Letter: Vote of No Confidence?

The following is a letter to the editor from Secaucus Board of Education president Sal Manente Sr. following Thursday night’s contentious BOE meeting.

To the editor:

In another attempt to demoralize our schools, staff and community Mr. Anderson the self-appointed president of the Secaucus Education Association has called for another vote of “No Confidence” against the Superintendent of Schools Mrs. Randina. Why do I say self-appointed? There has been no election of officers in the last 15 years according to some of its members. Is this what Mr. Anderson considers a democracy?

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Mr. Anderson informed me at the Town Ball (Nov. 19th) that this was going to occur and the vote will be overwhelming against the superintendent. Even Mayor Gonnelli does not agree with this action, and said that neither he nor his council members will support such action. He said that he had spoken to Mr. Anderson advising him not to go through with this because it will only hurt the community.

No confidence in what you may ask? The Superintendent and the Board of Education have been working hand in hand with the SEA. Even with a failed budget and 1.1 million dollars removed the Superintendent was able to bring back the entire staff and keep all the programs intact with the exception of those suggested by the principals and the former director of athletics.

The previous year the governor cut 1.8 million dollars and once again positions and programs were saved. This is a cut of 3 million dollars in two years and no one lost their jobs. In light of a failed budget, the SEA was looking for 11.8%, 2.0, 4.8 and 5 percent over a three year period during contract negotiations. They received 6.55% instead 1.75, 2.4, and 2.4 percent raises for the next three years. This was above the budgeted amount projected in the 2011-2012.

Mrs. Randina has improved our educational programs, giving our children the tools to compete with other districts. Also our teachers have been given the ample tools to educate our children. She applied for a grant to help teachers and principals prepare for the new evaluation program that will be implemented in 2014 by the State. It provided our district a leg up over other districts who are struggling to find the funds they will need to train and implement this state-mandated program. This is a savings to the taxpayers for the next two years.

We can now apply the saved funds towards programs for the students. We received $72,000. Because the pilot program was extended another year, we will receive the same funds for another year. At the same time, other district Superintendents are adding these funds into their budgets. As president of the Board of Education I made sure that the SEA would be involved in every aspect of this grant and in training for the teachers.

When we are made aware of a problem by the staff, the Superintendent and Acting Business Administrator address them. The problem has been that the SEA leadership refuses to dialogue with the Superintendent and the Board, refuses to air differences, and refuses to work towards workable solutions on behalf of our faculty and students. Scores are up, excellent educational programs have been implemented, positions have been saved and technology is enhanced Most recently, each school is wireless.

Why a vote of no confidence? If anything Mrs. Randina has brought our school system right up to and beyond where we should be at this time, well into the 21st century. This is exactly what former Superintendent Scerbo had envisioned when he highly recommended to the then Board of Education to hire Mrs. Randina as the next superintendent three years ago.

Why then is this happening? There are certain individuals who are leading this disruption because of personal agendas. Staff members are also being held accountable for their actions or lack of performance. The taxpayers of our community must be made aware of what is truly occurring in our school system. It is evident that certain disgruntled individuals along with the SEA president want to control and run the school system.

I believe this vote of no confidence by the SEA has opened another door. Should parents gather a petition of no confidence against a teacher that they feel is not doing a good job? Do I agree with this, of course not. We would all like to select our own boss and run things as we see fit. Unfortunately, this is the perception that the leadership of the SEA is projecting at the expense of the children and taxpayers of Secaucus.

In closing I apologize to those Teachers and SEA members who are dedicated to their work with the children of our schools and may feel offended. I am hopeful that parents and taxpayers will remain confident in our schools, the Board and our leadership. To the Taxpayers of our community, the schools have not been affected much by the cuts that were made in the budget. Our Board and Superintendent wisely provided additional funds within the budget allowable by law, which provided $850,000 that saved programs for our students. However, we can not afford any other cuts or disruptions to the educational process because our children and schools will be affected.

Salvatore Manente Sr.
January 19, 2012
Secaucus Board of Education