HomeMarlton NewsBOE member Bernardi resigns from position

BOE member Bernardi resigns from position

Evesham Township Board of Education member Rosemary Bernardi resigned from her position effective immediately amid the anti-Semitic comments she recently made.

According to school board president Sandy Student, Bernardi resigned from her position on the Evesham Township School Board, and also from her position as vice president of the New Jersey School Boards Association.

“When a member of a civic or political organization is the focus rather than a contributor to an organization, it’s wrong,” Student said. “I think Mrs. Bernardi knew that and that’s why she stepped down.”

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Student noted Bernardi was not subject to the same disciplinary action as children in the district, and needed to be a role model for the children.

“She needed to step down,” Student said.

When asked for a comment, Bernardi responded with the resignation letters she submitted to the Evesham Township School District and the New Jersey School Boards Association.

“It is with regret that I am submitting my resignation from Evesham Township School District effective immediately. This local issue has become a distraction for the board to fulfill its mission,” Bernardi said in a statement to the board. “There is an immediate need to shift the focus back onto the 4,700 public school children that we serve.”

On June 11, the township council held a meeting, passing a resolution condemning her actions and requesting she step down from her position.

The council’s resolution noted it had no jurisdiction or authority to take action, but it urged “appropriate body and officials to take such action necessary to censure, discipline or otherwise show its rejection and disapproval of such statements.”

Additionally, it advocated for residents to celebrate cultural diversity “for which Evesham Township is known.”

“I recognize that categorizing individuals on the basis of their religion, race, gender or sexual orientation has no place in our society, and most especially in our public discourse,” Bernardi said in an email when asked about the resolution. “I express my heartfelt apology to the people of Evesham Township for my remarks at the school board meeting.”

“It’s an excellent day for the town. We can move forward and focus on the school district and not this issue,” Mayor Randy Brown said. “She did the right thing so many people asked her to do.”

Brown said the issue has overshadowed numerous positive events in the community, including the reopening of Marlton Playground and Relay for Life, which raised more than $100,000.

“We continue winning accolades from the state for all the good things we do [in this town] and this was not a good thing,” Student said.

The issue originated when, during public comment at a May board of education meeting, parents Lisa and Marc Cohen asked the board to consider changing the first day of school from Friday, Sept. 6 to Monday, Sept. 9 to avoid having their children be absent on the first day of school due to the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah.

“The board admitted an oversight,” Marc said in a letter to the editor. “This was about a percentage of the students in Marlton missing the first day of school. Not a religious reason.”

The board voted to change the date during the May 23 meeting. Upon passing it, according to Cohen, Bernardi made numerous hurtful and anti-Semitic comments.

“We could start school on Thursday the first day of Rosh Hashanah — I don’t care. It is up to the parents to keep their kids home, all seven or eight Jews who live in our district,” Cohen said, quoting Bernardi in his letter. “There are 4,000 kids in the district, and we have to change the start date for those few children.”

Additionally, Bernardi was heard at the end of the meeting saying, “anyone who would like to run for the board of education, there are three seats up and there are five Jews on the board,” according to Cohen.

At last week’s council meeting, residents supported Brown’s position on the matter including board members who attended the meeting.

“I commend the council for stepping in, for doing their job and having this resolution,” board member Kevin Stone said.

“Before I was a councilman, I was a 44-year resident of Evesham,” said councilman Bob DiEnna choking back tears at the meeting. “We cannot be tolerant of these words and actions of anyone in the public forum, let alone a public official.”

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