Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Gallon's Arrest: What Next?

News of Schools Superintendent Steve Gallon III being arrested just hours before the annual Board of Education organization meeting tonight augurs ill for the district. Both the Courier News and Star-Ledger have stories online that detail the allegations of theft by deception and other charges due to Gallon 's apparent agreement to let his address in South Plainfield be used by two favored administrators in order to have their children attend borough schools.

Gallon was already on the verge of being ushered into the district's revolving door by way of the defeat of two loyal school board members in the April 20 election. Even though the outgoing board voted at the last minute to reprimand Gallon and withhold a salary increase over findings of the state DOE Office of Fiscal Accountability regarding improper hires, members of the incoming board have voiced support of stronger measures to deal with Gallon's peccadillos.

But when Attorney General Paula Dow and Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan reveal even more blatant charges, Gallon's fate appears to be sealed, notwithstanding due process and all that.

Gallon came to Plainfield after a nationwide search that was kept private until he emerged as the finalist. Like at least two of his predecessors, he had no experience as a superintendent. He was assigned a mentor, but then not much was heard about the mentoring process. Gallon enjoyed the support of a majority on the board, ranging from enthusiasm to practically an "amen corner" on the part of one board member.

So here we are at this juncture.

I decided not to attend the organization meeting tonight, based on a number of factors. I'm sure it will be reported superbly by Mark Spivey. I have a lot of leftover City Council stories to write and I also have one of those very special household disaster scenarios endemic to my building, aka a big leak in a crucial spot that is not yet resolved, meaning my daily activities are interrupted until the problem is fixed.

Why do I say the situation augurs ill for the district?

Future possibilities for top leadership will be affected by all the sturm und drang of the current situation and the events of recent years. What willing and able chief school administrator would want to step into a mares' nest of issues?

Interim Superintendent Peter Carter and his team signed on to maintain the district in working order in 2008, but soon found they had to deal with the unprecedented burden of responding to a new state mandate, the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum, or NJQSAC, in addition to regular tasks. Their perceived temerity in asking for more compensation apparently led to their dismissal midway in their one-year tenure.

I look forward to reportage and commentary from the BOE meeting. Meanwhile, may I say, Plainfield must project a better image for its public school district, or all the more parents and students will seek alternate choices, and qualified education leaders will be wary of coming here.



Blogger Rob said...

WHEW !!! I am big enough to stand up and say I called this one wrong! Like Dick Clark, the hits keep on coming..

4:40 AM  

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