Sunday Leftovers

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For the first time, school boards in New Jersey tried out  November elections. From the Star-Ledger:

Nearly 500 school districts across the state held elections in November for the first time this week — a move that saved money and increased voter turnout, a spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association said.
“Electing school board members in a November general election results in more people voting,” said spokesman Frank Belluscio.

Also see coverage from NJ Spotlight and Press of Atlantic City.

The Star-Ledger considers the new “bromance” between NJEA leadership and Gov. Christie after the former cancelled its annual convention, scheduled for this past Thursday and Friday in storm-crushed Atlantic City. Even more graciously, NJEA officials didn’t get in the way of districts reinstating those days as school days. The Independent Press takes it a step farther:

How about an even more magnanimous gesture on the part of both the NJEA and the League? Why not book “mini-conventions” in Atlantic City in late winter or early spring? Hold the sessions on the weekend, so that the operation of schools and government offices won’t be further disrupted.

The Daily Journal takes down two districts, Millville and Vineland, that decided to keep schools closed anyway.

Consider Vineland. Superintendent Mary Gruccio — probably looking for some R&R after a busy week of campaigning for re-election to her other government-funded job, county freeholder — said she decided to keep school closed on the convention days this week because she expects many teachers wouldn’t show up for work and the district wouldn’t be able to find enough substitutes. (For example, her daughter — a teacher in the district — is getting married Friday.

The head of the Vineland teachers union said members would have been happy to report to work, by the way.

In case you missed it,here’s my take at WHYY Newsworks on why the annual NJEA Convention isn’t good for kids or teachers.

Also this week, the state appellate court voted to uphold controversial superintendent salary caps, which limits salaries to $125K for a small district to $175K for a large district (unless the district is larger than 10,000 kids). Here’s coverage from NJ Spotlight.

The decision provoked an unusually sharp-tongued editorial from the usually placid editorial board at Press of Atlantic City:

School superintendents have been fleecing taxpayers for years. Several school superintendents took issue with an earlier editorial on the caps in which we noted that superintendents have a largely administrative job that doesn’t warrant such large salaries. But we’ll stand by that point. What do these functionaries do that makes them worth more than the governor (he gets paid $175,000)? And it’s not just the salaries – consider the pensions that superintendents walk away with based on those inflated salaries.

The Asbury Park Press continues its ongoing expose of Lakewood Public Schools. According to Comm. Cerf, Lakewood will remain a RAC district, eligible for extra money and resources because of its status as one of NJ’s Priority Schools. This is in spite of the fact that the district was stripped of 2/3 of its $6 million School Improvement Grant because administrators there forged data in the application.

Also, reports the Press,

the district paid $10,000 to Michael I. Inzelbuch, the school board attorney, for an unspecified reason as part of the sale of a former public school building used for the district’s administrative offices to Beth Medrash Govoha, a prestigious rabbinical college in Lakewood, according to the settlement statement.
In addition, it appears that the school board paid tens of millions of dollars to an educational company that provides nonpublic students with a wide variety of services without anyone in the district verifying the accuracy of the company’s bills, according to the current school board attorney, Stephen J. Edelstein.

And check this out: “Lakewood school leaders used a pending grant application as an excuse for transferring three principals in 2011 who had fallen out of favor with the administration, adding further to the paranoia” and suspicion that already permeated the troubled pre-K-12 school district.

Speaking of corruption, New Brunswick Today covers an especially duplicitous effort on the part of a New Brunswick political macher, Dave Caldwell, who has made it his life’s work to ensure that the New Brunswick board is appointed rather than voted in by residents in order to maintain power. (Nineteen boards in NJ operate this way.) The scheme came to light when Trenton Mayor Tony Mack, a crook who also happens to control a school board, tried to instate Caldwell as Trenton’s new superintendent. The appointees said “nay” and appointed Francisco Duran. Chaos ensued. Check out the gory details for yourself.

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