Thursday, April 15, 2010

BOE Candidates Meet Public at LWV Forum

In less than a week, voters will choose four school board members from a field of 14 to deal with issues that have catapulted the district into scrutiny by print media, radio, television and most recently, the governor’s office.

Not only has the district lost hundreds of students to charter schools, it has been rocked by controversies over certification of top employees and doubts over Superintendent Steve Gallon III’s leadership. This week, Gov. Chris Christie said he will direct Education Commissioner Bret Schundler to look into the situation, which was already the subject of a report by the state Department of Education’s Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance.

Of the 14 candidates, 10 are seeking three three-year terms. They are incumbents Wilma Campbell, Martin Cox and Christian Estevez and challengers Rasheed Abdul-Haqq, Mary Burgwinkle, Jaclynne Callands, Catherine Crittendon, Danielle Fletcher, Mahogany Hendricks and Renata Hernandez.

Those seeking a one-year unexpired term are Keisha Edwards, Carmencita Pile, Denise Riley and Clayton Tucker Sr.

The election will take place on April 20. Polls will be open from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. All registered voters should have received ballots by now indicating their polling place.

The candidates took part Wednesday in the traditional League of Women Voters of Plainfield Candidates’ Forum at Emerson School. Each candidate was permitted an opening statement and then questions from the audience were presented by moderator Louise Ballard of Hillside before closing statements from the candidates. Organizers said 135 people attended the forum at Emerson School.

Among the themes that emerged Wednesday were a need to bring more accountability to the board and superintendent, as well as more dialogue with the Plainfield Education Association, which is still without a contract after many months of talks. The district also lacks a curriculum, speakers said. In addition, the district is losing students to charter schools and is using programs such as specialized schools and a new K-8 configuration to draw them back.

Candidates formed three slates of four, with two independents. Groups included Abdul-Haqq, Campbell, Edwards and Hernandez; Burgwinkle, Cox, Estevez and Pile; and Callands, Fletcher, Hendricks and Turner. Riley and Crittendon are the independents.

Among quotes from Plaintalker’s notebook on the forum:

Denise Riley: “Stop the corruption that has been going on too long.”

Rasheed Abdul-Haqq: “The biggest problem is that the superintendent does not want to be held accountable, the board does not want to be held accountable.”

Danielle Fletcher: “As a community, we need to demand a curriculum now.”

Renata Hernandez: “A curriculum is the infrastructure of a district and the lifeblood of the children.”

Catherine Crittendon: “Our schools need to be as attractive for learning as the charter schools.”

Keisha Edwards: “The concerns were out there and people just didn’t listen.”

Mahogany Hendricks: “At this point, their questions are not being answered.”

Clayton Tucker Sr.: “I will not make promises I can’t keep.”

Mary Burgwinkle: “We grownups in Plainfield have a responsibility to see that children graduate with the tools they need in the workplace (and beyond).”

Christian Estevez: “Prior to the OFAC report, I knew we had a problem with our hiring practices.”

Carmencita Pile: “I have fresh ideas and can add to an already improved Plainfield school district.”

Jacylnne Callands: “As a wife, mother and youth mentor, I know the value of a good education.”

Martin Cox: “With PEA and PASA (unions), we need quarterly meetings to discuss collaboration.”

Wilma Campbell: “Yes, I took part in the hiring (of Gallon), but I didn’t have a crystal ball.”

--Bernice Paglia


Blogger Chris said...

Dear Bernice,

I want to make it clear that I became aware of the particular problem with the school district’s hiring practices when the County Superintendent brought it to our attention in October of 2009. I am NOT one of the four board members that Garnel Bailey claims she told about the problems over a year ago. In fact, I sat in numerous meetings where Bailey, as the administrator overseeing the Human Resource Department, told the entire board that the delays in finalizing the certifications for the “Florida” people was normal in New Jersey, especially when the employees are from out of state.

My comment about knowing that we had problems related to hiring was in reference to the actions that I initiated as Chairman of the Policy Committee after becoming aware of the scope of the problem during October and November of 2009. It became clear to me that problems with the hiring practices extended far beyond the “Florida” people and that much of it originated prior to the current administration. On November 17, 2009 the Board voted to modify job descriptions and assignments for 16 employees due to problems with the hiring process.

This is why I initiated a public discussion regarding the Board’s policies regarding hiring practices and procedures. I enlisted the help of our representative from the New Jersey School Board’s Association who shared with our entire Board best practices employed by other successful school districts throughout New Jersey. After reviewing these recommendations and after extensive discussion with fellow Board members, as well as those community members that participated in the Policy Committee meeting, I introduced changes to Policy # 4111 (RECRUITMENT, SELECTION AND HIRING) back in January. Policy # 4111 was changed to now require the Superintendent to bring all documentation related to the hiring of new staff to Board of Education meetings so that Board members can review them prior to voting on the appointments as opposed to having to go down to the HR office to view these documents.

While all Board members publicly stated their support for such a change, two Board members (Wilma Campbell and Lisa Logan-Leach) repeatedly voted against it. In fact, these two Board members spent a considerable amount of time at our Board meeting demanding that the Superintendent return to the past practice of bringing these documents to Board meetings. Then, a few minutes later (in the same meeting) Wilma Campbell and Lisa-Logan Leach voted AGAINST the Policy change that they were just advocating for. I am still not clear as to why Wilma Campbell and Lisa-Logan Leach voted NO on the policy change. Wilma Campbell and Lisa-Logan Leach want to talk about fixing our school district, but they refuse to take concrete action to fix it.

Let me be absolutely clear: I am not happy with Garnel Bailey’s mishandling of the Human Resources Department and I am not happy with Dr. Gallon’s failure to recognize the problems with hiring practices and to deal with those matters sooner than he did. As a Board member I can confidently say that I took action on this matter as soon as I became aware of the problem. I did not wait for the OFAC report to tell me that we had a gap in our Policy that needed to be fixed.

These are the facts. The people of Plainfield can read them and decide for themselves. I believe that I have been an effective member of the Plainfield Board of Education. I have done my best to work on reforming a school district that has been dysfunctional for years. I think we are making progress in many areas, but we still have a long way to go. I am looking forward to spending the next three years continuing to push the Plainfield Public School District toward a level of excellence. I hope that the people of Plainfield will give me the opportunity to do so.


Christian Estevez

11:51 AM  
Blogger stevekilduff said...

My mother would never reveal to us kids for whom she had voted. Perhaps she didn't want us to give her grief over Goldwater or Nixon. Maybe she just thought it was a private, almost sacred act. But with all respect to my mom's judgment, here is a list of the candidates who will get my vote. I don't care if anyone agrees; I'm not going to debate. Discuss among yourselves, or post your own list.

Christian Estevez
Danielle Fletcher
Mary Burgwinkle
Keisha Edwards

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

here is mine...Burgwinkle, Fletcher, Pile, and Riley

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear CE,

My, My, My ... it's so easy to tell politicians when you see them. They always "come clean" during times of reelection.

Reviewing your comments almost made me wonder where you've been for the past three years.

In April of 2007, I voted for you. I remember the excitement of casting my vote for the 1st Hispanic man on the Plainfield Board of Education. Our community has changed since I was a student here, and I felt it was important to have representation reflective of our school demographics. I was slightly concerned because your running mate was a "lifelong resident of Plainfield" whose family "has lived here for over 150 years:; however, I believed in YOU! So, you got my vote.

I have watched you closely over these past three years ... listening ... waiting ... hoping to see the 'candidate' turn into the advocate on the Board. But, you have failed me and my community. What you say ... and how you cast your vote ... is mind-boggling to me.

Case in point ...

This is your comment today ...

"Let me be absolutely clear: I am not happy with Garnel Bailey’s mishandling of the Human Resources Department and I am not happy with Dr. Gallon’s failure to recognize the problems with hiring practices and to deal with those matters sooner than he did."

Yet, the record shows:

June 2007 ...
You approved her hiring as Director of Human Resources
December 2007 ...
You approved her hiring as Interim Superintendent/Director of Human Resources
July 2008 ...
You approved her hiring as Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services
June 2009 ...
You approved her continuing as Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services

My question is:

When did you have an issue with Dr. Bailey?

I find it extremely troubling for you to "come clean" regarding your HR concerns LESS THAN A WEEK before your term is up. Is this revelation due to your desire for three more years on the Board? Do you REALLY expect the community to forget/forgive your lack of a backbone during the 36 months we gave you on the Board?

You often speak of having 4 Superintendents during your tenure. Have you ever thought about the times you did not support any of their recommendations? Really, CE, you are NOTHING more than a rubber stamp for whomever sits in that seat. They KNOW they have you by the wallet (and, you know why!).

Lay off the personal attacks of GB. She's no longer an employee here (which is unfortunate), and we all know you're using her as a scapegoat for your last minute campaigning.

No, the people of Plainfield are NOT happy with this current Board. And, NO, the people of Plainfield will NOT give you another opportunity to rubber stamp the CSA.

We're DONE with SG.
We're DONE with CE.
We're DONE with MP.

Can I get a second?

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 3:49 pm: I second your motion!

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

second, and call for the vote

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Estevez,

My question to you would be, Why, if you were uncomfortable with the hiring of these women, did you vote YES. Once the county Superintendent said recind the positions, Why would you vote YES to appoint them to new UNADVERTISED positions? Why do you continue to vote YES to everything? You were also the Policy Chair correct? Yet you allowed Gallon to change the process of hiring which violated the policies that you were charged to oversee. You have voted YES everytime! Now you want to blame Dr. Bailey? You are even throwing Dr. Gallon under the bus. I'm not sure your not in over your head. Maybe you need a break from all of this.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Mr Estevez, today we received a mailing from a union endorsing you and your slate. Shame on them! You have done nothing for the employees' unions and have rubber-stamped every decision of the chief school administrator--that doesn't sound like the behavior of a good union man to me. Shame on you!

And now you're trying to use Bernice's spin-free blog to promote your candidacy and that of your running mates--in six self-serving paragraphs. Shame on you!

Even if you weren't one of the select four BOE members who knew about the problems, you enabled them and the CSA to sweep it all under the rug by voting YES to everything they wanted. Shame on you!


5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


i don't recall bailey hiring anyone during any of her assignments. I remember her appointment of Beth (interm) but she already worked for the district. I remember her advertising the county sup approved positions and appointing some staff for 30 days, but they already worked for the district. Soooo, what hiring practices are you referring to? You should check the agendas that you approved and get your facts straight before you defame a daughter of our community. Oh by the way you just loss my vote for sure!

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My question to Mr. Estevez is why he told the public that his team got no support from unions and yet there's a mailer in my box paid for by a union. I know it says there was no coordinatiom but I don't believe it. Where'd the union get the pictures they used? Why are they the same as on the card from their team? Be honest with the community. It makes me wonder about what other truths he's shading from his time on the board.

6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last part of my post was cut off. Here is the last part.

6. I don't know if you will recall this conversation or not, but three years ago at the LWV debate, a resident walked up to you and asked you how you would deal with the hot and hard votes that you will have to do considering your close ties to the district that could effect you. Mr. Estevez responded that "I would look to Mrs. Logan-Leach since even thou her mother is an employee of the district it does not stop her from speaking up and voting no if need be." In case you do not recall who you were speaking to, that resident you were speaking to was none other than my Mother. Now I ask you have you done what you said you would do?

Mrs. Lisa Logan-Leach

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Bernice,

I see from your first post from Chrisian Estevez, that he is still just as confused as he was on Tuesday during our Business Meeting. I was not going to respond at all, but since he has said my name, I feel that I must do so.

During the meeting, he indicated the exact same thing and I had to provide him with the clarity that he was so much in need of. I see that his need of clarity is still here and I am more than happy to repeat what I had stated in public yet again. I will take his post point by point.

1. If we are to believe what Mr. Estevez has stated in paragraph one, then that potential conversation would have been an item for executive session (IF IT WAS DISCUSSED). Mr. Estevez, as a member of the School Ethics Commission, you do know that human resource items are discussed in exec session.

2. Paragraph 2 speaks to the time period when I was ill in the hospital. I was unable to attend the meetings in October and November 2009 to render my vote.

3. Paragraphs 3 and 4 speak to the policy changes. Yes it is true that I have been an advocate for seeing that the wrongs be corrected. Mr. Estevez gave 0% support to either myself or Mrs. Campbell back in July 2008 when the CSA changed the process of what would be brought to the board before being able to vote on high level positions. Where was your need for clarification at that point? If there had been 5 members of this Board to stand up and say let us take a moment and truly hear what Mrs. Logan-Leach and Mrs. Campbell are speaking about and then lend their support, maybe we would not be in the position we find our district in right now. We had gone thru certification issues before and yet we were the only two who said NO to the change in this process. Don't forget it is about process and not access. Why would you not want all 9 members of the board to see the same information at the same time? If one member sees an item, then it should be seen by all at the same time. My vote of no, as I said on Tuesday, was reflective of the fact that I had asked for additional information to come to us as we were considering this policy. Too bad the policy meeting was not taped since all of the items that I had asked for such as samples of policies from other districts as well as additional information from NJSBA, just to name 2 things, were not presented at either reading. Why would I vote YES to a policy when there was still information needed in order for THIS BOARD MEMBER to be able to vote yes? When I vote yes, that means that I have enough information to vote yes. I do not vote yes just for the sake of voting yes. You state that I "...refuse to take concrete action to fix it". Well if there had been support in July 2008 we would not have a need to create a policy now would we. My vote is concrete.

4. Paragraph 5 The OFAC Report speaks to items that are not just policy related. Where was your support of the motion made by Mrs. Campbell for us to convene a special meeting month after month? Matter of record shows that each time this motion was made so that the board could have time to discuss all of these concerns, you voted NO. Now that is something that I can not figure out. You vote NO for us to be able to have a meeting to deal with the hot issue at hand.

5. Paragraph 6 I do agree with you that the people of Plainfield can and do read very well. They have shown that by attending our meetings and by stating their concerns. Guess what else the people of Plainfield will do, they will go to the polls and they will vote for 4 out of the 14 people running to be elected to this Board of Education.

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


As a taxpayer and registered voter, I find your comments very disturbing. You and the entire board have disgraced this school district and community. You hired Dr.Gallon, paid him almost $200K in salary and forgot that he was your employee. You neglected your duties and you relinquished your authority because you got too comfortable and lazy. When Dr. Gallon took Charge of the district in July 2008 the agenda was immediately changed to say the "The Superintendent verifies", that should have raised some questions for you all. At that point the process was changed and you were not paying attention. You can give up your authority but not your responsibility because the document reads "the Superintendent Recommends and the Board Approves".

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vote the incumbents out!

7:24 PM  
Blogger Bernice said...

At some point I will have to cut off comments to this post, but meanwhile say what you want and the readers can sift for meaning.

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christian Estevez,

Dr. Gallon and the ?BOE underestimated the home town girl from the projects. She has all of her documentation and I have seen it. The cover up has been exposed and you and Dr. Gallon need to go. I'll just be glad when she shares all of the documents with the public.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before you cut off the comments Please post this one.


8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


We won't be played any longer. You need to go!

8:04 PM  
Blogger Norman E. Ortega said...

I have been sitting on the sidelines watching this fiasco unfold. I am appalled at the actions of this Board, even more at the attempted justifications. They do not deserve to be reelected. Their actions have shown a reckless lack of vision, administrative skills, responsibility and independence. This will be my first time voting in the City of Plainfield. I think it is going to be a vote well spent. I may not know what will come next, but I sincerely know that it cannot be worst than this.

Norman E. Ortega

8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, so many haters.

Did anyone hear about Obama bringing in his own crew of cabinet secretaries despite the fact that many in Washington had the same or superior credentials? Or is that only news in Plainfield?

9:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I need to add my two cents. Mr. Estevez, as you are aware, I was one of the community members who asked that the board call a special meeting to discuss the RICEiing of Dr. Gallon. Ms. Logan-Leach is correct, when Mrs. Campbell made the motion, you voted no.

I was also one of the only community members left at the October Board meeting after the Board came back from Executive Session. At that time, my question to the Board was (and I'm paraphrasing), what is the Board going to do about the certification issues surrounding high level staff members (and I named them) and what are the ramifications if Dr. Gallon knew they didn't hold the proper credentials and said nothing. I received the usual response of "We won't discuss personnel matters in public session."

Now Mr. Estevez, seeing as I brought it up in October, how can you say that you didn't know about it then? Can you answer that for me?

Laura Shoemaker

9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Estevez -you need to worry more about your union affilated flyer stating incorrect polling times than denying your involvement with uncertified staff.

You instructed voters to take your flyer with them to the polls that open at 6:00 AM. I WISH THEM LUCK!

10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All incumbents must go. Unfortunately that includes Ms. Campbell too. I admire her admitting her mistakes but they're still mistakes. Our board members don't need a "crystal ball" just better judgment. Our school district doesn't need to "get SLAMMED". They're all good people but I fear Ms. Campbell's team will just bring more of the same fighting we've seen already. The comments back and forth between Mr. Estevez and Ms. Leach are just a preview of what will come if her allies are elected to the board. Think. And vote out all incumbents.

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take a look at this Mr. Estevez and tell me why you think you deserve another term. Did the hiring of Gallon already perpetuate the miserable reputation this City has. You and the entire board should have resigned. NO NO NO NO!!!! to a second term -- hang your head in shame.

Plainfield adopts plan to correct flawed hiring practices.
Why bother correcting their hiring process???? The city of Plainfield is rife with racial, minority and hateful preaching and teaching. If anyone worth their salt were to be brought in they'd be accused of every civil slander in the book, and that would be because they like the law of the jungle, so to speak, hiring in-laws, out-laws and the like of which has never been held accountable for doing it. Now you may say I have a problem with saying this but the citizenry of Plainfield likes to ruin their own town. No outside help other than more federal and state money is required, it's a lawless welfare town, sad but true.

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wilma Campbell: “Yes, I took part in the hiring (of Gallon), but I didn’t have a crystal ball.”

Good God in she for real?

8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christian Estevez: “Prior to the OFAC report, I knew we had a problem with our hiring practices.”
So I decided what the heck...if you can't beat em, join em. Thanks for nothing. I thought you held great promised...another huge disappointment.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Alan Goldstein said...

$500,000 a year may not be enough to get another superintendent to come here if they have the opportunity to read these comments before sending in their resume.

Quit the tea-bagging, because this vitriol doesn't move us forward one inch. I can guarantee that a school board loaded with people who view their election as an up-vote for a declaration of war will do more harm and waste more time than just letting Gallon's contract come to an end on schedule.

You pay lip-service to "the children", but you're playing a game of back-stabbing and settling scores. It's gotten infantile if you ask me.

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It might be infantile but better than sweeping it all under the rug like we do so many times here in Plainfield because we are always so afraid of speaking the truth. When 80% of the revenue comes from 20% of the taxpayers and those 20% don't stand a snowball's chance of a leadership role or voice but are constantly raped financially, there does come a breaking point.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan is right. Where were all these people when Gallon was bringing positive news and programs to the district. All of a sudden he is the antichrist.

For what he was hired to do and with what he had to work with (Plainfield) he has done a darn good job despite this mess.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan is nuts and so is 4:17. Gallon has hoodwinked you too. Maybe we should close our eyes and all of this will go away. WAKE UP! He has taken this town to an all new low, and it's community members like you who don't care about the education of our children. Gallon and the BOE needs to go!

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL 4:17 LOL!

What he had to work with was HIS GIRLS!

Despite the mess. We know you don't get involved.

What pure BS you espouse!

Alan has some right...but by his own admission he has no dog in this fight so it is easy to sit back and become undone by the emotion of those who have been battling this for years and now it has climaxed.

Don't get mad get involved. Stop victimizing the victims and partner in finding the solutions.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Maria Pellum, Plainfield Resident said...

Hey Bernice,

You are on a roll with all of these comments! Yahoo! Keep them coming, so much can be read in between lines!

I just wonder what are people so afraid of, and why are they so afraid of Christian?

Oh yeah! I forgot, I too have been "hoodwinked" by Gallon and Christian so I don't know what I am talking about.

Nothing like some good old debate around election time about who could be right or wrong for the post, it is just too bad people insist on going anonymous most of the time.

Keep comments coming Bernice! Keep them coming!

9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

probably won't post this but Maria is not hoodwinked, just Special. Like tp dig up dirt, toss around but never takes on any tasks to improve things. Sad

10:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maria, nobody's "afraid" of Christian Estevez--some are just disappointed, others are disgusted, a few are outraged.

He certainly made it clear at the LWV forum (and in his first comment here) that he is a follower, not a leader. He admitted he is not part of the "in-group" (LC, PB, MC, BR) that knew about the bad decisions being made by the superintendent. Yet he has consistently voted with them all along. Perhaps he is the one who is "afraid"?

One thing is clear: he does not deserve re-election.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And he is a liar too. He said he and his slate were not getting any support from politicians or unions, but I just got a mailer from a union supporting him and using the same photos that were in that slate's flyer--just a coincidence of course.

We have enough liars on the BOE as it is--we don't need any more.

4:01 PM  

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