2 Guttenberg BOE hopefuls, superintendent clash over policies ahead of election

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Two Guttenberg Board of Education candidates went after the school district for a number of issues including catering to bilingual parents and the annual school tax increase, but Superintendent of Schools Michelle Rosenberg says they’ve got it all wrong.

Jason Aydelott, a Democratic committeeman in town, blasted the BOE and superintendent for allegedly not allowing anyone to translate for Spanish speaking parents at public meetings.

“When we go there, I asked them ‘do you have someone who can translate?’ They said no. So then I said ‘you don’t mind if my wife translates, correct?’ They allowed that,” the BOE candidate recalled during an interview with Hudson County View.

“How hard would it be to find, in our district, to find parents willing to volunteer to come in and translate for other parents? It’s an easy solution, it’s an easy fix. These are the types of things that our current school board and our current superintendent are unwilling to do.”

Speaking over the phone this afternoon, Rosenberg disputed Aydelott’s account of what is typical for Spanish speaking parents at monthly BOE meetings.

“Several years ago I polled the other superintendents in the county and no one else has bilingual BOE meetings. We’re here to please the public and our attorney’s legal opinion was that it would not be equitable to only provide a Spanish translator, given that we have other ethnicities in our schools as well,” noting that about 10 percent of students are Arabic.

“Six of our nine school board members are bilingual, so there’s never been denial of translating to the public. Our board president is happy to translate from Spanish to English for me, and then from English to Spanish for the parent when applicable.”

William Hokien, a running mate of Aydelott, said that the current nine-member board has no transparency – a point that Aydelott was happy to expand upon.

“We have situations in the school right now where these decisions are being made behind closed doors: do you know how I know about some the decisions that have been made? Because I raised my hand and asked in the school board, at the meeting,” Aydelott exclaimed.

“If I hadn’t asked raised my hand, for example, I wouldn’t have known the change in the uniform policy had I not asked: it’s not communicated to the parents … you hold the parents accountable for following them [the rules], but there’s no accountability for the people who make the decisions.”

In response, Rosenberg said that Guttenberg BOE meetings are no different from any other, with personnel and disciplinary matters discussed in closed session and all other business being held in open session – including a public speaking portion.

Aydelott also said that the district has serious personnel issues, claiming that directors are being paid as administrators, questioning the superintendent’s $145,000 salary – given that the Ana L. Klein Elementary School is the only school in town.

He also took umbrage with the fact that the district is paying for Rosenberg’s doctorate, given that there is no guarantee she will stay with the district after the fact.

Once again, Rosenberg disputed the claim.

“After I complete my doctorate, I have to give two years back to my school district … If I leave before my term is up, I’d have to pay back my doctorate,” she said, further stating she plans with being with the school district until at least 2020.

Aydelott and Hokien, also running with Mark Rogers, are opposed by Lourdes Gomez, Elsa Schwarz and Marisol Montanez – the latter being the only incumbent seeking re-election tomorrow.

All six candidates are seeking three, three-year terms on the board and the polls are open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Get rid of all the bilingual and translator crap. If you’re gonna live in this country then learn English

    • Several clarifications:
      1. We have one director, in which she did not receive a pay increase for the change in title. The purpose was for her to gain permanent certification and attend workshops that will help her professional development and the school. The director is not responsible for student discipline but for technology and the massive amount of state reporting that is required. We have two supervisors that work with teachers on curriculum and student discipline. The supervisor to student ratio is 1:510, which is actually higher than most districts. In an effort to save money, the VP position was eliminated as that yielded a much higher salary.
      2. Superintendent’s salaries are capped. The salary is determined on the amount of students not on the number of schools in a district. he pay caps were supposed link the size of a school district to the salary of a superintendent as follows: 0-250 $125,000; 251 –750 $135,000; 751–1,500 $145,000; 1,501–3,000 $155,000; 3,001–6,500 $165,000; 6,501–10,000 $175,000. Currently, I am entering my fifth year in Guttenberg as the Superintendent and have not received any increment in salary. In all actuality, I am making significantly less every year because it is mandated by the state that employees contribute to their medical insurance. The amount of the contribution is determined by the salary. The higher the salary the higher the contribution. In the state medical expenses have gone up in the last year 30%. This also equates to teachers paying more every year.
      3. Members running for the BOE speak about transparency, yet we have virtually no attendance at BOE meetings. Transparency- everything that is required by law is public. All and everything discussed in open session is public. Complete transparency- It is what I believe in and expect that of staff and BOE members.
      4. We have head a steady increase in test scores, and that documentation is on the website and public knowledge issued by the state of NJ.

      I encourage any questions about our district at anytime. Please email me at mrosenberg@alkschool.org. In addition, we have a BOE meeting this Wednesday at 6:30pm. All are welcome to attend.

  2. John, thank you for taking the time to get Ms. Rosenberg’s responses, it is this type of open dialogue that we need more of in the Guttenberg School District.

    Ms. Rosenberg said that it is not typical for Spanish speakers not to be able to participate, but in addition to the example we gave in the interview, we have had several Spanish speaking parents tell us that they don’t feel like they can participate in Board of Education Meetings because of the language.

    Additionally, Ms. Rosenberg mentioned that it would not be equitable to provide Spanish translation as there are “other ethnicities in our school as well.” While it is true that there are other ethnicities who should be respected, we would like to point out that DataUSA.io states that 81% of “Guttenberg, NJ citizens are speakers of a non-English language,” with Spanish being the most common. We simply want to help parents to be involved in their children’s education.

    As far as Ms. comment about all other business being held in the open session, we invite people to attend a meeting with the current board. There you will find resolutions being voted on with no discussion at all in the open sessions. So either the resolutions are being passed without discussion or the discussion are being held behind closed doors.

    It is true that, Ms. Rosenberg is under contact until 2020 with the extension she was given this summer, and that she has to pay back the cost of her Doctorate if she leaves. However, there is no time table for her to finish her Doctorate. In other words she doesn’t complete her degree two or even one year before 2020. So if she waits to the end of her contract to complete the degree, she is free to leave with an education that did not benefit the district.

    Additionally, the contract states that she only has to reimburse the district if she quits. If she is terminated, she does not have to pay it back. Now, while we are not calling for her to be terminated, this clause is a good example of how the current Board of Education dropped the ball in its stewardship of our tax money.

    We simply want to give the community and parents more say in the education and the future of our children while being good stewards of our limited resources.

    • Good morning: Jason thank you for your reply. For further clarification, the public portion of the meeting is held prior to the BOE voting on agenda items. This gives the public the opportunity to ask questions prior to the vote.

      I will address any and all of your concerns during the public portion of the meeting.

      Have a wonderful afternoon,
      Michelle

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