Tempers Rising in Asbury Park: Broken AC, Staff Suspensions, and Community Unrest

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Frustration is mounting in Asbury Park among parents, staff members, and residents . Here’s a round-up of what people are telling me.

  • Right now it’s 90 degrees with 70% humidity in Asbury Park and a heat advisory with “heat index values up to 102 expected.” There’s also an “air quality alert.” However, in Asbury Park schools, most students and staff are coping with broken air-conditioners. At Bradley Elementary School, which houses 373 students and 50 teachers, there is no air-conditioning available today. One source “has no confidence” that the district will use any of the federal stimulus money to renovate buildings (although the school board is using $2.5 million to convert Barack Obama Elementary School to a central office for administrators). Only one of the district’s five school buildings has working air-conditioners. This is especially a problem for this low-income population where many children suffer from asthma.
  • Today is Day 9 of Extended School Year (the summer program for students with disabilities) yet the district never secured a bid for transportation. Parents and staff members are paying for taxis. When Extended School Year is written into Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s), transportation is one of the mandated services. By not providing transportation, the district is violating the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  • The district secretary at the center of Principal Reginald Mirthil’s suspension has herself been suspended. Mirthil, who wrote this damning letter, was triggered by the secretary and sent out a tweet that led to his suspension. The tweet led to a district shutdown; his suspension led to a sick-out by angry staff members.  The secretary, who wrote this profance Facebook post, had been transferred to the high school but was suspended by Acting Superintendent Rashawn Adams. No word on what led to the suspension.
  • Acting Superintendent Rishawn Adams has reassigned Mark Gerbino, one of the internal superintendent candidates overlooked by the School Board, to Thurgood Marshall Elementary School as Acting Principal in place of suspended Reginald Mirthil. Gerbino had been placed at the high school because he is the district Athletic Director. A source says Gerbino was sent to the elementary school out of “spite.”
  • At the June 25th School Board meeting, parent Myandra Dixon read the letter below, which makes reference to the School Board’s process for choosing an interim superintendent, Mirthil’s letter, a survey of teachers conducted by the Asbury Park Education Association, and State Monitor Carole Morris.

To the Asbury Park Board of Education:
We, the undersigned, are parents and/or guardians of children in the Asbury Park School system, We are concerned about our children’s futures because we have long suspected that the education in the district is controlled by interests that don’t improve the school system but rather, further damage it and along with it, the lifelong educational and economic prospects of our children.

A recent letter by a current school employee who is a highly respected member of the community, one who was born and raised in Asbury, has provided some transparency to the inner workings of the district. This gentleman was brave to do what no one else currently employed by the district has done, to let his moral compass be his guide, whatever the risk to his livelihood and vocation, to expose the dysfunction in the district that starts at the very top.

A published survey of staff and teachers conducted by the teachers’ union supported claims made by this man.

How is it that the members of this school board, who have failed in their duty to provide oversight and seem not to have a sense of the needs of the parents in this district, be trusted to select an interim when their judgement and moral scruples are in serious question? Our children’s futures are in jeopardy and we as parents and concerned individuals demand the following,

1) That an independent review board select the interim, and

2) That the current list of candidates be scrapped and the job application for Interim Superintendent be reposted. The current school administration and its enablers such as the school board and the State Monitor need to be held in check or we will never have educational equity for our children.

In addition, Tracy Rogers,  a local advocate, made this statement to the School Board, in which he references the bizarre selection process of an acting superintendent, Principal Mirthil’s letter, the neglect of children “for political purposes,” Asbury Park’s high cost per pupil, and a trend of parents abandoning the district for local charter school or better districts.

Dear Board of Education Members and to whom it may concern.
The fact that this letter is from me will come as no surprise as many of you have labeled me a trouble maker. But if calling attention to neglected and mismanagement is considered troublesome then I am here just to do that, sorry. I recently read the letter from a trusted principal in the community and it highlighted the same concerns that many other staff members and I have expressed in the past.

On numerous occasions I have spoken about the problems in this district because I have better pulse on this community then some on this board and the district monitor. The reality of this is not only unfortunate, but offensive. The children in this district have been neglected for political purposes. I know this board would like to present a different picture of this school district but the facts are the facts.

This city still has one of highest cost per district in the state. The reduction in student per cost is not a brain child of this board but that of the S2 state bill This district is also losing students to charter schools because the education of these students are receiving is well below standard. Parents are tired of arguing with this board and simply moving their children to a better learning environment. I am not trying to embarrass this board but simply state facts that this is unacceptable. While it is not necessary to repeat the same points that were in the Principal’s letter I want to state that I do also agree with the comments and survey by the teachers.

In addition to this letter I want to highlight a few more issues that were called out.

  • Maureen Casey, a teacher in the district, often referenced the necessity of hiring a Behavioralist in the district.
  • People have talked about the dysfunctional hiring practices like getting rid of a position like the Director of Curriculum after a failed plan to protect a person’s job. In my past professional experience with problems like this we would get a task force to come in and interview the staff, to investigate, evaluate practices and create an independent report. I would suggest this school district do the same. I do not believe the task force should not have direct connection to the Superintendent or the Board. A report can be done in six to eight weeks.
  • Lastly I would like to suggest You Hold Off On Interviews and appoint to the intern position Miss Beaufort, who is considered a community-trusted administrator who can provide the trusted values of the children, community and teachers. If any of the Board Members who want to contact me about the task force process please feel free. I will email Mr. Hastings my number.


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