Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ridgewood News: All school news, all the time

Friday's Ridgewood News was a Board of Education newsfest, wasn't it? Is there nothing else going on in town? (OK, there were a few things about the decline of downtown...and a Valley story...and of course some great Jamboree coverage!)

Let's review the school news in Friday's (2/5/10) paper, shall we?

Page 1: Teacher could lose her tenure.
For the first time in many years, tenure charges have been filed against a Ridgewood teacher. I can agree with the quote from Manager of Human Resources Gary Hall: this was not taken lightly. The process is ongoing, so there's not much I can add to the story that was in the paper. Plus, since it's a personnel issue, I'm wary of saying something that would compromise confidentiality...A parent asked me why we didn't announce this before now, seeing as it's February and the charges were first filed in September. As I mentioned to that parent, it's true that much of this is public information, and as you know I'm always looking for ways to increase our transparency. However, it is my personal opinion that no one would be served by proactively making a big public deal out of this. The District will of course respond to questions from the media and elsewhere (and if you have further questions, I recommend you contact Dr. Fishbein directly), but for now, I can say we're following the legal steps to achieve the goal that we think is best for the students of Ridgewood.

Page 2: Residents: Vandalism indefensible.
This is the story about the guy (or gal?) who keeps cutting a hole in the fence between BF Middle School and Steilen Ave. I've got news for you, it's not just the "residents" who find this indefensible. I'm pretty sick of it. The District has repaired the fence over and over. The neighbors have confronted the alleged perpetrator. The police have been notified and presumably are "investigating." But enough already! This person is destroying others' property. And, to make it even worse, his actions are putting children in danger because, every time the hole is cut, kids use it as a shortcut to and from school, causing them to cross two driveways on private property. The adjacent neighbor is right to be frightened that someday he may hit a child who emerges from the fence into his driveway. I'd like to see the fence repaired and then a Law & Order-style sting operation...a van with surveillance equipment, late night stake out...infrared cameras...maybe that creepy Dateline reporter doing the voiceover...and then gotcha!

Page 5: No more free ride on garbage truck for district.
(I like how the newspaper has it under a kicker headline "Budget Woes," like it's a regular feature...Oh, wait, I guess it is.) So, like in many municipalities*, the Village has been picking up our schools' garbage for years, decades, no one knows how long. Now, due to their own budget woes, they want to charge us, somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000+ per year. Obviously, with the millions of dollars we already have to cut for our 2010-11 budget, we can't just absorb another $100,000 expense. So, we'll go out to bid and my prediction is we'll get much more favorable quotes elsewhere. (*Note: I'm researching which other municipalities do and don't charge to pick-up their schools' garbage. More to come...)

I truly don't understand the nonsensical quote from Village Manager Gabbert at the end of the article. He said, " the impact on Village taxpayers will be insignificant if the BOE utilizes the Village sanitation services. If the BOE uses private scavenger services, then the increased expense will be reflected in the BOE budget." Huh? Guess what Mr. Gabbert. If we use Village services or another service, either way, the increased expense will hit our budget. Thanks for your odd analysis, but we'll be shopping around for the best price.

Page 5: School tax increase set at 4% cap.
I already wrote about this the day after our last BOE meeting. Click here to read my post. I can say that I noted the newspaper's lead stated, "In a rare show of discord, the [BOE] voted 3-2 on Monday to keep next year's budget'at cap.'" It's true that the public doesn't often see Board of Ed members disagree. I've said in the past that I think we should disagree a little more in public, if just to boost our credibility. So, I think it was good. The fact is, this budget situation is ugly and painful and it's not going to be easy, no matter what. None of us -- not newbies like me and not veterans like Mrs. Brogan -- has been in this situation before. The dire circumstances and the high stakes are bound to put us at odds again, as we work through the process.

Whew...time to put last week's paper to bed and move forward. Tomorrow I've got some news from Trenton. For now...It's a new week! It's the week before February break! Onward!


Anonymous said...

When will more information be available with regards to the tenure issue?

Laurie said...

Do you mean, when will the matter be resolved?

Anonymous said...


Lee said...

In regard to, "Teacher may lose her tenure"...Why did it take the school system so long to act on this issue? It states that these concerns were from (at least) as long ago as 2003. And, there were 44 infractions? Those, I assume, where the one's that were actually reported. Why was this person allowed to continue to teach for so long?

Laurie said...

I cannot speak to anything that happened before my time on the Board (21 months now). When Dr. Fishbein (who has been in the District even shorter...19 months) made the recommendation to the Board, based on input from the RHS principal (who is also a relative newcomer), then we acted according to very specific procedures and statutory timelines.

Laurie said...

Back to the question as to when the tenure charges will be resolved:

We had an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) assigned to the case before the holidays, and hearing dates were scheduled for mid-March. At that rate, we could expect a decision during the summer. But, we recently learned that the ALJ assigned to our case has been appointed to a judgeship in NJ Superior Court. This means our case is in a bit of limbo, waiting to see when a new ALJ will be assigned and whether that person will stick to the current hearing schedule or push things off in order to “get up to speed."