To the Editor:
The letter from Kearny Board of Education member Barbara Cifelli-Sherry in the June 8 issue of The Observer proved to be quite revealing of the problems with the current Kearny BOE. In her letter to the editor, Barbara expresses surprise and outrage that members of the Town Council had the audacity to criticize the board for the current abysmal state of the Kearny High School facility.
She asks: “Where has Councilman (Rich) Konopka been?” as if somehow he is responsible for KHS because he has not brought this up before. She wants to know how he has “missed it,” because the school is in his ward.
Not once in her letter does Cifelli-Sherry take any semblance of responsibility for the largest school in Kearny that is literally falling apart. And therein lies the makeup of the current board — they’re above any criticism and beyond any responsibility.
Cifelli-Sherry criticizes Konopka for not attending board meetings, as if his presence would have somehow repaired the high school. She labels the KHS project as an inherited problem; however, many of the current board members have been serving a long time.
If memory serves, Cifelli-Sherry, along with Samantha Paris, began serving on the board in January 2014, which means they have been serving for two and a half years. Which begs the question: “How long do you have to serve before you take any responsibility for things?”
This is not a board of newcomers. I was in attendance for many of those meetings when the Cifelli/(Bernadette) McDonald ticket was vying for control of the board. They had many tough questions and criticism for that board. I recall several requests for tours of the high school, but I can see know that all the tough talk went away once the election was won.
When that board took over in January 2014, the following items were prioritized:
- Get rid of the superintendent at all costs, even if it meant paying for two of them.
- Rehire a custodian, related to a board member, who was fired due to criminal charges.
- Protect the job (and desk) of a very expensive secretary.
What kind of chance did the high school possibly have of getting fixed if all the attention of the board went to the items above? None of the priorities above have anything at all to do with children. Kids suffer while family and friends are protected.
Cifelli-Sherry is mistaken about one other thing. She states that my perception is skewed when it comes to understanding what an underfunded school district is all about because I am an educator in an Abbott District. I actually understand it better than she does since the three most important students in my life, my three children, attend an underfunded district — Kearny.
So believe me, my family understands it very well. Being underfunded doesn’t absolve the board from gross mismanagement.
Bottom line — nothing said at the May 24 council meeting was false. The state of the building is a disaster, it is embarrassing — and it does look like a third world country. The truth hurts. It is also important to note that despite the horrid conditions of the building, the teachers somehow manage to do great things there.
My son tells me of great lessons and events each week. Classes, clubs and students who meet amid the squalor still find a way to learn, despite the best efforts of the Kearny Board of Education.
Fourth Ward Councilman