Thursday, April 13, 2006

School Board Candidates Share Views

About 70 residents filled the Plainfield Public Library’s meeting room Thursday to hear views of school board candidates at the annual League of Women Voters forum.

Voters must choose winners Tuesday (April 18, 2006) from a field of seven candidates for three three-year seats. The polls open at 2 p.m. and close at 9 p.m. Voters will also have their say on a budget question that has been virtually unchanged for years, a $17.6 million local school tax levy, for the 2006-07 school year part of a $151.3 million budget heavily augmented by state and federal aid.

The candidates are incumbent Lisa Logan -Leach, running on a slate with newcomers Reno B. Wilkins and Claudette Lovely-Brown; Rasheed Abdul-Haqq, running with incumbent Patricia Barksdale; and solo contenders Nan Anderson and David Graves.

Moderator Dawn Clarke, from another LWV chapter, fielded written questions from the audience, including a couple she found perplexing without knowing the city’s special problems with state school construction funding.

Baffled by inquiries on what will become of Jefferson and Emerson schools, Clarke got answers that Emerson remains a hole in the ground and Jefferson’s disposition also relies on how the district can shift needs among its various buildings.

The district established a “swing school” on West Front Street designed to accommodate schools that were expected to be demolished and reconstructed under a comprehensive plan set by the New Jersey Schools Construction Corporation. But as officials realized the corporation had used up all its funds with many projects pending, plans became amorphous.

The candidates said Emerson’s fate is not yet known and Jefferson students were shifted to the swing school because a student population surge in the high school meant administrators had to vacate the old high school, known as the North Building. Because the swing school could not be used for staff, the administration took over Jefferson School and sent pupils to the swing school.

But Jefferson now accommodates only about 40 employees, as opposed to a couple of hundred students, candidate Claudette Lovely- Brown said.

Other speakers said the switch was poorly communicated to parents and an outcry resulted in the district having to provide transportation from Jefferson to the new site.

In all, candidates said communication between the board and administration must be improved, schools must be made safer, parental involvement must increase, positive school events and achievements must be better publicized.

Asked what they hoped to accomplish if given three-year terms, candidates varied in their responses.

Barksdale said she hoped for a code of conduct that staff, students, parents and administration would agree on.

Anderson cited past wars on poverty and drugs and said she wanted a “war on miseducation.”

Lovely-Brown said she wanted the achievement gap closed, a decrease in truancy and a decrease in transfers by students to outside schools at the fifth-grade level.

Logan-Leach wanted a return of the DARE anti-drug program, more town hall meetings with city officials and more advanced placement courses.

Williams wanted to see Plainfield students competing “on a level playing field.“

Abdul-Haqq envisioned a partnership with Princeton University to aid in staff development.

Graves projected a board that would work together to fill the achievement gap in the district.

Wilkins called for more accountability and asked whether the board had to respond to the school superintendent or vice versa.

The event was videotaped and will be offered to Plainfield’s local origination Channel 74 for rebroadcast.

--Bernice Paglia


Post a Comment

<< Home