Displacing BOE president ill advised

To the Editor: At the July 12, 2013 special meeting of the Kearny Board of Education, the current board majority seated a new president. This action came as a result of the frivolous, self-serving removal of Bernadette McDonald at the previous meeting.

On June 17, board member George King blindsided Mrs. McDonald and some of the members by suddenly presenting a resolution to remove the sitting president for what he perceived as disrespectful behavior toward Superintendent Frank Ferraro. Mr. King’s assertion prompts several questions. Who assigned George King the task of assessing the demeanor of his peers? Since when does a less- than- perfect relationship between a superintendent and board president constitute grounds for removal?

Had Mr. King and his cohorts bothered to do the slightest bit of research before attempting to legitimize what can only be described as a “hatchet job,” they would have realized that state law (NJSA 18A:15-2) and their own by-laws define quite clearly the only valid reason for unseating a duly chosen presiding officer. The underpinning of both references is the precept that a board president can only be recalled for refusing to carry out the duties of the office. Not one of the members who voted against Mrs. McDonald cited even one instance of her refusal to carry out her duties — NOT ONE! So on what did Mr. King base his resolution? Was it the tone of her voice; the wording of an email; or his personal opinion of her attitude? Hardly objective!

I respectfully suggest that the difficulties between Superintendent Ferraro and President McDonald are not uncommon in the education community and that as two reasonable adults, given time and opportunity, they could have quietly and privately worked through them. The public dressing down of a woman who over the past 12 years has dedicated countless hours to our children and our schools, served no purpose except to demean her. Much to her credit, Bernadette stayed above the fray and is now pursuing legal measures to rectify the situation. Mr. King’s resolution and the subsequent vote did nothing to remedy the situation.

On the contrary, it has deepened the wedge between the two factions of the board. It certainly has not helped the relationship between Mrs. McDonald and Superintendent Ferraro. The time and effort expended on this issue would have been better spent on the important challenges facing our schools. In addition, it has prompted litigation, the defense of which will prove futile and costly to the Kearny Board of Education. Good job, guys!

Barbara Cifelli-Sherry


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