Monday, February 27, 2012

Board of Education Meetings: Let The Sun Shine In

The Privilege of the Floor 

For months now, the board president has required that the public sign in upon arrival if they wish to speak. This sign in sheet is then collected and he calls members of the public to the microphone where they are allowed 3 minutes to address the board. Depending on how well liked by the board the speaker is, the clock may be stopped. Every meeting, members of the audience seem to mistake the sign up sheet as an attendance roster. (Smiling) We are so conditioned. The announcement is made detailing the purpose of signing the piece of paper and people from all over the room get up and remove their names from the paper. During the course of the time allocated for public input, board members interject and burn up some of the time. No notice is given that this time is deducted from the time given to the public to speak.
Suggestion: Deduct the time used by board members during privilege of the floor
Suggestion: Create a formal sign up sheet entitled "Privilege of the Floor sign up sheet" or something to that effect. Make a bunch of copies and use one each meeting. This is an educational institution, after all.

Open Public Meetings Act -  Otherwise known as The Sunshine Law
This is a link to  A Guide to the Open Public Meetings Act"The Open Public Meetings Law, which is commonly referred to as the “Sunshine Law”, was enacted in 1975.  It establishes the right of all citizens to have adequate advance notice of all public meetings and the right to attend meetings at which any business affecting the public is discussed or acted upon. – N.J.S.A. 10:4-6 to 10:4-2"
Minutes of such meetings are very important and must also be made available to the public. Events at such meetings are memoralized in the minutes and become the official permanent record. Few, if any of the EPSD minutes are presently available to the public. We hope that the board understands that minutes and agendas are not part of the records that they may destroy. It is possible to consult minutes from as far back as the 1930's.
Dr. Carlisle was absent and no explanation was given. It was odd that there was so much budget discussion in the absence of the person generally responsible for it. The Superintendent's report was replaced by several presentations. 

Janis E.  Dismus Library
Library System - Audrena Campagna  gave the "State of the Union of the District Library Media CenterI always find it interesting that the one person who earned hero status in Englewood, during his lifetime, is the same person who put and end to the library system in  the Englewood Schools. He said we did not need books. The speaker is relatively new to the district and does not know this history. The presentation was overlong even though we are all glad to have a semblance of our libraries back.

The Technology Presentation - Introduces the Janis E. Dismus GEEK Club
Cute Club. A fine show of solidarity. A more original name would have been even more impressive. (I still wear my Best Buy GEEK SQUAD T-shirt.) It is hoped that all of the students are encouraged to develop expertise on the computer. Good things are growing at the middle school because they have a principal who demonstrates that he has faith in their abilities. The students are beginning to show a good deal of pride in their school. Perhaps they will be allowed to keep this new source of inspiration. Anyone of these GEEK clubers probably has more computer know how than the man the City of Englewood claims the district is putting in charge of the new Interlocal Agreement that boasts shared services of Internet and Technology with the Englewood Board of Education. I would also like to know if anyone is considering that there are an awful lot of families in the district that do not have access to the Internet. The assumption seems to be that everyone has Internet/computer access. The district seems to have already gone paperless.

Teacher of the Year Awards - 2nd Mile Award - Lisa Finn-Bruce presented teacher of the year awards to a teacher from each district school. I had secretly hoped that the name of this award would be changed once it became evident that this is the name of the infamous Jerry Sandusky's nonprofit organization that was used in some rather unscrupulous ways. Well, who am I to say? Perhaps it does not bother people who have not kept up with the news.

When the Pomp and circumstance was over secretaries and teachers spoke about the School Board's decision to "Outsource" valued personnel. The outsourcing is rumored to include all paraprofessionals, secretaries, nurses and believe it or not, the Child Study Team. The Staff had compelling arguments, but alas, to no avail. It is obvious that the board has already made the decision. The same over staffing and overspending that has brought the district low threatens to change it forever. One speaker reminded the board that many of these services were outsourced without success in the past. There are few words to describe how the idea of "outsourcing" familiar, caring personnel for indifferent strangers will affect the children and the over all climate of the district. It speaks to the pitiable state of the district's financial affairs.
It should be noted at this time that the decision to RFP (Request for Proposal) the outsourcing got a unanimous vote from the board of education. Every single board of education member voted in favor of the outsourcing search. I would not be surprised if in the 11th hour the board decides not to outsource the Child Study Team. Everyone will be so grateful that they will forget about the other positions and feel the board has actually given them something. Rather like Gov. Christie and the aid to NJ Education. None of these positions should be outsourced.  It is time for healing, not further tearing.

Broken Spirits
A student from the Academy spoke passionately about his feelings of being let down by the Academy. He was very clear in his opinion that the students on the entire Dwight Morrow High School Campus were not being challenged, encouraged or inspired by anyone. He thinks that too many of them are being told that they can't. He was concerned and suggested that he did not want his little sister to attend school in  Englewood in the present circumstances. He turned to the audience without discrimination and told them that their children could achieve great things if only someone believed in them. I gave him a standing ovation, because he spoke more honestly than any student who has come before the board. I paraphrased his speech here, but I was thoroughly impressed by the fact that his comments were not scripted by adults. He spoke from the heart. As always, an establishment adult rushed to his side. (Mr. Elbert, principal of the high school) That much independent thought is not encouraged. I was especially touched by this young man's speech because of what I carried in a shopping bag. It was an extra large #58 Jr. Raider Football jacket that I found in a mud puddle on my street. The jacket probably cost the owner well over $200. Where it was found is symbolic of what the young man was speaking. Spirit, confidence, self esteem and pride are in low supply among our district students. It is good to see that Janis E. Dismus students have developed a strong sense of pride in their school. We need to clone that and send it throughout the district.

I left to take someone home. Upon my return, I noticed that the board had not gone into closed session. They rambled on. It was very  unusual. There were less than 10 people in the audience. Half of them were employees of the district. When this was over Glenn Garrison made a suggestion. He voiced concern that since St.  Cecilia is a religious institution we might want to name the section of the campus that we are renting. He thought that it should be named for someone who had attended St. Cecilia. (Why? We are paying them a healthy monthly rent.) He suggested that we name the facility The Vincent Lombardi Educational CenterSo what would Vincent Lombardi think of what has been done to the morale of the sports  program? How would he take to the fact that the stadium has been gutted beneath to serve other than the football team? The locker room is not large enough to hold the entire team at one time, especially if wearing full gear? It is four classrooms.   Is this a permanent facility? What are our long range plans there?

                                               How are the children?

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