Florida shooting, Superintendent’s injury sparks discussion at BOE Meeting

Williamstown residents questioned Earling’s absence from the meeting, and addressed additional concerns with the Board of Education.

Williamstown residents were vocal about their concerns at the Monroe Township Public Schools Board of Education meeting last Thursday.

Parents expressed safety concerns in lieu of the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

One Williamstown High School parent was concerned that, according to her high school-aged child, the windows in the school don’t fully open — raising questions about how students would escape in those situations.

“All I know is that everything with our drills that we do is coordinated with our police department,” board president George Caruso stated. “I think if it was a problem, they would contact us and let us know what’s going on, because, like I said, we’re working hand-in-hand with the police.”

Board solicitor John Trimble addressed the concern, stating, “We don’t want to disclose to anyone what the security plans, or anything like that, for some potential person out there that might be eyeballing Monroe Township.”

Trimble also noted the police department works with the district to run drills throughout the year.

The public also had numerous questions about Superintendent Charles Earling’s absence from the meeting, in addition to whether interviews for assistant superintendent were being conducted.

“The interviews are happening,” said Caruso, who noted the interviews started last week, and are being narrowed down.

While Earling was absent from the meeting due to an injury at work, his alleged appearance at the school on Super Bowl Sunday to sell hoagies raised questions among the public about why he couldn’t be present at a sit-down meeting.

“What was told to me, was that he’s under doctor’s orders,” Caruso said.

Board secretary Lisa Schulz stated Earling is using sick time, and although he’s going to workers’ comp doctors, he is not collecting workers’ compensation.

“I see that there’s questions about Mr. Earling, conspiracy theories about whether he’s really hurt or not,” Trimble said. “He’s hurt, and for people to come in here and attack him when he’s not here, it kind of saddens me.”

Board member Frank Torcasio stated in regard to residents’ questions being answered by Earling, the board should be copied on Earling’s email responses to their concerns moving forward.

“If he’s answering [questions], he’s got to send them to the people that are asking, and I think that’s a problem. We keep getting the same questions over and over,” Torcasio said.

Trimble additionally addressed questions about human resource representative Ralph Ross’ contract, stating it was voted at the May 4 meeting. According to Caruso, Ross — along with a committee — is conducting the interviews for assistant superintendent.

“Mr. Ross does have a contract,” Trimble said. “I’ve been briefed on some of the comments that were made by people coming up [and] saying that his contract was fraudulent or that he has no contract — he has a contract.”

In other news:

• Caruso said the district’s goal is to get Holly Glen Elementary School students and staff back into the school.

“I think our district goal right now is to get our children and our teachers back to Holly Glen, put them back in their safe zone, and make sure that nothing like this happens at any of our other schools,” Caruso said, addressing the students and teachers who have been temporarily moved to other schools in the district due to mold hazards.

• The board discussed a proposal of $65,000 in professional services for theater renovations at Williamstown Middle School.

“One of the big problems they have is electrical work, they’re not able to update the electrical work in there — the lights, the sounds, they have not been touched since the 1980s. No sound company will come in and redo it, because the electric work is so antiquated,” Board member Therese Bonmati said. Bonmati also noted issues regarding the sound booth being unsafe for students and teachers to get in and out of, old and hazardous rafters, seats falling apart, and the lack of handicapped seating.

“The money that we’re putting out,” Bonmati said, “is to go in and come up with a plan of what needs to be done, what’s structurally sound, to fix the auditorium.”

“What we’re paying for is the whole plan that we will then put out to bid, so that we know what needs to be done and what will make the theater up-to-date for the students there.”

• Chairperson of regulatory services Anthony Ayres stated the board would be pulling the $40,250 proposal for chiller and plant renovations.

• The following school programs were also approved: The 2018 Al Carino Basketball All Star Game on March 17 at Williamstown High School, the 2017–2018 District Nursing Plan, DECA trip and junior trip chaperones, the indoor percussion ensemble and the spring athletic schedule, and school calendar revisions.

A copy of the meeting agenda can be found online at www.monroetwp.k12.nj.us.