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 naïve. 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org