A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Wall and the Public Right to Know

The Matawan-Aberdeen Board of Education met last night to pick its poison among janitorial service companies seeking a contract with the district. The board is replacing several dozen school janitors. About 150 members of the public gathered to learn more about the contract and to object to outsourcing, but the board literally would hear none of it. After the public asked its questions and was stonewalled by the board's president, verbal tempers began to flare at the public podium.

When public discussion ended, the board portrayed themselves as quietly suffering. They'd listened patiently to the angry tirades of an ill informed public and were hurt by the sentiments. They complained about ill treatment from the community, saying some people had actually been rude to them. They said they'd covered all this ground in earlier meetings and had nothing more to say about it tonight. And then they voted unanimously to engage the company in question.

The board showed utter contempt for its community last night. The public has a right to make statements, express opinions, and ask questions, even at the last minute. The president of the board should have allowed individual members of the board to field questions. He repeatedly shied away from responding, answering no questions from the dais, explaining that members had their own viewpoint. But the public never became privy to their opinions or how they reached their decisions on the matter at hand.

The public has a right to know that its board members are competent on the issues before they vote. Some members have only been on the board a couple of weeks, so what was their decision making process? Ms Esposito seemed to think she was voting on firing teachers last night, so what was she voting on? Certainly the town council wasn't fully aware of the issues before it voted to allow development on County Road, so why shouldn't the public be skeptical of the board's thoroughness?

One member of the public complained that the board consisted of an emotionless, unresponsive wall. They will no doubt protest that perspective, but we don't have to listen to them either.


  1. Pat,

    You should double check some of your facts: 150 community members actually were 90% union members and perhaps 25% of them actually live in our community. Also, I took a minute to talk to a couple board members after the meeting, including Mrs. Esposito, she was well aware of the reason for the vote last night but expressed to me that she has a hard time understanding how the TEACHER's union could be silent about the teacher's having to be cut, I happen to feel the same way. You should not be so quick to jump on the bandwagon with the union without knowing all the facts. As Mr. Delaney pointed out-- only two comments in two meetings about teachers losing jobs???? Is that REALLY "all for one,one for all"? as their shirts say?

  2. Not for nothing, Pat. But, maybe they didn't respond to you because you were at the non-existent meeting of the "Aberdeen Township Board of Education." You probably would have gotten a better response from the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District's Board of Education. I'm not trying to be a smart-ass, but if you're going to persistently criticize and use your "fun-puns" based on semantics and word-play, you might want to try proof-reading your own blog...

  3. I wrote my response in a hurry before heading out to work this morning, so oops on calling it the Aberdeen Township BOE instead of Matawan-Aberdeen BOE. Mea culpa. Yours is not a smart ass comment, but it is rather trivial. You should have waited for a more glaring mistake to slap me with. Alas, success is where opportunity and preparedness meet.

    It isn't the job of the board president to evaluate the audience and then decide who deserves to be heard or answered. If the room is full of union members, that's who's there. If it is full of raving taxpayers, so be it. If the entire golf team shows up with clubs in hand you might want to call the police, but otherwise the board should hear people out and be responsive. What are you suggesting, that sometimes those attending a board meeting won't qualify to have their questions and concerns discussed by the BOE? Because that's what happened and it was wrong.

    As for jumping on anyone's bandwagon, my article focused on how the board was unresponsive to the podium last night.

    Speaking of focus, Ms Esposito and Mr Delaney were totally off base when they suggested the public should have brought up the loss of teachers last night. That wasn't on the agenda. There was considerable grumbling in the crowd when those remarks were made. The speakers were either taking cheap shots after public discussion was over or they didn't know what they were voting on.

  4. In fairness to Mr. Kenny, part of the problem is that when he sits in that seat, he's speaking for the entire board. That means there's a certain liability to whatever he says.

    Given the circumstances, he likely felt better safe than sorry. Unfortunately, we have a very litigious labor union.

  5. Mr Kenny was right not to speak for the Board, but wrong not to let individual members speak to the issues when appropriate. He was the chair, not The Answer Man, so he had the authority if not the will to permit members to demonstrate their competence over the particulars of the Pritchard contract.