Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Meet the Board of Education Candidates--April 1, 2013

Last night I attended the Candidate's Night at the Hackensack High School.

The 2013 Candidates for Board of Education
It was an "open forum" for the public to ask questions and learn more about the candidates and their views on the issues that concern our schools.  Well, "open" is a relative term.

The evening begins with an invitation for the audience to submit questions for the candidates on index cards, the candidates are given an opportunity to provide a 5 minute opening remark.  When this is concluded, the index cards are collected from the audience and "sorted."  Now we were told that the questions were to be sorted by three neutral parties as to avoid duplicative or "inappropriate" questions.  When I asked the moderator who the three parties were he answered, "myself and the lady that is keeping the time."  When I asked who the third individual was, I was told that it didn't matter.  I asked again stating that as a voter, I want to know that a truly fair and neutral third party was selecting the questions, I was ignored.  We are off to a great start, a truly open and fair process.

At this point the questions are "sorted."  A process that mind you took more than forty minutes!  Talk about a grossly inefficient use of time.  The only truly proper and fair way for this process to have been done, and for it to be done in a more time efficient way, would be for all of the questions that have been submitted to be placed in one basket and the moderator can select questions at random.  In the event a duplicative question is pulled, the moderator can move on to the next question.

Now every year I submit the same question.  And I have yet to have this question even presented to the candidates.

Every year I ask, "As a candidate for the Board of Education how will you be funding your campaign?"  I think that it is a very important criteria when selecting a Trustee for the Board of Education to ensure that no special interest will be influencing the future of our schools.  

Now I do not begrudge any citizen their first amendment right to support a candidate or make a campaign contribution, but I do think their is a certain conflict that arises when a candidate accepts funds from individuals and firms that are employed by the City and/or Board of Education.  I am not in any way alleging wrong doing on the part of candidates, or contributors, but to me ethics and morals are a personal set of values that at times are stricter than the law.

In last year's Board of Education election, candidates Mark Stein, Jason Nunnermacker (a current City Council candidate), and Toni Miello were funded in large part by the "Progressive PAC."  The "Progressive PAC" was funded by a collection of attorneys who had been appointed to positions and hired as special counsel by our City Council.  Click here for more information on the "Progressive PAC."

This year I submitted a second question

Candidate Timothy Hoffman stated in his opening remarks that his proudest moment in his years as a Hackensack student was organizing a walk-out, in his senior year, to show support for the High School administrators who the Board had voted not to rehire.  Now the subject of these administrators and the Doctrine of Necessity (which was eventually used to hold a new vote and relieve a Trustee of his conflict of interest) can be a topic of a whole other blog so if you are unfamiliar click here to read the back story and click here to read my position on the matter. 

This is very noble of Mr. Hoffman, and some would even praise Mr. Hoffman and call him a great leader for his efforts.  However, it does not change the fact that he violated school policies and broke the rules in his efforts to make a statement.  Now I understand what he was doing, he was taking a chapter out of the book of some of the greatest activists in our history.  For that I do commend him.  However, as a Trustee of the Board there are certain rules, policies, and procedures that must be followed.  

My question for Mr. Hoffman was simple, "Mr. Hoffman, your proudest moment as an HHS Comet was in an act of civil disobedience and rule breaking.  How as a Trustee on this Board would you work with other members to resolve conflict without making such grand gestures and ensuring that you abide by the State Ethics Standards?"

Perhaps I will never receive an answer to that question, but I would hope Mr. Hoffman leaves an answer in the comments section of this blog.

My take...

Though in the end there will be three candidates elected to the Board of Education, tonight's Candidate's Night had one clear victor.  Lawrence Eisen displayed a genuine desire to improve the schools for the future of our children while not fumbling on any answer or piggy backing on another candidate's position.  Mr. Eisen was honest and candid in his answers explaining that he was fortunate enough to have received a top tier education all of his life, an Ivy League college education.  Mr. Eisen went on to explain that the Board of Education continues to cheer the successes of our athletic and arts programs but ignores the fact that our school system continues to receive poor rankings.  Mr. Eisen spends his free time tutoring math and literacy to students working to obtain their GED's and displays a true desire to work towards improving the quality of education for each of the district's students.  

The literature

The Albolino, Rodriguez, and Hoffman literature is devoid of any true substance as to the issues facing our schools.  The literature sports bullet pointed bios with a slogan "members of the community you know."  I guess that the ticket is running in a High School popularity contest and not a Board of Education election.

Click the above image to enlarge

The "Team for School Excellence" team however at least provides voters with a platform listing the issues they wish to address if elected to the Board of Education.

Click the above image to enlarge

The "Albolino, Rodriguez, and Hoffman" team will not be receiving my vote for Board of Education, let me tell you why.  

Many in Hackensack refer to the Council and Board of Education as being run by the "Zisa machine."  Many would argue that Lynne Hurwitz is the driving force behind the machine politics in Hackensack.

Mr. Albolino has been on the Board of Education since 1992.  His campaign filings, since 2004, are available online.  In 2004, 2007, 2010, and again in 2013, his campaign treasurer has been that familiar name of Mr. Donald Lenner.  

Ms. Lara Rodriguez is the spouse of a former Board of Education member, Francisco Rodriguez.  Mr. Rodriguez has run for election to the Board on alleged "Zisa" tickets in 2005 and 2008.  In both of his elections that familiar name of Mr. Donald Lenner served as the campaign's Treasurer.  Now spouses can have different political ideologies but for me, the fact that her running mate and husband both shared the same alleged affiliation to the "machine," is enough to raise my concern that this is just another "machine" candidate.

Mr. Hoffman, well sorry but when my intuition buzzer goes off for two out of the three, guilty by association.  

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