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Letter to the Editor: Zucker on Decorum

As the head of the negotiations committee, Mark Zucker takes some heat; here he responds to personal attacks by the public.

Dear Editor,

I have spent the better part of six years working tirelessly to ensure that our school district is responsibly managed.  I have actively participated on multiple committees including the CSA Search Committee to identify a new superintendent and have dealt with the preparation all of the budgets for the past six years via my ongoing service on the Finance Committee.  That said, however, of all the things that I have volunteered to do, the most important from my point of view has been my participation on the .  Ensuring that the teachers are compensated fairly and treated respectfully is critical to ensuring that the district runs smoothly and that our children are nurtured appropriately. Somehow this simple concept seems to have been forgotten.  Never did I believe that I would have to spend so much time defending the teachers to an increasing hostile public.  Not a day goes by in which some negative remark is not made about the teachers and their salaries.  While the role of a Board member is to represent the public, the Board member must always remain fair, objective, and sensitive to both sides of all issues.

A barrage of inappropriate personal character attacks was launched earlier this week at the public meeting and online by a small but highly vocal group of township residents.  These attacks were wrong and their anger was misdirected.  The fact remains (and they know it) that I have always maintained complete and total objectivity.  All decisions I make are carefully considered and the pros and cons fully weighed.  Nevertheless, some members of the public (or more accurately, some members of the public in attendance at this week's School Board meeting) seemingly believe that a desire to not abandon the collective bargaining talks at this critical time represents a conflict of interest.  Frankly, I disagree with that assessment. These individuals either do not understand the importance personal relationships and trust plays in the collective bargaining process or simply chose to ignore it.  Likewise, these individuals fail to acknowledge that the reason that the negotiations process has occurred over a prolonged period of time is because their elected representatives have been doing exactly what they were elected to do - represent them! 

Admittedly, in a cooler moment, some of the individuals who made the accusations subsequently reconsidered their comments as set forth in private communications.  Unfortunately, the news tends to focus on the event and not the reassessment.  This is tragic because these public mischaracterizations are not only malicious but have long-lasting implications.  Anyone who watches these meetings would have to wonder why any sane individual would want to serve as a Board member.  I ask myself that question on a daily basis, especially when I find myself being wrongly accused of inappropriate decision-making.  It is no wonder that school board elections are often uncontested.

Mark Jay Zucker, MD, JD

Carolyn Most February 15, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Respectfully, Dr. Zucker, you voted to pass a resolution disregarding clearly expressed community opposition without making a compelling case for the merits of the resolution, but simply to extend your own term. One can argue about how critical you personally are to the negotiation process. Again, respectfully, you are not the only person in town that can "remain fair, objective, and sensitive to both sides of all issues" in regards to contract negotiations. But granting your belief that you are critical to the negations process, this is not in itself a justification for your vote. The question to be considered was not an extension of your term to continue contract negotiations, the question was about the voting rights of the community. This is why people were and continue to be angry and believe you should have recused yourself from the vote. Finally, and again respectfully, if you feel that the heat of serving as an elected official is too much a burden, then you should not hold office. Local politics are often the most brutal.
Hedley February 15, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Why do I think he was talking about you?
Carolyn Most February 15, 2012 at 03:32 PM
He wasn't. I left the meeting before this happened ...
Millerman February 15, 2012 at 03:48 PM
If they do not agree with you Ms. Most, They must be wrong. Is that it? Did you ever think that the reason it is so one sided in the audience of the Board of Education meetings is that people with differing opinions to yours are often scared off by the anger vented from the attack dogs in the audience, that never see any good. MOST districts in NJ voted the same way the Millburn board voted. Are they all wrong? Obviously, there is some merit to the move to November. Not that you could see that! Dr. Zucker is a good man who deserves more respect! He has served our town well and continues to do so.
Abby Kalan February 15, 2012 at 03:55 PM
I find Dr. Zucker's defense of himself interesting. Having served as the chair of a school negotiating committee during contentious contract negotiations, I am surprised to hear that Dr. Zucker considers himself and Mr. Levy to be the best and only appropriate negotiators. Questions: Why are there not 4 members of the team?; and Why would he imply that the 9 members of the board are not all fully conversant with the negotiations to date? Isn't it the committee chair's obligation to keep everyone up to date and informed? And as clearly stated by Ms. Most, Dr. Zucker explained his vote as being a means to extend his term, and did not necessarily address the issue of changing the public's right to vote on the school budget.
Millerman February 15, 2012 at 04:59 PM
During YOUR contentious contract negotiations, what was the final raise that the teachers received? Obviously Dr. Zucker is doing a better job than you did.
M.Moore February 15, 2012 at 06:23 PM
+1
Carolyn Most February 16, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Once again Millerman, your failure to find a cogent argument leaves you resorting to personal attacks. Pretty ironic as Dr. Zucker is complaining about just this sort of personal attack. Just to reiterate, the reason I and others objected to his vote was because he did not vote on the merits of the resolution, he clearly stated that he was voting this way to extend his own term so he could finish the contract negotiations. As for attack dogs, you might want to look up the definition of projection : a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people.
Abby Kalan February 16, 2012 at 04:46 AM
The contract I referred to was a strong contract for its time. I cannot make a comparison to Dr. Zucker's efforts because the results of the current negotiations has not yet been revealed to the public. But, if you think you are able to make that comparison today, then something tells me you are a member of the board of education. Millerman, perhaps it's time you revealed your identity.
LDSF February 16, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Looking forward to see how the bill end up leading to,
LDSF February 16, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Compelling rationale and State mandate with no public voting. This is clear to me. We are totally going backward.
LDSF February 16, 2012 at 03:02 PM
The public mischaracterized is evidently caused more bounce by denying of concerns during BOE discussions and aftermath of moving election dates and bypass voting right process. This is a tragic implication also caused by the misrepresentation of public interest determined by a quick resolution pass. The small group that attended the Monday BOE meeting does not represent the entire public, but the decision the board represents the ENTIRE PUBLIC. I witnessed that the objectivity of the board is not completely weighed due to the emotional rationale was taken place. Respectfully to all the works from 9 board members to keep the district run smoothly under the time of economic stress. The increase hostile of the public is not a personal matter, rather it is the board continuously efforts to provide the platform on allowing concerns, voices for positive changes. That is the primary stage set for the debate discussions to function the board to set public policies. I still ask the question if 2% mandate tax increase for 4 years term is fair to the teacher and the public. The residents surely understand the personal relationship and trust plays in the collective bargaining process and consider if the votes on Bill A4394 is completely fair, objective and sensitive to the parties on both sides of issues.
LDSF February 16, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Residents have to attend the BOE meeting regularly are to follow up each agenda perspectives so can give an input. The regularity in sharing common concerns as public voice is not to contribute private communication to personal attack. I will not see the same way as the regular board meeting within the board members as private communication neither. I start to know barely the names of other community members by attending the Monday BOE and reading the patch. However, the common voice of concerns regarding voting school budget rights rise by sharing on the same agendas at the heated debate opening. I was not even prepared to talk publicly, I response to the public presentation and follow the speak up opportunity.
LDSF February 16, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Again, this aftermath 4 years 2% tax mandate bypass voting is not presented to the public that tied to the teacher contract negotiation. This is not supposed to be state mandate and is now the case. The states gave us option to make the bill as public referendum. The board choose to exclude the public in making public policies. The public continues to bring acknowledgement on the reason of the bill and the connection of the negotiation process. The negotiation has been on-going over a prolonged period of the time because the elected representatives have been doing to represent them and to bypass public vote to end them.
MOMSH February 16, 2012 at 03:24 PM
While I do understand the side which wants to have a vote on the annual budget increase, I also think there is a valid opinion which says that we elect the BOE, and those elected officials are responsible to put forth a budget which will continue to support the excellence of our schools. I think we should have faith in our elected officials. I also believe that our BOE candidates in Nov. should provide more specifics on where they stand on each issue -- what do they believe is fair for teachers salaries/benefits? how specifically do they plan to balance the budget? Perhaps there should be a debate amongst candidates? Finally, the fact is that the community does not get to vote on the specifics of the budget anyway, only the % increase to our taxes. If the state has a 2% mandated cap, then I'm not sure the value of having the public vote on whether the budget will be 0%, 0.5%, 1%, 1.5%, etc.
Millerman February 17, 2012 at 05:48 PM
401 out of 520 disticts in NJ have voted to move the elections, so far. The deadline for the decision is today.
Millerman February 18, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Your self-righteousness is only rivaled by Ms. Most. People stay anonymous for fear of retribution and is the main reason why I DONT attend Board of Education meetings. Disagree with the rabble-rousers at your own peril! Still waiting to hear about the "Glory Days" of the Kalan Board. As for the inside information that I have... its called "read a news paper" http://www.northjersey.com/news/136080803_Millburn_BOE_settles_with_administrators__teachers__contract_no_closer.html
Carolyn Most February 18, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Millerman - The only retribution areound here is that which you and a few of your cohorts on The Patch dish out to people who attempt to use this online resource to express their opinions and engage in discussion about important community issues. When I disagree with someone, I argue passionately. And, yes sometimes I beat a horse dead on the argument.That is a far cry from the name calling and character attacks that dominate your posts. All someone has to do is click on your name and see how any of your posts have been flagged as inappropriate. People fear what they themselves possess. Perhaps the reason you "fear retribution" is because you are the kind of person that dishes it out. What exactly are those "rabble rousers" at the BOE meetings going to do to you? Hold the administration and BOE accountable? Demand access to information that is supposed to be freely provided? Ask BOE members to justify their policy decisions with data and reasonable levels of analysis? How horrific and so, so scary! The fact remains that Dr. Zucker voted to pass a resolution based on the side effect of extending his own term, not on the merits AND many in this community find this unacceptable on its face regardless of whether or not they support the resolution. If you are capable of it, why don't you try to make a strong case about why you disagree and think it is good for the community that a BOE member make a decision this way, without including any person attacks in your post.
Millerman February 19, 2012 at 01:09 AM
With every angry keystroke, Ms. Most, the more you prove my point. I'm sure that this post will not stay up long, because you will flag it!
Carolyn Most February 19, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Exactly what is your point Millberman? And FYI - the article you reference is about the Administrators contract. No details of the teachers contract have been released to the public ...so again to Abby;s point ... are you just a Board member or perhaps a friend or family member with whom a Board member has inappropriately shared information?
Millerman February 19, 2012 at 05:08 PM
My point, Ms. Most, is that there are opinions that differ than yours in this town. No amount of "YOUR BULLYING" will keep other opinions stifled. Here you go again, "Beating a Dead Horse" ,your own words, but you are once again ignoring the facts. Read the newspaper: http://www.northjersey.com/news/136080803_Millburn_BOE_settles_with_administrators__teachers__contract_no_closer.html?page=all Zucker is quoted: "The latest round of talks in October and November, according to Zucker, the MEA representatives proved unwilling to accept an offer similar to the one agreed to by MASA" Most of the community believes the Board is doing a good job, and deserves more respect than the constant negative diatribes that you post!
LDSF February 20, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Experience teacher matters and I am glad that my sons have their teachers who can guide learning through classroom interactions, monitor progress to provide feedback, attend to effective attribute influences student outcomes.  The community respects the board to perform a great job in contract negotiation. More studies may need to explore on the interdependent factors of the Pilot program, waiver of No Child Left Behind Law, Inclusion Classroom of regular and special needs, Anti-bullying Law, and it's positive changes of effectiveness of the classroom teaching. MEA responses to these changes in regards to the State reform on education?
LDSF February 20, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Moreover, the consistency of classroom curriculums and students school social events contribute to character education and opportunity in learning social responsibility.

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