With a court action that sought a temporary restraining order dismissed, the Jersey City Board of Education may have finally cast their final vote regarding Dr. Marcia Lyles as superintendent of schools after four tries.
“Ordered that the order to show cause is dismissed as moot for the reasons placed on the record on February 14, 2019 and it is further ordered that the Jersey City Board of Education will reaffirm any action taken at the Special Meeting held on February 4, 2019,” Hudson County Assignment Judge Peter Bariso wrote in yesterday’s ruling.
The order continues that the BOE will have to reaffirm what was voted on at their February 4th meeting at either the upcoming caucus scheduled for February 25th or the regular meeting set for February 28th.
Cathy Coyle, a former Jersey City Public Schools administrator and more recently a state monitor for the district, filed suit shortly after the special meeting at the beginning of this month, alleging that the board violated the Open Public Meetings Act.
Her attorney, Bertram Okpokwasili, a former appointed school board member who was unsuccessful in getting elected back in November 2014, applauded Bariso’s decision.
“My client is pleased with the Judge’s ruling. In her injunction, my client alleged violations of the Open Public Meetings Act. Subsequently, The JCBOE has been ordered to redo actions taken during the disputed meetings,” he told HCV in an email.
“This ruling shines a spotlight on a concerning pattern of behavior by this board and continuing legal risks they pose to the Jersey City Public Schools.”
However, he clarified that he did not believe the board would have to vote on Lyles employment for a fifth time since they appeared to rectify that issue with a “properly noticed” special meeting that took place on February 11th.
Instead, he said the board would have to vote again on awarding a contract for special board counsel, approval for professional legal services and an approval of bills and checks.
Board President Sudhan Thomas also seemed pleased with Bariso’s ruling and accused Coyle and Okpokwasili of playing politics.
“I am glad Judge Bariso dismissed this fake case which cost the JC BOE taxpayer money and resources which would have been better served in the classroom to educate our 30,000 children,” he said.
“It was interesting that a former board member who lost his election bid represented Coyle in this frivolous lawsuit where a sitting board member choose to accept service on behalf of the JC BOE, without authorization, in a possible act of collusion among actors. This matter will be investigated.”
Okpokwasili added that in the event the board does not vote on the aforementioned matters a second time, Coyle has the ability to reopen her case.
Lyles appeared to be terminated on February 1st with Associate Superintendent Franklin Walker named as her replacement.
Things got a bit chaotic from there, as the interim county superintendent called the vote “invalid and void,” prompting two more votes on Lyles between February 3rd and 4th, with yet another vote taking place on Monday “out of an abundance of caution,” according to Thomas.