Board of Education

As a longtime resident (decades) who’s kids long ago left the school system, I continue to wonder what the priorities of the Board of Education are. Reports of misconduct, investigations, personality clashes seem to be the headlines, 

How about focusing on quality education, best practices, and outcomes?

Today’s report that there will be no courtesy bussing restored because there isnt “enough time” is a classic example.

Someone with some sense (maybe the State of NJ )should take a deep dive and clean up what seems to be a mess,


stateguy said:


Someone with some sense (maybe the State of NJ )should take a deep dive and clean up what seems to be a mess,

Be careful what you wish for...


I agree, though, that it seems to be constant infighting on that board.  We have to do better, or at least be told what all of the fighting is about and where candidates stand so we can vote intelligently.  


The current BOE is an embarrassment.


I believe the recent additions to the BOE come with a greater toolset to collaborate and solve problems based on their real-world experience.  Many of this year's new candidates seem to possess similar skills.  I look forward to not pulling the lever (or whatever new-fangled voting machine process they'll throw at me) for any incumbents certainly. 


This November, there are three spots up for election. Board President Thair Joshua and Member Erin Siders are not running for re-election. Board Member Johanna Wright is running for re-election. Though I know someone above said they would be against any incumbents, it's fair to say that Ms. Wright has persistently raised concerns about various efforts put forth by the informally aligned group that has made up the BOE's governing majority for many years, as well as the BOE's dysfunction. While she's an incumbent, I don't think it's accurate to say that voting for her re-election is an endorsement of "more of the same."

Mr. Joshua and Ms. Siders are part of the majority group and the folks who have backed them and others from the majority group seem to be supporting Ritu Pancholy and Will Meyer.

Others running are Regina Eckert, Bill Gifford and Nubia DuVall Wilson, whose statement is linked here:

https://villagegreennj.com/election/nubia-duvall-wilson-candidate-for-south-orange-maplewood-board-of-education/


Johanna Wright has been a board member for quite some time.  What solutions has she proposed?  Any member of the community who pays attention can raise concerns.  A board member, however, has some capacity to do something about it.


tjohn said:

Johanna Wright has been a board member for quite some time.  What solutions has she proposed?  Any member of the community who pays attention can raise concerns.  A board member, however, has some capacity to do something about it.

I'll let Ms. Wright and her campaign speak to her specific proposals and plans. From my perspective, she is in the minority of what is currently a 6-3 breakdown among the BOE's groups (some might call them "factions," though I think it's a little looser than that), so her ability to get her proposals passed is very limited. However, on numerous occasions as other members have raced through one proposal or another, she's the one who has raised questions about the real-world impact on students and families. Just my opinion, of course. 

The point I was trying to make is that though she is the only incumbent running, it's more complicated than simply assuming that she's responsible for the way the BOE is currently run, because she's often trying to slow down or stop the majority group and has been criticized in meetings and online for doing so. 


In the past, I have found Johanna Wright's questions, votes, and slowing down to be more about increasing confusion and getting the spotlight on her -- rather than designed to be informative, thoughtful, or solution-focused. 

Johanna Wright and Melissa Malespina, supported a move by Kaitlin Wittleder, even though the legal counsel strongly advised against it. This type of maneuvering in the gray area of legal to make a point against other BOE members, and get attention is self-serving, and could cost our district in litigation (again). 

Ms. Malespina in particular seems to aim for the punitive: Having our district make payouts, rather than helping to be proactive in addressing district problems, or trying to solve the problems internally. This group's approach increases how much we get hit in our pocketbooks unnecessarily. I would rather have a BOE that works proactively and collaboratively to fix our many problems -- not play 'gotcha' using our budget.

https://villagegreennj.com/schools-kids/investigation-revealed-as-motion-to-remove-south-orange-maplewood-board-of-ed-2nd-vice-president-fails/?source=newsletter


chalmers said:

tjohn said:

Johanna Wright has been a board member for quite some time.  What solutions has she proposed?  Any member of the community who pays attention can raise concerns.  A board member, however, has some capacity to do something about it.

I'll let Ms. Wright and her campaign speak to her specific proposals and plans. From my perspective, she is in the minority of what is currently a 6-3 breakdown among the BOE's groups (some might call them "factions," though I think it's a little looser than that), so her ability to get her proposals passed is very limited. However, on numerous occasions as other members have raced through one proposal or another, she's the one who has raised questions about the real-world impact on students and families. Just my opinion, of course. 

The point I was trying to make is that though she is the only incumbent running, it's more complicated than simply assuming that she's responsible for the way the BOE is currently run, because she's often trying to slow down or stop the majority group and has been criticized in meetings and online for doing so. 

Joanna Wright has always positioned herself as the outsider, but she has been on the BOE for a long time now. She does speak up, raise objections, and ask questions but she doesn't offer much in the way of solutions.

However, she is currently one of the few that are standing up to the current power brokers on the BOE.  Thair Joshua has, in my opinion, been a disaster as BOE president.  I didn't think things could get worse after Annemarie Maini.  I'm glad he had decided not to seek re-election.


sprout said:

In the past, I have found Johanna Wright's questions, votes, and slowing down to be more about increasing confusion and getting the spotlight on her -- rather than designed to be informative, thoughtful, or solution-focused. 

Johanna Wright and Melissa Malespina, supported a move by Kaitlin Wittleder, even though the legal counsel strongly advised against it. This type of maneuvering in the gray area of legal to make a point against other BOE members, and get attention is self-serving, and could cost our district in litigation (again). 

Ms. Malespina in particular seems to aim for the punitive: Having our district make payouts, rather than helping to be proactive in addressing district problems, or trying to solve the problems internally. This group's approach increases how much we get hit in our pocketbooks unnecessarily. I would rather have a BOE that works proactively and collaboratively to fix our many problems -- not play 'gotcha' using our budget.

https://villagegreennj.com/schools-kids/investigation-revealed-as-motion-to-remove-south-orange-maplewood-board-of-ed-2nd-vice-president-fails/?source=newsletter

What happened was that Board Member Qawi Telesford used internal CHS floor plans as part of a presentation to support the $8 million pool plan. This created a potential security risk, which he should have been aware of as head of the BOE’s Safety and Security Committee. Board Member Wittleder wanted to bring this to the community’s attention and the BOE attorney said she shouldn’t without naming a specific rule or procedure why. She raised the issue and as a result, a motion was made to remove her as the Board’s second vice president. After 45 minutes of contentious debate, the vote came out 4-4, so she remains as VP2.

I think there were probably several off-ramps where either side could have handled things better. But as your criticism of the three Board Members (Wright, Malespina and Wittleder) shows, they’re generally in the minority of a 6-3 split. Community members happy with the BOE’s work and direction in recent years might be inclined to favor the candidates affiliated with the majority, while those looking for a change might want to consider the other candidates.


The change I'm looking for is from dysfunctional to functional. There are contributors to the dysfunction in both 'cliques'. But I disagree with the approach of the minority, which has lesser power, to use gray area legal things against the majority, in order to push their minority points of view. I disagree that their approach or perspectives should become the majority. 

For example, Ms. Malespina lost her previous bid for BOE (in my opinion, for good reason) -- but she did a very good job with her PR in the 2020 election. If she was more up-front with her real views and approaches, she may not have succeeded. Her win was very slim, and required counting the provisional votes.


To be fair, the margin of victory doesn't matter.  I feel like opacity is the buzz word for the BOE.


They continue also to outright refuse to bus out of district students, which this district had done for years if not decades prior to the Covid excuse.  Almost like a childish punishment for parents opting out of this mess.


BarneyGumble said:

They continue also to outright refuse to bus out of district students, which this district had done for years if not decades prior to the Covid excuse.  Almost like a childish punishment for parents opting out of this mess.

The Covid excuse?  You mean the one where teachers didn't want to risk serious illness and maybe even death?  I suppose we can debate whether or not remote learning needed to last as long as it did, but until vaccines were available it was totally justified.


And why should I pay to bus children whose parents wanted them to go to private school?


I believe public school districts are legally required to provide a stipend if not providing bussing to private schools (I assume the stipends are provided).  It would seem more efficient for the private schools to provide bussing that could be paid into using the stipends, rather than having each public district provide/organize a separate bus service to multiple private schools.


sprout said:

I believe public school districts are legally required to provide a stipend if not providing bussing to private schools (I assume the stipends are provided).  It would seem more efficient for the private schools to provide bussing that could be paid into using the stipends, rather than having each public district provide/organize a separate bus service to multiple private schools.

Correct. 

https://www.state.nj.us/education/finance/transportation/procedures/np_proc.pdf


tjohn said:

And why should I pay to bus children whose parents wanted them to go to private school?

Because the Rule of Law.

https://www.nj.gov/education/code/current/title6a/chap27.pdf


BarneyGumble said:

tjohn said:

And why should I pay to bus children whose parents wanted them to go to private school?

Because the Rule of Law.

https://www.nj.gov/education/code/current/title6a/chap27.pdf

I know the law.  I am questioning the wisdom of said law.


tjohn said:

BarneyGumble said:

tjohn said:

And why should I pay to bus children whose parents wanted them to go to private school?

Because the Rule of Law.

https://www.nj.gov/education/code/current/title6a/chap27.pdf

I know the law.  I am questioning the wisdom of said law.

I second that concern.  I don't believe that taxpayer funds should be used to help parents send their children to private school. And I was surprised when I learned that is the case in NJ. (It's not true everywhere.)  We should be funding better transportation within our district before paying for students to voluntarily go out.  (I'm not talking about special needs OOD placements, but I assume those transportation needs are not in question.)


Does the SOMA school district still receive state funds for students who attend private schools? 

 


Nine-member boards are often dysfunctional messes. Way too many people. Factions are inevitable. 



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