JACKSON – Members of the Board of Education had hoped to approve the appointment of a new member to fill a vacant position on the Board but that appointment was postponed.
“Originally we felt we could name that person tonight,” Superintendent Stephen Genco said. Board members interviewed several applicants prior to the evening’s meeting but one who had expressed interest could not make it.
“We will wait until we can interview that person,” Genco said. The Board is expected to announce a replacement during its Oct. 16 meeting. The Board is seeking a replacement for Vicki Grasso who resigned on Aug. 22. The person will fill the seat for the duration of Grasso’s term.
Development Meeting Fallout
Board member Gus Acevedo said during the board member comment period that he was distressed by commentary that linked his name to a controversial subject in the township. Acevedo, two members of the township’s Zoning Board of Adjustment and one member of the township Planning Board attended an Aug. 15 meeting of a group called Citizens United to Protect our Neighborhoods (CUPON).
Resident Elenor Hannum, who organized the CUPON meeting, described CUPON as an advocacy group, focusing on development issues. It was the first meeting. The local group is the 13th chapter of a larger group that formed in Rockland, New York several years ago.
Dr. Sheldon Hofstein, who served on the Zoning Board of Adjustment for 11 years resigned on Aug. 26 while fellow member Joseph Sullivan resigned on Aug. 23, the same date that Planning Board member Richard Egan resigned from his board. All three had attended that meeting.
During a Sept. 10 Jackson Council meeting Hofstein, Sullivan and Egan publicly stated they had been asked by members of the council to resign. The reasoning for that request was based on the presumption that their attendance at the CUPON meeting presented a potential conflict of interest: in their respective board roles, they would be called upon to vote on applications involving development projects.
As the township is currently battling several lawsuits involving development project denials of the Orthodox Jewish community, the subject of development in the township has become a contentious issue.
Acevedo, who spoke at the CUPON meeting, was secretly recorded during the meeting as was Hofstein, Sullivan and Egan. Their comments were included in several blog posts in The Lakewood Scoop.
One post recorded Acevedo saying, “the more obstructive you are to them, the more delays they have, the more expenditures they have and the less easy it becomes for them.” He also advised any residents who spoke at public meetings to make sure that what they say, which would be documented, was factual and ethical.
Marc H. Zitomer of the law firm Schenck, Price, Smith and King, Florham Park represents the school district and stated on Sept. 4 that “Mr. Acevedo attended the meeting in question in his capacity as a private citizen of Jackson and not as a representative of the Board of Education. Therefore, we do not see this as Board of Education matter.”
Acevedo denied making any disparaging remarks about any religious group and during the Sept. 18 School Board meeting said he resented any inference that he was anti-Semitic.
“I do not like my name tied to anything negative and will not allow my name to be dragged down,” Acevedo said.
Smooth Start To School Year
In other board business, Vice Board President Sharon Dey said “we had a terrific start to the new school year and I feel it will get progressively better.”
The Transportation Department is currently without a director. John T. Griffiths is set to take over in that role in a few months. Griffiths currently heads the Edison Township School District Transportation Department.
Genco said Griffiths provides transportation for 18,000 students in Edison and has served there for 14 years. Griffiths is not available until after Oct. 27 when his contract ends.
“Tammy Dalton, our acting director of transportation, did very well with our opening,” Genco said.
Genco reported that there was no news on the district’s joint lawsuit with other school districts against the state, calling for restored state aid funding.
“The numbers were skewed to begin with, as the appraisals used to base it on were from 2009. It is not an accurate approach and we are trying to get them (the state) to recognize that,” Genco said.