BOE Asked to Reverse Vote to Move Elections to Nov.

Board did not change previous vote; still talking about Feb. 13 meeting.

Members of on Monday asked the Board of Education to overturn its earlier vote to move school elections to , saying the board has some ethical problems with its vote two weeks ago.

First, they say, the board did not give the public fair notice of the vote and secondly, three of the members who voted in favor of the move are up for re-election and had a conflict of interest and should recuse themselves.

Jeff Diecidue and Josh Scharf, both members of the group, asked the board to rescind their vote from two weeks ago and put the question to a public vote in April.

They also suggested that if the board refused to do that, WeLoveMillburn, a grassroots community organization, would have no choice but to file an ethics violation charge against the Board of Ed.

“Your resolution is totally deficient, infirm and invalid,” Decidue said. “And maybe we’ll have to take steps to prove it and enjoin you from going forward and changing the election. But I’m hoping this board will say, ‘We made a mistake, let’s redo it.’

“Or better yet, let’s let the public decide whether it wants to move the election and lose the right to vote on the budget. If you’re so confident, what are you afraid of?”

Board members did not respond to either Decidue or Scharf and no one brought up the possibility of reversing the vote.

“I would ask the board, in the spirit of fairness, to go back out and wait a year as have a number of district,

After the meeting, board members Sam Levy and , who are up for re-election this year, wondered whether the board could even reverse the vote, but did just that last week.

They also said that after six years on the board, neither of them wants to stay longer, but felt a responsibility to see that the negotiations with teachers come to a satisfactory end.

The meeting two weeks ago was the focus much of Monday night’s meeting – not only because of the vote, but because of the lack of decorum and civility between board members and the public.

Superintendent Dr. James Crisfield opened Monday night’s meeting admonishing everyone in the room for the behavior exhibited at the last meeting and reiterated that while there is always room for criticism and disagreement, participants must serve as role models to the children they are all there for.

"Civility is not negotiable," he said, adding later, “I ask that you remember why we are here," he said. "It's not for entertainment ... or blood sport."

At the end of the meeting, Jean Pasternak referred to another discussion that took place two weeks ago regarding her involvement in the special education committee.

At that meeting Pasternak asked whether she could get questions answered about special education transitions, but Board Member Eric Siegel declined to answer the questions because he was unsure of how much information she could legally have since she had recused herself from the committee several weeks ago.

On the advice of the board’s attorney, Pasternak recused herself from the committee because she was named as a witness in a pending lawsuit against the district regarding a special ed student.

At the last board meeting, when Pasternak asked if she would get answers to her questions, Board President Michael Birnberg asked her if she felt she was privy to information that could be confidential.

“I’m completely speechless at your question…maybe you should talk to the board attorney to clarify for you what guidelines she placed upon me in recusing myself from the committee before you broaden it to say I’m not allowed to ask a question and get an answer as any board member would.”

Pasternak said she was trying to bring up issues raised by a group of special ed parents and the questions had nothing to do with the case or the reason she recused herself.

She asked that the board get the attorney to clarify why recusing herself from that committee would hinder her role as a board member.

On Monday night, she said she wanted to address “my fellow board members regarding their attacks on my integrity…their attempts to suppress my right to express my First Amendment rights and to hold back my determination to hold our administrators accountable.”

She said a friend sent her a quote of encouragement after the last meeting that read, “ ‘Champions have the courage to keep turning the pages because they know a better chapter lies ahead,’" she said. “And I hope that’s true for this board and myself on this board.”

M OKeef February 29, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Carolyn, Why do you send your daughter to MB schools if you think she will end up "not prepared for college/life" ? Have you ever spoken with any of the town's college aged students to ask their opinions as to how well prepared they felt compared to their peers in their college from other communities? You will find it very illuminating. And please ask the high school for a list of colleges attended listed by class rank deciles which the HS keeps for every graduating class. Even the students who graduate in the middle and bottom deciles of the class go to very reputable schools. You may not know the value of a Millburn education but college admissions offices are very aware of the excellence of our educational program from the AP level to CPA level. You simply do not know what you are talking about.
Bobby February 29, 2012 at 09:28 PM
OMG, you are so annoying. Please think before you spout off. Let's take #1, organic gardens. I have a garden in town and if you did not notice, the local growing season nearly matches school summer vacation. So it is not going to work here for kids to grow, their own produce, perhaps in Florida. In addition, we have very little field space on which to put a garden for the size of 1,200 lunches, and that field would need to be fenced to keep out deer and groundhogs.
Bobby February 29, 2012 at 09:46 PM
School rankings from Newsweek are not worth the paper they are printed on. Who cares? My friends in NY or CA would LOVE to have our class sizes. 35 is quite common nationally. As far as a gifted program, due to the extremely well educated parents in Millburn, the average level of our classes is quite high. Kids come to school well prepared and have high expectations placed on them. (perhaps too high) There is not as great a differential between top 10% and the middle as in some other districts. In the High School there are 4 levels of classes (CPA, CPB, Accelerated & AP) so all students have a level where they can be successful. Since I personally know recent Millburn graduates, even those in the lower deciles find that their preparation for college was very good. If you ask around, you will find that our college admissions for the bottom 50% are excellent compared to neighboring communities.
Jane Marshall February 29, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Jane Marshall February 29, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Anne, +1
CM February 29, 2012 at 10:32 PM
+1 Let's not forget that the decision to move the vote to November and removing the community's right to vote on budget was not a unanimous BOE decision. Lise Chapman, Jean Pasternak and Regina Truitt all voted NO.
KLF February 29, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Caroline, You hit it on the nose! I respect Ms. Most's passion. But think the bottom line is that a school district cannot be all things to all people. Just as different colleges provide different experiences, so too do different school districts. Every family has to find the best fit for them, and that is how families (who are able to) typically select where to live. Also, if you ever had a child attend school in one of these out-west districts, you might feel differently. Things always look different from the inside. It seems as if you are looking at these "other districts" with rose-colored glasses. Finally, I just want to mention, that I have friends who used to live in Short Hills, with children at all levels of the schools. They recently moved to Palo Alto, one of those districts to which you often compare Millburn unfavorably. For what it's worth, this family told me that now that they have experienced both Millburn and Palo Alto public schools, there is no question in their mind that Millburn is better. (I hate going tit for tat with school districts, but you DO often mention Palo Alto as representing something we should strive for.)
Jane Marshall March 01, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Humble? Ego is front and center with this rambling commentary. There are no facts here to support your claims. Anecdotal stories are unconvincing and misleading. Public schools in Atlanta have class sizes of 35? You have no facts to support that. Why did you say it then? Please do some research. These stories play well to the insulated Patch posters who never set foot outside of Millburn. You have no basis, nor does anyone else in the community to judge our schools by any real measures. Where students go to college is not a measure of our schools. There are so many factors, outside of what is done in the schools, that influences that. Funny you don't mention tutors, legacies, and the like. Oh, you haven't experienced that yet, so perhaps you should wait until your kids are a little bit older. Great advice you gave, you should take it as well.
Jane Marshall March 01, 2012 at 02:15 AM
You're wrong.
Jane Marshall March 01, 2012 at 02:24 AM
"...we have darn nice kids and nowhere is that more evident than in the teens I meet across town." from Patch... "Other police briefs related to teenagers: Millburn police arrested several teenagers last week for possession of alcohol and shoplifting, in separate cases. The teens arrested were all under the age of 18 and their names were not released. On Thursday police arrested a 17-year-old Township resident on charges of underage possession of alcohol. Police discovered three 30 packs of beer in the car after pulling the driver over for failing to stop on Old Short Hills Road near Glen Avenue. The juvenile was also charged with failure to stop"
Jane Marshall March 01, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Bobby March 01, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Jane, what is your point? Parents influence their children much more than the schools can or should. Some parents have not progressed in their social interactions since middle school.
Carolyn Most March 01, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Yes, there are fantastic kids in this town, and not so fantastic kids ...e.g. 121 reported and 21 verified HIB incidents in the district in the first few months of school ... Plus I know several parents whose kids have experienced HIB incidents this year but the Administration has refused to acknowledge them as such. How about that hazing incident with the HIgh School girls a few year back, or the African American and Asian students who have been subjected to racial slurs at the High School. MBSH has always had its share of not so "darn nice kids". There certainly were some when I attended school here ... and some of them even went to Ivy Leagues. I am not sure what this has to do with the community having oversight of the budget, or the unwillingness of the BOE or Administration to provide an innovative vision for our school district. I am also really confused about why the "status quo" is considered acceptable when this district has a history of financial mismanagement? And given the expected ongoing financial constraints, how one can believe MBSH can maintain educational excellence without innovation? The most successful organizations in the world - public and private sector - respond to fiscal constraint through innovation creating cost saving efficiencies while upping their game. Why shouldn't the school district do the same? And why do people in this community believe that pressuring the BOE and Administration to do this is wrong, bad, and somehow disingenuous?
LDSF March 01, 2012 at 03:25 AM
http://www.ere.net/2011/12/05/10-predictions-for-2012-the-top-trends-in-talent-management-and-recruiting/ Rather than the traditional “one-size-fits-all” retention strategy, a targeted personalized approach will be required if you expect to have a reasonable chance to retain your top talent.
Carolyn Most March 01, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Successful organizations anticipate, they proactively embrace innovation. Reactive organizations often wait until it is too late, and often the most radical innovation cannot then help them regain their success. We have a 2% tax cap, a 2% annual increase for our Administrators and likely for our teachers as well for the next 3 years. Given that most things get more expensive, do the math. An annual 2% tax increase at best maintains the status quo and a slow decline of services. The whole sky is never going to fall, little pieces of it are. Think of it this way. Put a frog in boiling water and he jumps out because he feels the pain, he recognizes the dangerous change in temperature . But if you put him in cold water and slowly turn the heat, he doesn't notice what's happening. It is each little incremental change, each new fee for service, each expenditure without a plan, each course or program dropped, each change that provides less transparency, that eventually add up to less community control and a diminished educational experience.
herman Rotter March 01, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Anne March 01, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Benjamin Willard March 01, 2012 at 05:52 PM
I've attended Board meetings, read Edline postings, and pay attention to articles and blogs. Caroline Most's comments appear starved of facts. An outsider reading her repeated blasts of the District would think we have one of the poorest performing schools in the country. Sub-standard food? What is her basis for that, little Most coming home one day to complain about lunch that day? Most started paying attention to school matters when her courtesy bussing was to be removed. Now, she complains about every part of our 'substandard' schools and that the sky is falling on her kid's education. Where are the facts? Ranked #1 in NJ, highest SAT scores in NJ, Blue Ribbon school, more awards than any other school in NJ. None of that seems to matter, afterall, our kids don't have an organic garden. Scare mongering is Most's way of campaigning, and she hopes the community is dumb enough to believe our failing schools need to be rescued by her candidacy.
Carolyn Most March 01, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Caroline, I appreciate your comments and agree there are many great things about the schools, our kids, and this town that we should and do celebrate. The problem as I see it, is that the Administration, the majority of the BOE and many folks in this town appear to believe that just maintaining the status quo - because everything is fine or close to it - is a reasonable way to manage our school district. I believe the data shows that this is not necessarily the case, there are many aspects of our district that warrant attention, analysis, and innovation, and that this "everything is OK" approach is an implicit plan for slow decline in the face of continuing fiscal constraints and the progressive innovation that is taking place across NJ, the US, and globally. What I have witnessed myself in the last year and heard from many individuals dealing with the Administration and the BOE is a consistent pattern of denial and trivialization of significant issues, insults and attacks lodged at folks who raise these issues, an unwillingness to engage in best practice, data driven research, analysis, and planning before making critical decisions that impact our schools and our kids, special treatment for certain community members and students, and a load of excuses about why the community should or can not be involved of even consulted when forming policy or why certain policies - some required by law- should not or cannot be enforced.
Carolyn Most March 01, 2012 at 06:00 PM
It is not that we now have such severe issues that they cannot be fixed. However, I do believe if we remain on our current trajectory, we will be in that position a few years down the line.
J S Beckerman March 01, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Candidacy for what? Most is running for BOE? Heaven forbid. She lives to complain.
M.Moore March 01, 2012 at 07:55 PM
I disagree with your characterization of this school district, Ms. Most. Those of us who disagree with you do not have our heads in the sand or believe in maintaining the status quo only. We simply disagree with you. I see an excellent school district which does a great job educating our children. Is it perfect? Of course not, nothing is. But, my son is leaving his elementary school with a great education AND a strong emphasis on values and character. There are challenges we face going forward as a district but we are doing a lot of things well. With less money comes more difficult choices - some were made last year and more will be made in the future, but the sky is not falling IMO.
KLF March 02, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Good point about the food. In elementary schools, there is no cafeteria food, so what "data" is there to back up this statement?
Anonymous March 03, 2012 at 06:38 AM
The WLM argument, "three of the members who voted in favor of the move are up for re-election and had a conflict of interest and should recuse themselves," is ridiculous. ALL board members who voted Yes extended their terms of office by 8 months. As for gaining something of value, listening to Millburn BOE meetings leaves one with the distinct impression that serving an extra 8 months is more pain than gain. This "ethics" complaint will be laughed out of court.
LDSF March 03, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Your implication is lead to an impression of value ethnic gain after the pressure of WLM. This decision can leave to court. So, the 'bypass' is a real threat.
Carolyn Most March 03, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Benjamin WIllard - Kindly keep your character attacks focused on me and do not bring my child into this discussion. And as far as you"facts", you should do some homework. NJ Monthly magazine's Number 1 ranking in 2010 is not exactly the gold standard. MBSH township ranked 35th last year and 29th this year as a district according to state testing Data (www.schoooldigger.com), some of our elementary schools well below that number in 2011- D:13, G:36, H:61, W:85, SM:251, MS: 31, HS: 32. Also the trendlines for the Middle and High schools is down over the last 5 years. We have fallen off the top 100 rankings by US News, and didn't even make their STEM assessment (http://education.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-high-schools). Can you direct me to data on our SAT rankings? According to 2009 date, NJ ranks 41 in the county in SAT scores, and according to 2010 NJ State Report card (http://education.state.nj.us/rc/rc10/database.htm), our mean scores on Verbal 613, Math 637, and Essay 618 rank our High School 28, 25 and 23 in the State respectively. You can download the data in spreadsheet format and see for yourself. Just to make it easy, MBSH district code is 3190, High School code is 50.
Carolyn Most March 03, 2012 at 03:43 PM
(Contineud) We are not on the 2011 Blue RIbbon school list (http://www2.ed.gov/programs/nclbbrs/2011/national.pdf) which is all that impressive a list anyway and is something a district decides to apply for. There are 2 metrics high performing and improving performance - the list itself does not distinguish between the 2 categories. The majority on the current NJ list are parochial schools.
Bobby March 03, 2012 at 04:25 PM
SAT rankings - Carolyn, again you are showing us your willful ignorance of facts. Looking at the same data more carefully, for 2010, Millburn had the 13th highest SAT scores of public schools, if one totaled the 3 sections - 1,838 That total was 3rd among public High Schools that serve an entire town. Princeton, #10 with 1860 and West Windsor, #12 with 1843 were the others. Other schools that performed better were county magnate schools, most of which have student populations in the 60's or less. Magnate schools are not comparable as they have selected admissions.
LDSF March 03, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Glad that many in this town can afford tutors to shore up the reputation of the school district. It is to explore the trend analysis on the scores system, the core values of learning process and the evaluation assessment tools on students potentials on achievements. However, the reality is that the SCORES is the system for entry college admission requirement.
LDSF March 03, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Also, the home values in town are directly related to the score rankings.  The rankings drop or are not available, so will home values.


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