that he “wouldn’t do that to the board… sometimes the board has enough rope to hang themselves.” In what may have been a borderline ethical violation, Raslowsky added that “the voters will speak… it’s fundamentally flawed in terms of its logic. I think it’s a terrible decision. The board’s entitled to make terrible decisions, but I can tell you, if I were Mike Mullins, the lead on the front page of the paper on Sunday would be ‘Board Cuts Saturday Youth to Pressure Union President.” He further added that “if I were running for the board, what I would do is, first campaign literature I would do, against anyone I was running with, they voted against the Saturday U program.”
Rose Markle stated that she did not agree to table because of union negotiations. She said that she would be glad to reconsider the tabling and vote on the appointment, and would give her reasons for her vote. The Board voted 7-2, with Gilliard and Raia against, to put the item back on the agenda. After more discussion, the Board voted 7-2, with Markle and Minutillo voting against, to approve the appointment.
The fact that all the teaching recommendations for the Saturday U program were appointed by Enrico prior to his appointment as director suggests that he’d already been tacitly “OK’d” by the superintendent for the position. A source knows of one individual who’d applied for the position and was never called for an interview.
School Board Administrator’s Agenda
No notable items. Farina again raised discussion of the non-contractual employees that had not received raises last year.
Connors parent Maureen Sullivan expressed her frustration with the Saturday U program. A member of the parents’ committee to improve the program, she stated it was a mess. She said that the children complain that they do the same thing every year, from third grade through sixth grade. Efforts to make change have effectively been stymied by the hiring of the same director and teachers. Sullivan stated that parents were hoping to make it more of an academic program (Saturday U started out as a gifted & talented program), with less emphasis on the art and dance components.
Sullivan also pointed out that the position was advertised in May, but not presented to the board for approval until now. She also expressed her disbelief that “the superintendent raised the issue of a board election to try to shout you all down…if you rubber-stamp what he says, that’s fine. If you speak out and have your own opinion, you’re…you’re going to be punished at the next election. It’s just outrageous to me that a superintendent would bring up…a non-political person would bring up politics at a meeting to try to shout you down. I appreciate everyone who spoke out and had their opinion about this.”
Sullivan then commented that she believes that there are a great many out-of-district students attending school in Hoboken. Raslowsky disagreed, and challenged her to produce a list of names. He suggested “let’s invite a speaker in to tell us about, you know, the pink fairies flying around on Clinton Street, that are distracting the students. Hey, it’s fallacy, it’s fiction. You can tolerate it, but it’s ridiculous.”
Third Ward Councilman Michael Russo took issue with the nepotism policy, suggesting that with all the prohibited relations, millions of people would be affected, and congratulated the board for tabling the item. Having arrived two-and-a-half hours late, Russo was unaware that the superintendent and board attorney had advised the board earlier that the policy must be adopted with all the state-mandated prohibitions or the district would risk losing Abbott funding.
The Board went into closed session to receive an update on negotiations with the teachers’ union.