Monday, November 14, 2005

Lakewood Public Schools system

Asbury Park Press's editorial rips the unacountable lakewood school board:

The Lakewood Board of Education has worked tirelessly at making its meetings as uninformative and hostile to the public as possible. But the board outdid itself at its meeting two weeks ago. It extended its policy of prohibiting discussion between the public and board members by refusing to even answer questions. Instead, it now instructs the speaker to arrange a meeting with the superintendent of schools to get an answer.
That policy led one member of the audience at the Oct. 31 meeting to ask: "Why have a board meeting if you don't answer the questions of the public?" Board members would be hard pressed to provide a good answer. But then again, they wouldn't have to reply under the no-dialogue, no-response policy. That's unconscionable. The public shouldn't stand for it.
Board members don't seem to understand that they are the ones responsible to the people who elected them to oversee the township's schools — not the superintendent. The board meeting is more than an arena for making decisions about programs, personnel and policy. Parents and taxpayers have every right to question board members and expect answers on the spot. Inviting a meeting with the superintendent at some other time is tantamount to telling the speaker to go away.
The Lakewood board is paranoid about its audience. Board President Chet Galdo says the restrictions on public comment — speakers are limited to four minutes — are designed to allow the board to stick to its agenda. "When we allowed these people to go into all the things they go into, it became their agendas," he said.
That's an admission by Galdo that he and his predecessors have failed to control the meetings. The board president can insist that speakers discuss only school issues, forgo personal attacks and keep their remarks short without gagging the public.
The board's questionable actions and silence about them cry out for public scrutiny. The board has failed to explain why a former superintendent was paid $72,000 for a no-show job and why it entered into what is now termed a buyout agreement with him. It named its new superintendent at an 8 a.m. special meeting that included no comment on why they promoted from within. It demoted its former business administrator for shoddy financial practices rather than file tenure charges.
The record of this board is abysmal. Lakewood residents can do something about it by rejecting the candidacies of any board members who seek re-election in the spring. In the meantime, they must show the board they won't go away until they can have their say and receive reasonable answers to reasonable questions at public meetings.
posted by Yeshiva Orthodoxy
at 2:03 PM

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