The Bayonne Board of Education rehired 88 teachers after they passed a $127 million budget that comes with a 5.62 percent tax increase at last night’s meeting.
Early on at the packed meeting where hundreds were in attendance, Board Business Administrator Leo Smith explained the particulars of the $127,324,087 budget.
Board of Education President Joe Broderick added that the district initially wanted to approve a budget with a 3.95 percent tax increase, but that budget was rejected by the state.
During public comments, Bayonne teacher Gene Woods called for accountability and wanted to know if there was a criminal investigation either forthcoming or underway into former board accountant Brian Buckley – who has since been hired by the West New York Board of Education.
“The previous accountant was only fired for the misappropriation of all these funds, yet, other people have lost their jobs, or are possibly going to lose their jobs taxpayers will be paying more money. Yet, the next day this guy gets a job,” Woods stated.
“I’m wondering if charges have been brought against this person and if they haven’t, why not?,” he questioned.
Bayonne Board of Education Counsel Mitch Pascual said there is currently no investigation against Buckley or anyone else as they are waiting the results of an audit conducted by the state.
Board Trustee Charles Ryan said that the audit will likely not be complete until September.
A short time later, local parent Kieran White decided to think outside the box by dedicating a song to Smith and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patricia McGeehan regarding the ongoing budget crisis.
“Dr. McGeehan, our teachers are leavin’, you are Leo are the ones to blame. Look at what you’ve done you should be ashamed,” White crooned, with many members of the audience clapping along.
The board ultimately passed the budget by a vote of 8-1, with Trustee Mikel Lawandy voting no, citing the steep tax increase.
In a separate measure, the governing body unanimously approved a resolution to bring back 88 teachers who were recently laid off, though not everyone was happy with the roughly 200 teachers still left hanging in limbo.
“When I do my homework, my mother yells at me when I skim the materials and try to skip right to the easy answer … shouldn’t we be able to ask the board of ed to do the same?,” questioned 10-year-old Midtown Community School student Nia Burr.
“It looks like you have skimmed the report and taken the easy way out: terminating and demoting hundreds of people without looking for a better long-term solution. People that should have been in control of the money are taking no responsibility for the situation that we are in, which [is] up to 287 people being laid off.”
“Dr. McGeehan and Leo Smith are acting like two children trying to by [passing blame] to someone else,” she exclaimed.
The two-hour meeting came after hundreds of teachers, students and community members, mostly decked out in black “#287” t-shirts, led a protest from Veterans Stadium to the Bayonne Board of Education building.
A complete video of the protest, which was streamed on our Facebook page, can be seen below.