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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

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Big Valley.

I (along with the rest of the Board) received several emails last week from parents or other community members concerned about the Planning Board’s impending decision on whether to amend the Village Master Plan to accommodate Valley Hospital’s intended “Renewal.” The theme of the emails was that the Board of Education should “take a stand” and “protest” the project. Some people are confused as to why the BOE has not done this yet, and imply (or state outright) that we are shirking our duty to protect our students. (See today's Bergen Record for a story about those frustrated parents.) I would like to explain my personal reasons for my actions on this topic. (And this means, once again, that I’m only speaking for myself since it would not be proper or legal for me to speak for the Board or any other Board members.)

I believe it is right and responsible for the Board of Education to protect our students from the affects of a project that could impact their health, safety or education. Right now, there is not a specific project under review. There are ideas and intentions, certainly, but the Planning Board is considering amending the Master Plan. Later, when there is an actual project’s site plan and construction permits being reviewed, then the BOE will participate in the process to create the Developer’s Agreement. In that Developer’s Agreement, all the parties – Valley, the Village, the BOE, the neighbors, the County (I presume, due to the adjacent roads) and other major stakeholders will hammer out requirements, standards and expectations with regard to construction activity. I expect the BOE to play an active role in the process as a strong advocate on behalf of our students. I expect to be firm in our requirements and to participate fully and completely every step of the way, from the initial development of the Agreement through enforcement over the life of the project. That is the correct and most effective time, in my opinion, for BOE involvement.

I realize this is in direct opposition to what some parents/neighbors believe, but I do not believe it is right for the Board of Education to try and influence the Planning Board’s decision regarding the Master Plan. What does this mean? It does not mean I don’t care about children. It does not mean I’m stupid or irresponsible or na├»ve. It simply means that we disagree. Reasonable people can do that, you know? I am a firm believer that two people, when presented with the same information, can come to different conclusions.

This explanation isn’t going to please most of the people who emailed Board members last week. Maybe some of them will understand. All of them will have received Board President Michele Lenhard’s response on behalf of the Board. (According to our bylaws the Board president responds on the group’s behalf.) But for those who are able to listen, even to information you don’t like, thanks for reading.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think if the limitations are not specified before the amendment of the master plan, then Valley will have little interest on listening to us afterwards. The project would have been authorized,
We believe our children deserve better. They should be a priority not an after thought.
Still I respect your opinion, but ... my oldest will start BF next year, my second one the year after, my third one 2 years after that and my forth one, 2 years after my third one. I am truly worried and disappointed.

Laurie said...

Well, I don't agree with your first premise...the project would not have been authorized. Only the Master Plan would have been amended. The "project" will still have to go through the site approval process.

I do hear you and I understand your concerns. Thank you for civilly stating them. I do encourage you to continue communicating to the Planning Board.

Anonymous said...

Laurie:

This is an excellent assessment of the situation and the past, present and future roles the BoE will play in the decision-making process. You really need to be a stronger (and louder) voice on the Board.

Anonymous said...

I understand where you're coming from, but I disagree. I know you've stated many times that you don't believe your role as a trustee requires you to represent the wishes of the parents or taxpayers, but only the needs of the schoolchildren as you see fit. In this instance,though, it seems to me that the BOE also has a responsibility as stewards of the properties owned by the district, and, as such, all of the village. We just passed a major tax hike in order to maintain and improve those properties. Although I think the health, safety, and learning issues of the students should be the primary concern, I also think it's completely appropriate for the Board to take a position on a change to the master plan that could negatively impact the value and use of BF.

Anonymous said...

9:43

I think you do not really understand Laurie's comment. And, you seem pretty confident that the BoE will certainly come down on the anti-Valley side of the discussion when it is appropriate for that body to be heard. Maybe, maybe not.

This is a long process; some three years and counting. There are stages and steps that need to be followed in order for all sides to be heard and treated equally. It is a good process that should result in a decision that is not only fair, but more important, defensible in case the final decision is challenged in the courts.

You want to basically rush to a decision before all of the necessary--and democratic--process steps are fully taken.

And while I appreciate your insistence that Valley can not be allowed to expand, we need to do the hard work now to ensure that all parties are treated fairly. This is democracy in its purest and truest form.

Laurie's right that the BoE will have a proper time and opportunity to speak. That time is not now.