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.