Friday, May 07, 2010

Empty Chairs Sink Emergency Meeting

An emergency meeting that Board of Education President Lisa Logan Leach said was mandated by top education officials fell through Friday evening for lack of a board quorum.

The board was to have met in closed session at 5 p.m., followed by an emergency business meeting at 5:45 p.m., preceding a 6 p.m. joint meeting with the City Council to discuss the 2010-11 budget that was defeated April 20 by voters.

The single item on the board agenda was a resolution to suspend Schools Superintendent Steve Gallon III and former Assistant Superintendent Angela Kemp, appoint an acting superintendent, remove Kemp from the district payroll and to appoint a new board attorney.

But as about 50 people waited at Emerson School for the board to open the emergency business meeting, Business Administrator/Board Secretary Gary Ottmann announced the meeting would not happen due to lack of a quorum.

Asked later for reasons why board members were absent, Logan Leach said only two of the nine board members had indicated they could not attend. She said she had been in "constant communication" with the office of Union County Executive Superintendent Carmen Centuolo as well as the office of state BOE Commissioner Bret Schundler Thursday regarding the emergency need. Logan Leach said she e-mailed the officials Friday night to apprise them of the failed meeting.

After the meeting was declared canceled, recently elected board members Rasheed Abdul-Haqq, Renata Hernandez and Keisha Edwards arrived, still short of a quorum.

Gallon was arrested Tuesday on several charges related to allegedly allowing Kemp and another assistant, Lalalei Kelly, to use his address to illegallly enroll their children in the South Plainfield school system. Kemp had been also ordered to forfeit her job after being convicted on charges of harassing a fellow administrator. Both were former colleagues of Gallon in the Miami district from which he came to Plainfield.

Although chairs were set up and conspicuously labeled for the state education commissioner, the county superintendent and Assemblyman Jerry Green, none appeared Friday.

The City Council portion of the meeting also proved inconclusive as members said the governing body could do nothing about the state-mandated $21.8 million tax levy that voters rejected, but could only move funds around within that amount. But members said they felt ill-equipped to go through the voluminous budget document to identify changes. On Monday, the council will most likely pass a resolution taking no action.

City Council President Annie McWilliams said the city will likely face another state-mandated increase in the school tax levy next year, but she said it might be the last one. The district has had mandated increases in the school tax levy since the passage of the School Funding Reform Act of 2008, after having no change in support of school costs since 1992. In light of the constraints, Councilman Adrian Mapp called the council review of the defeated budget "a pointless exercise" and others made similar estimations.

In public comment, Dr. Harold Yood said he felt the council should at least pass a resolution objecting to the fact that the governing body had no say over the voters' rejection of the budget.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The failure of three of the board members to show up on time and of five others not to show up at all is indicative of either crazy incompetence or the dawn of a new era of gamesmanship. Either way I think the BOE is off to a nice start in doing its part to keep Plainfield the laughing stock of central Jersey. Thanks guys.

Oh, and what was the emergency, alluded to by Mark Spivey, that caused two members to leave suddenly? Did they have simultaneous baby sitter crises? Or was that simply a lie used as an excuse to exit? If you can't commit to being on time and you can't stay for a public meeting don't keep the job. And if you left a public meeting in order to have a private meeting, that's the antithesis of transparency. Thanks again.

9:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 9:45 PM -- Or, they actually knew what they were doing! I don't know 8 to 1 is a pretty significant gap. Perhaps you should stop listening to people and start doing your own investigation. Oops but then that would mean you would be trying to find out what really went on here instead of grand standing and character bashing.

3:37 PM  

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