BoE Meeting 12/18/2007 Recap
Recap of this Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. Read about the nepotism policy, employee raises, departmental audit, community videotaping and more!
Board of Education Recap
The Board of Education held a regular meeting on Tuesday evening. All nine members of the Board were present.
The agenda contains the district’s new videotaping policy as well as the proposed nepotism policy.
Nepotism Policy – Maybe Later?
State law requires that Abbott school districts must adopt state hiring guidelines with regard to the hiring and promotion of individuals related to Board members and school administrators. Two months ago, Board members voted unanimously to table a resolution adopting such a policy so that they might have more time to consider the specifics of the policy. At Board President Theresa Minutillo’s request, the resolution was placed on this month’s agenda for consideration.
Board member James Farina reiterated his belief that there is a Constitutional problem with the policy. Board member Frank Raia asked how many other Abbott districts had adopted such policies. School Board Attorney Joseph Morano indicated that he was aware of six that had done so, but was not sure of the actual number. Citing risk of lawsuits and his belief that the state’s Abbott funding policy was in flux, Raia introduced an amended resolution, asking that the district not adopt the nepotism policy until all of the other 30 Abbott districts have done so.
The amended resolution passed 5-4, with Carrie Gilliard, Rose Markle, Tricia Snyder, and Theresa Minutillo voting against. Despite the non-adoption of a policy, however, the district is nevertheless obligated to comply with the state’s hiring guidelines which served as the basis for the district policy. Non-compliance with the state law puts the $4 million in Abbott funding the district receives for the Early Childhood program at risk.
Read more about this week’s meeting after the break.
Raises – No Employee Left Behind?
More controversy ensued with the continuing problem of five non-union employees who, for reasons yet unclear, had not received raises for the 2006-7 school year. Prior to the meeting, the Board Finance Committee had asked for a freeze on all raises until after contract negotiations with the teachers have concluded. The committee recommended a cost-of-living increase of 3.1%, while Superintendent Jack Raslowsky had been suggesting a 4% raise. His recommendation on Tuesday’s agenda called for a 5% increase for the 2006-7 year and a 5% increase from July 1, 2007 to date, paid retroactively.
The Board voted 5-4 against the recommendation, with James Farina, Carmelo Garcia, Anthony Romano, and Francis Rhodes-Kearns voting for the raises as recommended. Discussion on the vote continued, and the Board went into Executive Session – closed to the public – on the recommendation of the Board Attorney as is customary in discussion of specific personnel matters. Once back in regular session, the Board voted 5-4 again against the recommendation.
Community Liason – Social Butterfly?
The Superintendent recommended the appointment of Nellie Moyeno as Community Liaison, effective January 1, 2008 – June 30, 2008 at a salary of $45,000, pro-rated ($22,500). Moyeno will act as a social networker, attending community events and representing the school system’s community outreach program.
Board President Theresa Minutillo calls the creation of the position “fiscally irresponsible with no justification.” Minutillo and Rose Markle were concerned that they had not been provided with a job description, resume, or references. Markle noted that the job listing was posted on section of the district’s website available only available to current employees, and had not been publicly advertised. Moyeno was the sole applicant for the position. Superintendent Raslowsky defended the process, stating that the position was for a short term and could be filled in-house.
Moyeno had been employed in the district’s Even Start Literacy Program, the grant funding for which had run out in October. Moyeno was elected to the City Council in 1993, running on former Mayor Anthony Russo’s slate. Her nephew, Robert Crespo, served on the Board of Education and was employed as Confidential Aide to Mayor Russo.
Audit Report – A Look at the Books
Dieter Lerch, CPA, of Lerch, Vinci, & Higgins, LLP, presented the district’s financial audit for the 2006-7 year. The audit revealed a number of deficiencies to be corrected.
- The payroll department had forgotten to send in payroll taxes for one month and not discovered the error until ten months later, resulting in a $98,000 fine for the district.
- The high school’s student activities fund, handled by former Superintendent and High School Principal Patrick Gagliardi, was missing documentation and statements, with some disbursements that appeared not to be related to student activities functions.
- Over $100,000 was paid to Enterprise Car Rental, exceeding the $25,000 threshold that requires such expenses to go out to bid.
- Louis Picardo, who earned $141,734 as tax collector for the City of Hoboken in 2006, had received a stipend of several thousand dollars to act as Treasurer of school monies.
The Treasurer is responsible for bank reconciliations for all required accounts and preparation of monthly Treasurer’s reports. Apparently, the school business office – which by law should not be preparing the reports – had been doing so on the Treasurer’s behalf. The audit recommended that the Treasurer fulfill his duties as required.
The hard numbers: For the 2006-7 year, the district spent $57,329,106 for its 2,226 students, which includes the pre-K programs for 3 and 4-year-olds.
Videotaping – Everyone’s a Star, Like It Or Not
The Board unanimously approved the new videotaping policy, which allows members of the public to record meetings, including the public portion, in accordance with the recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision, Tarus v. Pine Hill. Restrictions are placed only on the location and manner of recording so as to not interfere with, obstruct, or disturb the public proceedings.
Teacher’s Aide or Pot Washer – To Which Shall We Aspire?
A position for part-time pot washer was approved at $8.00/hour. Teachers’ aides were granted an increase from $7.50 to $8.25/hour, effective January 1, 2008, so as to not pay them less than the pot washer.
Minutes Take Weeks or Months
The Board Secretary’s preparation of minutes from past meetings grinds on, moving ever closer to achieving an up-to-date, complete, and accurate status.
The student choir, under the direction of Bob Meyers and accompanied by Demarest High School Principal Tom Fitzgibbons on bass, performed for the Board and audience.