For Jersey City schools, trying to force superintendent out isn’t anything new

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For the Jersey City Public Schools, it certainly isn’t a new tactic – and perhaps could be considered standard procedure at this point – for a group to emerge and try to force the superintendent out early as evidenced by what’s occurred since 2010.

Former Jersey City Superintendents of Schools Dr. Marcia Lyles and Dr. Charles Epps. Epps photo via Facebook.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Last month, a New Jersey Office of Administrative Law Judge called for a reprimand against Jersey City BOE President Lorenzo Richardson for filing a petition with the state against fellow board members back in 2016, as only HCV reported.

The decision stemmed from an ethics complaint filed by former Trustee Matt Schapiro, a sharp critic of the Jersey City Education Association and the candidates they supported.

Richardson filed petitions against then-Board President Vidya Gangadin and former Board Counsel Ramon Rivera in hopes of forcing a special meeting to vote on a four-year contract extension with Dr. Marcia Lyles – the superintendent of schools until early this year.

Lyles received a four-year contract renewal in December 17th, 2015, though many board members were dissatisfied with this outcome since her contract did not receive a vote and was automatically renewed as part of a provision in her prior deal made in 2012.

Through a spokesman, Richardson has vowed to appeal the issue since he was “set up and framed” by adversaries on the board.

While it has largely been forgotten about after Lyles was placed on administrative leave, she was actually brought in to replace Dr. Charles Epps after Franklin Walker served as an interim superintendent for the district (the position he currently sits in now).

In early 2010, Epps was granted a two-year contract extension by the board, though it was challenged by a group that included then-Ward E Councilman Steven Fulop and board candidate Anthony Sharperson – the latter now running again as part of the “Change for Children” team.

The faction contended that the board violated the Open Public Meeting Act by failing to provide 30 days notice to the public prior to voting on Epps’ renewal (notice of the meeting appeared in The Jersey Journal four days before the governing body convened).

While the decision was ultimately not overturned, Epps was forced out in 2011 after a three-person slate backed by Fulop won in April 2011, giving the anti-administration members control of the board.

According to Change for Children Communications Director Ivette Almeida, the two separate scenarios involving the rising tensions between the respective superintendents were like night and day.

” … There is no comparison between the good civic understanding of Mr. Sharperson in this case. The board failed to follow the Open Publics Meeting Act by not allowing the parents and the public a voice in the superintendent’s contract extension process,” she said.

“Sharperson’s position was and remains focused on adhering to this fundamental protocol, unlike the unethical actions of Education Matters board members, who attempted to circumvent the most critical constituents in this issue – the parents, students, and the community at large.”

While Richardson is not on the ballot next month, he was backed by the JCEA in 2014 and 2017.

Mike Greco, the “Education Matters” (the slate backed by the teachers union) campaign manager, said that the Change for Children team is once again trying to distract from the issues.

“Mr. Sharperson and his Change for Children running mates are once again diverting attention away from the fact that they have no clear plan or platform,” he stated.

“They have consistently used their billionaire developer founders to spread lies and propaganda to try to further their cause. We are confident that Jersey City voters are intelligent enough to see through this farce and look beyond this smear campaign.”

Lyles was voted out before Franklin once again took the helm in February of this year, though it was a messy process that required several votes over a time period of a couple of weeks.

While both the Education Matters and Change for Children teams have made it clear that they would be supportive of doing a national search, each team has also stated they feel that Walker is the most qualified person to be the permanent superintendent.

Adding further intrigue to the matter is that Tara Stafford, one of Epps’ children, is running as an independent in this race. She said at a debate earlier this month that she also felt Walker would be the best choice to be the next superintendent.