Forum Yields Candidates' Views of Gallon
Part of my distraction was the presence of an embargoed OFAC (Office of Fiscal Compliance and Accountability) report at the meeting and perhaps some more was just my sense that this crowded field of candidates is confusing. Three slates have emerged, with some observers tacking “brands” on them, i.e. Green, New Dems, etc.
Overall, the forum was well-conducted, with a moderator fielding questions. The forum started on time and ended on the dot of 7:30, as advertised. There were individuals handing out campaign literature, which is not allowed at some other forums.
The one question that seemed to receive the most reaction from the crowd of about 70 people was whether candidates would vote approval on a contract for Schools Superintendent Steve Gallon III at this juncture. Gallon’s four-year contract began in July 2008. The OFAC report confirms that certain individuals were hired without proper certifications and calls for a corrective action plan to be worked out with Executive County Superintendent Carmen Centuolo. The controversy has brought adverse publicity to Gallon and the district.
Among the answers regarding Gallon’s leadership:
Denise Riley said the superintendent has “brilliant ideas” but then “went off the tracks.”
Riley said the district became “laughing-stocks” and said “credibility has been lost.”
Clayton Tucker Sr. said his vote would be “definitely be a ‘no.’ “
Carmencita Pile advised having a sit-down talk with Gallon “to see exactly where he is coming from.”
Renata Hernandez said she has had a lot of conversations with Gallon and said, “I would not confer another day on Dr. Gallon.” Her comment was, “Power unchecked runs amuck and Dr. Gallon has run amuck.”
Mahogany Hendricks said she felt Gallon came here and saw a school board not cohesive and in disarray, and “took advantage.”
Danielle Fletcher noted recent news reports on hiring issues and said she felt Gallon misrepresented qualifications, so needed to be evaluated not just as an employee but as the boss.
Christian Estevez commented on the frequent turnover of school superintendents in Plainfield and said he has seen some progress under Gallon. In terms of voting right now, he said, he was glad there was more time.
Keisha Edwards cited Gallon’s stated goals and declared they were “not tangible or measurable,” using Gallon’s own terminology for how progress would be tracked.
Catherine Crittendon cited the “astronomical cost” of mounting a new superintendent search.
Martin Cox said the district has “absolutely made progress “ under Gallon’s leadership, noted the district has had eight superintendents in a decade and proclaimed, “I continue to support Dr. Gallon.”
Wilma Campbell said she supported Gallon at first, but she now feels her trust was betrayed. Campbell said she “cannot support a leader who has taken us to such low levels.”
Mary Burgwinkle said although “it looks as though there have been improvements,” some Human Resources job descriptions seem to be messed up.
Rasheed Abdul-Haqq said the board did not realize Gallon lacked “people skills” and said it is too late to save the superintendent. He said he used to talk to Gallon about “unneeded friction” in his dealings with people, and now he would give Gallon a "D, because he can’t rally his troops.”
Jaclynne Callands was absent from the forum.
The Plainfield League of Women Voters will be holding a forum for school board candidates from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on April 14 at Emerson School. Try to attend if you want to assess the candidates for yourself. The school board election date is April 20.