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Problems at the BOE

A bad night at the BOE

At the BOE meeting of Monday, January 7, 2013 those in attendance unfortunately got to see a political power grab and school governance in an ugly way.  For about a decade and half the BOE had a unwritten tradition of rotating the the BOE president.  Based on that tradition it was expected that Ms. Moredcai would become the BOE president.  However, Ms. Casalino got a second term.  Nothing was unlawful but it was not right.  Braking the tradition makes things more political at the BOE: and in my view sets a bad example going forward.  It would be hard for Ms. Moredcai not to see this as an insult. She has served since April 2010 and has often voted against the majority. It was a case of the majority which now includes newly elected BOE member Mr. Charles getting "political pay back" because Ms. Mordecai did not go along with the majority. The election prompted may citizen to complain of racism as Ms. Moredcai is the only person of color on the BOE.  I will not say this was racially motivated as I have too much respect for Mrs. Lab, Mrs.Brill, Ms. Casalino and Mr. Charlse to call them racist and I can not go inside their minds and know what they think on the issue of race.  However, these four individuals are capable of doing things for political payback.  I will say it was ugly and political at the BOE.  The BOE has to manage a budget of about $140 million and make sure about 7,000 student get and opportunity to have education, as well as manage over 1,000 employees.  The political nonsense has to stop and the BOE needs to focus on what is important. While taxes are high and student achieve in test score is not at the level it should be the citizen of West Orange can't tolerate political game at the BOE. The BOE members need to get along with each other even if they don't agree on every thing all the time. Also the four other members need to realize that even if they don't agree with her position she won an election in a fair and square way and thus Ms. Moredcai should get her say and should get her turn to lead even if votes are four to one with her being the one. I have seen first grade students "play nice in sand box" it is a shame our elected board members can not do the same.

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john anthony prignano January 13, 2013 at 07:37 PM
What sort of a person would BOAST that they are the close friend and confidante of an individual who freely admits to clandestinely ripping out political lawn signs and then putting back only the lawn signs of the candidates he supports? This individual ,who was evicted from his place of business in Newark for non - payment of rent, once sent out a PERSONAL endorsement letter with the State Seal of New Jersey placed at the top of the letter. That letter was filled with lies and misinformation.This individual, who professes to be an ardent supporter of the public schools, used a public school teacher's salary to pay for his children's private school tuition. And this individual, when he speaks about his being passed over and exiled to the back of the room, and his son's lackluster showing in an election, takes the expressions "sour grapes" and " flimsy excuses" to a whole other level. What sort of a person would BOAST about being the close friend and confidante of such an individual?
wohopeful January 13, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Mr. Englert, it is very telling when your own words are repeated abck to you that you think someone is trying to misconstrue something. If anyone is misconstruing anything uit would be yourself. You make comments about meetings that you didn't attend, try to promote excuses when factual evidence proves you wrong, and the list goes on. Clearly there was a power grab here by Ms. Casalino and Ms. Brill. Those of us in attendance witnessed it first hand. The WOBOE talks about the Anti-Bully policy they promote in the distrcit but bullying is alive and well at the WOBOE, just attend any meeting and sit thorugh the public comment where Ms. Casalino and Ms Brill shut down the representatives from thepublic. Now they have pulled a power grab on the WOBOE and it will be up to the citizens to right the injustice. I suggest you show up and join us in solidarity as we call for Ms. Casalino and Ms Brill to step down and allow the injustice to be corrected for the good of our community.
john anthony prignano January 13, 2013 at 09:37 PM
wohopeful . Of course you're correct .I think any objective person would have to believe that an absurd amount of effort was put into garnering a position that invests the holder of said position with little or no real power, and is at its essence almost purely ceremonial. I can only conclude there is far more to it than that. Do any of the other four Board members know the definition of the word " comity " ? the late,great poet Ogden Nash wrote "In the world of mules, there are no rules".
Concerned January 13, 2013 at 10:21 PM
I watched this WOBOE meeting on TV and got the feeling that the Rosa Parks incident was unveiling right before my eyes. In my humble opinion, considering that the post of VP in this case is more glory and pride than substance, Megan lost the opportunity to be admired rather than maligned, by not stepping down and offering the post to Sandra. As things stand right now, future meetings of the Board will be hostile and unproductive.
john anthony prignano January 13, 2013 at 11:44 PM
wohopeful , If we believe, and I say IF we believe the 4 School Board members defenders, then we have yet another West Orange first: What occurred was a carefully orchestrated POWERLESS grab.
Gary Englert January 14, 2013 at 12:06 AM
If anyone can detail for me any extraordinary powers that accrue to those holding the titles of President/Vice President of the Board of Education, I'd certainly be willing to hear about them but, I believe they are nothing more than what I've previously detailed. As to any Macchiavellian intrigue or plotting going into any of this, please keep in mind that anyone seeking the positions needed to do little more than make two telephone calls, as three votes decides the matter in anyone's favor. For whatever reason, Ms. Mordecai obviously failed to make those calls before her colleagues.
john anthony prignano January 14, 2013 at 02:23 AM
Remember what Paul Petigrow said? "As long as we're under the cap, there's no reason for the public to vote on the budget " They can cut several million dollars in spending from the budget.They can, but they won't. Petigrow feels that there's no reason to vote on as much as $2.8 million in new spending,even though we're already spending over $21k a student. Further, It's a 2% SPENDING cap,not a 2% tax increase. Livingston is drowning in successful tax appeals Their budget came in under the 2% spending cap, but the tax increase was considerably higher.West Orange must come in at or around the 2% spending cap. But with the apparent decline in our tax base,the tax levy will have to be higher than 2%. .My behavior was no different when my kids were in school then it is now. I'm supposed to be subservient to my employees? You know the "prevailing wisdom " - If you give the teachers a hard time,they'll pick on your kids" Whether you give them a hard time or not,they "pick on the kids" every day - Taking their parents jobs,demanding and getting more and more money from those same parents for increasingly inferior results, pushing for LESS instructional time in response to more and more curriculum mandates, etc. What's the " mission statement " of the public schools? "Preparing students to compete successfully in the high - tech ,hyper- competitive global economy of the twenty - first century. Charters?,Vouchers? ,C- c-c- ompetition? The flimsy veneer is long gone. ,. . ..
john anthony prignano January 14, 2013 at 04:00 AM
wohopeful I want to tell you that your letter addressed to me was a wonderful letter. Remember the words of Hotspur from Shakespeares Heny IV - " We shall, out of this nettle danger, pluck this flower, safety "
john anthony prignano January 14, 2013 at 05:47 AM
wohopeful That is a terrific point you made about the bullying that goes on by people who are charged with teaching students an anti - bullying philosophy. Years ago, the P.T.A. would send out a letter endorsing passage of the school budget .The letter contained warnings; If the budget's defeated, important programs may be cut, and class sizes may get larger. Hazardous route courtesy busing may be eliminated,forcing children to walk dangerous highways to get to school - .Threatening children's lives to coerce parents to vote yes on the school budget. Millburn has delivered on that scenario. The Millburn teachers got a raise, so how did the school board stay below the budget cap?. Millburn has eliminated hazardous route courtesy busing. If parents want their children bused, they must pay $580 a child, with a cap of $1,160 regardless of how many children come from one family. One parent said ,"What can I do? I have to go to work. I can't let my 6 year old walk a mile to school. I have to pay." Other parents said basically the same thing. Now if that's not a shakedown racket, what is. We can only hope that the buses get the children to school on time for their first period anti - bullying class.. .
Concerned January 14, 2013 at 03:45 PM
Ms. Mordecai stated in the meeting that the reason she did not actively lobby for the VP spot was because based on past practices, she assumed that it was her turn to at least be VP, and the election would just have been a formality. My take on this is that race was not a factor, but rather alliances among the board members. There is a strong alliance among Mses Brill, Casalino and Laub. Ron is an unknown at this point, but I will not be surprised if there is a 4 to 1 alliance on this board. This would mirror the 4 to 1 alliance on many issues in our Town Council, with Joe Krakoviak being the dissenting vote. These conclusions are based solely on my personal observations at the meetings.
Concerned January 14, 2013 at 04:02 PM
My apologies for misspelling...it should be Ms Lab, NOT Laub.
Gary Englert January 14, 2013 at 05:33 PM
Concerned: You are substantially correct and Ms. Mordecai's assumption was just that and simply misplaced. The members of legislative bodies throughout the land reach consensus as to who will hold what leadership positions prior to a public vote being taken and in virtually every case, yes, one's politics, positions and opinions come into play. Does the majority party in the House of Representatives install someone from across the aisle as Speaker of the House...does the State Assembly or Senate? No...they appoint those allied with their own political thought and philosophies. That is precisely what happened with the Board of Education and, based on all reports and observations, the fact that Ms. Mordecai is often out of sync and at odds with her colleagues is surely old news.
wohopeful January 14, 2013 at 05:59 PM
It still does not explain the power grag by Ms. Casalino and Ms. Brill. Based on the positions being nothing other than a title there was no need to dispense with tradition, but both Ms Casalino and Ms Brill made the power play and now only time will tell what they have up their sleeves.
Concerned January 14, 2013 at 06:30 PM
Hmmmm. Will Joe Kraloviak ever have a chance to be the President of the Town Council?
Gary Englert January 14, 2013 at 06:40 PM
wohopeful: Let me lay it out as simply as I can for you: Ms. Mordecai has often been at odds with her colleagues on various and sundry matters. As a result, it's more than reasonable to conclude that none of them very likely thought she was the best person to be speaking on behalf of a majority she is often opposed to. Had Ms. Mordecai expressed interest in a position before the meeting (and she did not, publicly and incorrectly acknowledging only that she thought it was "her turn"), her colleagues might have then illuminated the terrain in which she found herself deployed...assuming she couldn't figure it out for yourself.
wohopeful January 14, 2013 at 08:05 PM
It still does not explain the power grab by Ms. Casalino and Ms. Brill with regards to the positions they took. If these are solely positions of title then there should have been no need for either Ms Casalino or Ms. Brill to make the power play that they did and avoid tradiition. I urge you to come out to the WOBOE meeting and stand with us in solidarity as we request that Ms. Casalino and Ms. Brill step down and apologize for the power grab.
john anthony prignano January 14, 2013 at 08:32 PM
wohopeful, Concerned .You are right again. Gary Englert clearly states the problems the school board has with Ms. Mordecai is that she is "out of sync " with the board, and often votes against the majority. You see? If she had rubber stamped everything the board does and voted against her conscience and her beliefs, betrayed the public and her oath of office and been derelict in her duties, today she would be board president and in good standing with her colleagues.. She had already angered the cult by simple act of running for the board. But she enraged them by actually winning.This speak volumes about these people.. Dissension is the essence of a free society. Take that away, and you have a dictatorship, which is UNDOUBTEDLY why the 4 board members have engaged in retribution. These people, who are charged with teaching children character and tolerance and an anti- bullying philosophy, will NOT tolerate dissent..Could you imagine. Ms. Mordecai "paid the price " for her integrity and courage of convictions. .Concerned, I don't believe this contemptible behavior was rooted in racism. Ms. Mordecai refuses to be a robotic,obsequious fool and so she had to be punished. Concerned, of course Ron Charles is in lock step with the other 3. board members. What does it take for the public to recognize the true nature of these people and to see that these people are not there to provide children with a good education and to give the taxpayers something, anything for their money.
Concerned January 14, 2013 at 08:42 PM
Lesson Learned: To avoid this misunderstanding from happening in the future, the BOE By-Laws should provide that "the President and Vice President will be elected by the Board after every election." Relying on past practices or traditions, in this case, will not always work.
john anthony prignano January 14, 2013 at 09:12 PM
P.S. The public schools also place a strong emphasis on teaching students techniques that will help the students resist and be strong when they are confronted by peer pressure.
john anthony prignano January 14, 2013 at 10:07 PM
Wait a minute .The vast majority of letters on this thread have expressed strong support for Ms. Mordecai .Why does Englert refuse to get "in sync" with the majority. Why does he dissent? Let me guess. By expressing his beliefs and obeying his conscience, it appears to me he is exercising his inalienable right to free speech and freedom of choice without fear of retribution. By the way, the rule of law states" The majority rules" not "The majority is right" Henrik Ibsen articulates this point beautifully in "An Enemy of the People ". John Pragmatic.
Gary Englert January 14, 2013 at 11:32 PM
john anthony prignano: There is nothing to suggest that the majority of those posting on this Board is posibly representative of the majority of the citizens of our Townhip and, either way, I wouldn't be inclined to get in sync with many of the opinions being expressed here. Point in fact, however, 3 of 11 of our local elected officials (or 27%) are registered Republicans, which pretty much mirrors the fact that Democrats hold a 4 to 1 majority on the voter registration rolls. Rather than bemoaning the fact that someone assuming they were entitled to an appointed position didn't get one, we should be celebrating the fact that tow Democrats and two Republicans reached across the aisle, reached a consensus and made a decision for the greater good. If that were happening in Congress, I'm sure we'd all be more than happy about it.
Gary Englert January 14, 2013 at 11:34 PM
Sorry...above should, of course, read "3 to 1 majority"...
Kate Farrell January 14, 2013 at 11:47 PM
This person said: " wohopeful 8:59 am on Saturday, January 12, 2013 Then why the power grab by Ms. Casalino and Ms. Brill? Obviously it is much more to them than jsut a title if they have been campaigning for weeks for the position as you previously stated. This is much more than simply titles with no power. This is about a power grab by a select few to further their own personal agendas and not for the greater good of the community or the children." I was at the meeting and heard Ms. Casalino say she told Ms. Mordecai what she needed to do to put herself out for VP in December. If she didn't, shouldn't she be responsible for that and not other people? It's not about whether she could be a VP or not. I feel bad for her... she assumed something and it was wrong to assume it. But moving forward... isn't she running for school board again? If she gets re-elected, she can put her bid in for next year.
john anthony prignano January 15, 2013 at 01:19 AM
wohopeful You alluded to the fact that we can no longer vote on the school budget. . Because of the Shared Services agreement between the board of education and the township that they entered into several years ago,we have also been denied our right of Initiative and Referendum on multi - million dollar school construction projects. The public has voted No on too, too many budgets and referendums to suit a great many board members.They were magnanimous enough to give us opportunities to vote Yes, but those of us who could not or would not see the absolute necessity of their spending initiatives kept voting No. So in the classic tradition of the "You people are too stupid to know what's best for you ,so we will tell you what's best for you " school of thought, they have taken away 2 of our voting opportunities..
wohopeful January 15, 2013 at 01:38 AM
Ms. Farrell you miss the point. Ms. Casalino and Ms. Brill had every intention of executing a power grab and as a result would have told someone else that they need to stand on their heads to get the position. According to your friend Mr. Englert they conspired via phone calls and campaigning to ensure who would nominate who, who would second it and ultimately who would get the positions. There was nothing fair about the process and we shoudl all be ambarrassed and saddended by this show of force by Ms. Casalino anjd Ms. Brill in pulling off their power grab.
wohopeful January 15, 2013 at 01:45 AM
Exactly my point Mr. Prignano. These BOE member have very skillfully stripped the public of their rights to the checks and balances needed to protect the average hard working taxpayers. We are no longer able to vote on the budget, we are no longer able to vote on massive buidling projects, etc. The power grab here by Ms. Casalino and Ms. Brill was just another show of bully force to strip the majority of honest hard working taxpayers in West Orange of their rights by a select few who want to control millions of our dollars. The results are clear for everyone to see, failing schools and massive budgets. And in the end the public has no power to do anything about it.
john anthony prignano January 15, 2013 at 03:19 AM
There are certain terms and labels that are in no way apocryphal .One is "an Essex County Republican " Former Councilman Anthony Benevento was a a registered Republican. Where was the substance of his smaller government philosophy? Perhaps he was a Liberal Republican That may explain why he was in sync with the other Council members much of the time - because they were Ultra - Conservative Democrats.These farces are akin to professional wrestling feuds.Over $21k per pupil,and Englert says there are 3 Republicans. Semantics and a corruption of the language..Republican is too generic a term. Ultra - liberal? Liberal? Conservative? Ultra - conservative? Words and terms which are ineffable, and thus are meaningless There's only one party - the Money/Power party.The appearance of resistance is straight out of George Orwell's 1984. It is advantageous to give true conservatives the impression that there are people in positions of power who are of a similar mindset. Look at their VOTING RECORD, not their rhetoric.Look at your tax bill,look at how we pay more and more for less and less service crummy overpriced schools,filthy streets, riddled with potholes ad infinitum., Look at the epidemic of cronyism and nepotism and the acts of overt contempt for the taxpayers our "Republican"office holders engage in.There are still a lot of true Republicans, but these people aint them.If you dare to reach across the aisle,your hand will come back without your wristwatch . .. . . . . . .
john anthony prignano January 15, 2013 at 04:08 AM
Shakespeare ; " Words are but the shadows of actions." Many people claim to be conservatives, uncompromising tax watchdogs, indefatigable champions of the common man, etc. Macbeth ; ..... It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" We must never let propaganda trump performance..
john anthony prignano January 15, 2013 at 08:00 PM
wohopeful. When people are singularly effusive with praise for our elected officials and the state of affairs in West Orange, one must question if they have truly "missed the point." Richard the Third," Slave, I have set my life upon a cast, and I will stand the hazard of the die. "
john anthony prignano January 15, 2013 at 08:11 PM
wohopeful, Ms. Mordecai was punished for being "out of sync " with the other board members and for not being a rubber stamp. In West Orange, the opposite is also true. .People too numerous to count have been, and will continue to be , REWARDED for being { publicly } "in sync" and rubber stamping everything our elected officials desire.

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