Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Our Schools Are "Still" In Crisis

Left to Right: Nicole Cartwright Murphy, Louis Sanchez (guidance Counselor), Joseph Armental (VP DMHS), Joseph Bell (Assistant Principal/Alternative Program), Venus Rose (Guidance Counselor), Peter Elbert (DMHS principal) Nicole Siperski (guidance counselor) and (Jamayla Scott are not pictured.)

Sometimes we must remind ourselves that the Englewood Public School District is in crisis.

Yes, I will say it again. The Englewood Public School District is in Crisis!
I followed the 2017 miss-fired "Tenure Charge" situation surrounding the suspended Guidance Counselors and Administrators closely. I have even read the transcripts of daily testimony given by the suspended employees who stayed to fight. These employees testified at the State government proceedings. A lot of time and money was wasted. Meanwhile, a valued program that would have been instrumental in facilitating a healing process, during and after the Covid 19 Pandemic, is gone, but the students who need it are still here. This was the Alternative School, also known as The Eagle Program.
Our Boards of Education must learn that a machine must be built that may not be taken apart by each new Superintendent, especially since Superintendents rarely last beyond 5 years.
The Superintendent must hold as his/her objective to create an Action Plan that satisfies the criteria set forth in the Board of Education's Goals and Objectives for the District. It is a Lay Board, therefore it is up to the Superintendent of Schools to "Develop and Present an Action Plan" designed to fulfill or accomplish the goals.

All Goals and Objectives shall hold Student Achievement, Health and Safety as Priority above all else.
All recommendations made by any Superintendent shall hold that as priority or he/she should find work elsewhere. Another thing, it is difficult to hold a Superintendent accountable, if said Superintendent is not being evaluated based on whether or not he/she has satisfied the criteria for accomplishing the District's Goals and Objectives.
Nicole Cartwright-Murphy
School Board training is paid for by the Residents, by you and I. If Board Members do not take advantage of the training, the bill is still paid. I take it personal when School Board Members do not take this training seriously. (As a matter of fact, I believe that my addressing the fact that a certain tall School Board Member had no training at all in a public forum got me theoretically placed in a room in which the air could be vacuumed There is an awful lot to learn. The children are back in school in person. It is time for School Board Members to resume in person training. Virtual Learning is supplemental in the Teaching Learning Process. It should never be allowed to take the place of the interaction between teacher and student.
I did not teach in the Dark Ages. We had computers when I left the classroom. I helped train others to maintain attendance, grade books, lesson plans and curriculum on the computer. I kept a paper version that I used to input the required Data. I hope all concerned have learned something from the recent data breach at EPSD.
I still prefer to check a notebook. It is easier for me to see progress chronologically in skill levels. I value handwriting. I am concerned that children are not making their letters even in manuscript. Allowing cursive to move onto the long list of hands on activities that students no longer participate in is unfortunate and detrimental to the overall learning process. We are graduating students who have not only never used a microscope, a ruler, or a screwdriver but who have no idea what is next. College or Career Ready?
David Matthews, Bd Member
It is unseemly and totally out of order for School Board Members to use their power in pushing their own agendas in setting up and prioritizing programs that force apartheid educational practices. The Superintendent develops Action Plans and all recommendations for programming should come from the Superintendent. It is hoped that all Englewood School Board Members are up to date in their training, especially where Tenure Law is concerned. That is the only way they may prevent unwanted harm to employees and unwanted embarrassment to themselves. Some Board Members should also do a bit of homework on Title monies and how it helps the District.

The process works in other districts and will work here when the "General Population" realizes that there is a
cycle and breaks it. School Board Members must learn to be better students. The children are watching and they are adept enough to understand when they are held accountable to following the rules, but the adults ordering them around are not.
Sometimes Superintendents actually sue School Boards because they did not warn
Robert Kravitz, former Supt.
him/them of the terrible state of the District upon hiring. His lawsuit suggests that he expected the District to divulge all about the problems in the District. Notwithstanding that reading the newspaper or googling key words would have explained that. It seems he felt that the BA, the Board Attorney and a few others whom he did not name had ruined his reputation, and blamed him for the bad publicity garnered by the grade change case. Notice that he does not name the Board Members that he accuses of working with the BA, the Board Attorney and others to discredit and ruin his reputation. He mentions that the BA and the Attorney worked together in Fort Lee. He neglects to mention that he, himself worked in Fort Lee, with Mckeever (the attorney), Ciofala (the one who supposedly found the irregularities and then took the job of the head of guidance based on his findings, and Cheryl Balletto (the Business Administrator.)
All four of them appear to have worked in Fort Lee at the same time.

I should also like to add that, in my opinion, as a retired teacher, the reported 3,000 grade changes
Joseph Armental
found by Mr. Ciofalo and his Pitbull Agency is basically a conservative number considering that there were more than 1,000 students enrolled at DMHS at the time. There are many and varied reasons for grade changes, one being students doing work to make up incompletes. One student might have numerous changes. Much of the news printed at the time concentrated overmuch on headline hype which the Superintendent claimed did his reputation irreparable harm.

Read the Englewood Board of Education's charges against suspended employees.
Final Decision of the Commissioner of Education signed December 30, 2019.

Official State Re-instatement of Dr. Gordon - former Director of Guidance -
Dr. Noel Gordon
"...Severance is also not an option since the charges as written deprive respondents of their fundamental due process rights to a clear statement describing the precise nature of the charges against him or her, and a description of the evidence which allegedly supports the charges. In this matter as it currently stands, there are 750 paragraphs in thirty-three counts and each count realleges and incorporates the previous counts, such that the allegations against respondent Rose also include the allegations against respondent Cartwright; the allegations against respondent Scott also include the allegations against respondents Rose and Cartwright, etc.; the allegations against respondent Armenta[ therefore include the allegations against all seven of the other respondents. There is simply no way this matter may be determined sufficient to require that answers be filed; consequently, it must be dismissed as procedurally defective... "

In the comment section below this article, I challenge you to name and count all of the EPSD Superintendents chronologically, whether acting or county place holders, who have held the responsibility since the year 2000. All of this Superintendent discussion may end up being a mute point very soon. We shall see.

 (Also keep in mind that there was one Superintendent who was never approved by the state which means that he was not ever legally our Superintendent. That complaint was filed against the then Englewood Board of Education by yours truly.)

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Open Letter To EPSD

I have been neglecting the Blog. I found this while realizing that I must publish something, so I am republishing a very thoughtful letter to the EPSD. So, as they say on Social Media, "Reposting".

Originally posted: Tuesday, September 1, 2020

My open letter to EPSD about The Zone. 

Please share.

I am writing to urge you to take decisive action, to lead--and find a way to support The Zone for the 2020-2021 school year. Now is not a time to reduce the mental health and community supports for students and faculty.

I understand that Trenton is in crisis and has no good choices to make. However, Trenton does not know what we know, which is that Englewood Public Schools were in crisis before the pandemic. I know this because through the leadership of Mariam Gerges and Liz Corsini, along with Sanetta Ponton, I helped lead hours of workshops for DMHS faculty and administrators last year.
We heard first hand how difficult the conditions in the school were, their struggles in reaching students, and their desire to lead their colleagues in creating a better climate in which students, regardless of their traumas, could learn and thrive. We were having these conversations and workshops in August, September, January and February. What will those discussions sound like over Zoom this year?

I can assure you that the kind of professional development and coaching that your faculty and administrators received last year through these workshops would have cost EPSD thousands of dollars--but you got it "free" from Bergen Family Center, The Zone and the community members like Sanetta, Flat Rock Brook and me--who will do almost anything for Englewood's children. Most importantly, EPSD got all this expertise for "free" because the community knows the value that Bergen Family Center brings--and when called upon by them, we show up.

Now it is time for EPSD to show up for The Zone. I assure you that your students and faculty cannot survive, let alone thrive, without the support that The Zone and its committed staff provide. They pivoted seamlessly to the virtual world, and connected with students in a matter of days. In fact, there were moments on the weekly community calls that Sanetta organized, when it became obvious that Bergen Family Center knew more about some of EPSD students than the district did itself. You need The Zone, we all know you do.

Find the money--in the paper clip and toner budget, in the snacks for professional development budget--find the money. 

Step up and lead. The times demand it.


Lynne Algrant

Former Council at Large and Former President of the Englewood City Council