Monday, April 5, 2010

BOE CANDIDATES.

BOE and PSS.
I am not advocating any individual or slate at this point in time. I believe each candidate still merits consideration. Some have a track record others have either broad or narrow agendas. I have yet be able to determine their concept of their fiduciary responsibility and limitations on intervention.

The subject of "slate" and relationships to the local Democrat party once again demonstrates that the concept of the elected board has been bastardized. This is supposed to be a non-political election, however for years there has been political overtones. That is why I would abolish the present format.

But, to return to the issue on hand; I have read today's Plaintalker's comments on the recent BOE Candidates forum. What strikes me as a damnation on the present Board and its predecessors over the past decade its the constant reference by incumbents on the fact that there have been repeated changes over the past 8 years of the CEO, the Superintendent. It is obvious that board members take no responsibility for their fiduciary responsibility in selecting that officer.

I would refer you to today's on-line CN editorial:

It's a shame that incompetence and arrogance in the Plainfield school district no longer are shocking.

On Thursday, the state Department of Education released a scathing report on the circumstances surrounding the hiring of two administrators whose qualifications for the jobs, which carry salaries of more than $100,000, seem only to be that they were cronies of Schools Superintendent Steve Gallon III and previously had worked with him in Florida.

While Gallon's arrogance in hiring these two women and pushing them through the bureaucracy is, to be generous, deplorable and outrageous, what's equally disturbing is the school board's oversight responsibilities apparently are absent to the point of negligence.

The state Department of Education has ordered the school district to develop a corrective action plan so that these shenanigans are corrected and not repeated, but that is like putting locks on the barn doors after the horses have escaped with saddlebags of money.

The reaction of former Plainfield Assistant Superintendent Garnell Bailey, who led the district on an interim basis before Gallon arrived in 2008, is fitting. Bailey, who resigned from the district to take a job in South Jersey, said, "I could not be part of a lie. Bottom line, it was making me sick.''

Bailey's damning words are appropriate. Plainfield residents, who have placed their trust in the school district to provide the best possible education for their children and to spend tax money wisely, also have every right to feel sick.

The report concludes Gallon manipulated and twisted the system, performing administrative somersaults to get the two administrators — Lalelei Kelly and Lesly Borge — on the Plainfield payroll though they did not hold the proper certifications required for the jobs.

Kelly did not have a master's degree when she applied for the job that required a master's degree and did not have the required degree when she was placed on the payroll. She did not complete the requirements for the master's degree until a year after she was collecting a paycheck from the Plainfield school district. In addition, her application for a supervisor certification, another requirement for the job, was denied by the state.

Borge's job also called for supervisor certification, which she did not have.

There are no subtleties here; the two women should not have been hired. They shouldn't even have been considered for the positions.

Bailey, who deserves a medal from Plainfield taxpayers for standing up to Gallon, raised red flags about the appointments, but those warning signs seemingly were ignored by the school board who rolled over for Gallon and approved the two administrators.

Worse, when Union County Superintendent of Schools Carmen Centuolo asked the district to rescind the contracts of Kelly and Borge, Gallon devised a strategy that was breathtakingly cynical. The school board voted to fire the two, then rehire them under slightly different job titles. Those jobs still pay more than $100,000 a year, and the two remain in the jobs though the job titles have not been approved by the county superintendent, which is a requirement.

The school board's decision to go along with Gallon's high jinks is an insult to Plainfield residents who rely on elected board members to exercise the proper oversight. But apparently the board was inexcusably blind to the obvious problems with the two appointments. It doesn't
matter whether the board was lazy or incompetent; its decision not to question Gallon or just to say "no'' to his connivances is unforgivable.

Gallon, who has not even hinted at any sense of contrition, told the Courier News that he will "not be addressing this matter any further outside of the presentation to the board and community and the development of (a) corrective action plan.''

But Gallon and the board cannot sweep this mess under the carpet — the lump it would leave would be too large. The loose ethics rampant through this regrettable episode cannot be tolerated, even if Gallon has improved the district's educational programs.

It's time for the residents of Plainfield to go on April 20 to the polls and deliver their own corrective action plan.

That says it all. However we will have an opportunity at the LWV forum, April 14, to once again judge the candidates, and their responses to the 5 LWV questions. I understand that their written answers will be posted today.


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