Transparency, accountability top topics at Board of Education meeting

Residents shared concerns of responsibility and public information at the Thursday, Feb. 1, meeting

At last Thursday’s, meeting, transparency of the Board of Education and Monroe Township Public School District administration was a leading topic for residents in attendance.

Community members who spoke during public comment shared concerns about the administration and board’s accountability in regard to responsibilities, for example hiring a new assistant superintendent to take the position of former Assistant Superintendent Anthony Petruzzelli.

According to Board of Education President George Caruso, the interview process has not yet begun for the position, while the search for a new assistant superintendent below Superintendent Charles Earling is still ongoing.

Resident Debbie DeFelice shared the need for an emergency plan, not just for the school buildings, but if there were circumstances where Earling would be out of the office for long periods of time, and suggested the board consider creating such a procedure while the position is still unfilled. According to Caruso, at this time, Director of Curriculum Stan Krzyminski would hold the position of superintendent if there were to become a need.

Resident Jennifer Lewis-Gallagher also shared concerns about the availability of public information. As a taxpayer and mother of two district students, she said she was worried about a “lack of compliance and transparency.”

“I encourage the board to ask questions of anyone who is providing professional services, but in light of where we are and what has come to bear in terms of transgressions, I think there are a lot of questions that need to be asked in terms of what’s known and who has what information. I fear the public may have more information than the board,” Lewis-Gallagher said.

Lewis-Gallagher said she questioned what information was coming before the board of education from a “legal, information standpoint” in regard to complaints, issues and problems.

“I feel there is a liability that needs to be addressed, I think it is exposing itself and I think it’s going to continue to,” Lewis-Gallagher said.

The Board of Education did not comment on the matter, and members serving the board were advised to not respond on the topic by Solicitor John Amano.

Concerns about substitute teaching services were raised by resident Paul VanHouten in regard to continuity and validity of those filling in for absent teachers. At the meeting, four agenda items were approved to allow district teachers to be replaced by “certified substitutes assigned by Source4Teachers” while on leave. According to VanHouten, in certain cases when teachers are absent from the classroom, the acting substitute is asked to move from one classroom to the next in a variety of subject matters at the school’s discretion as needed.

“Kids are not learning what they should be learning and following the curriculum they should be following,” VanHouten said. “That PARCC test that counts for graduation now is going to hurt these kids if they aren’t being taught by a certified person.”

VanHouten’s worries were if the substitute is bouncing from one class to the next, there are chances that teacher is not certified for each subject being taught. Board of Education Vice President James Henderson suggested the board look into the contract with Source4Teachers in terms of what is being asked of the services, what is being provided and if the district is getting “the best bang for their buck.”

The next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. at Williamstown High School.