Once part of a majority voting bloc on the Kearny Board of Education, Dan Esteves this week faced the likelihood of being shoved off the board by his fellow trustees.
A special meeting of the KBOE was scheduled for Monday night for that purpose.
Board attorney Ken Lindenfelser said the board was prepared to vote on a resolution to remove Esteves – whose term runs through November – for having violated its bylaws by missing three meetings in a row.
Those consecutive absences, he said, occurred at a regularly scheduled meeting on April 20, at a special meeting for a student disciplinary proceeding on April 22 and a special meeting for adoption of the school budget on April 30.
State law N.J.S.A. 18:12-3 says that a school board member who “fails to attend three consecutive meetings of the board without good cause may be removed.”
The state makes no distinction between a “regular” or “special” board meeting.
Lindenfelser said that the Kearny BOE changed its bylaws April 20 to conform to the state statute and to stipulate that such removal may only occur if “the member’s removal was proposed at the immediately previous Board meeting” and if “notice of the proposed removal was given to the affected member at least 72 hours in advance of the meeting at which the vote will be taken.”
Lindenfelser said the first condition was met at the May 18 KBOE meeting when board member Samantha Paris introduced a resolution calling for Esteves’ ouster – which, after a review of the bylaws, the attorney said he “stopped” pending possible action at the next KBOE meeting.
To that end, Lindenfelser said, a special “open” meeting was fixed for Monday, June 1, when, he said, Esteves would have an opportunity to explain why he should be permitted to stay on the board.
As of last Tuesday, Lindenfelser told The Observer that the required 72-hour notice was “in process.”
Esteves – when reached by The Observer – said that he would contest the board’s action.
Esteves acknowledged that he has missed three meetings in a row – for which he said he has “apologized” to his colleagues – but added that he asked for some leeway in light of a “demanding work schedule” as a Kearny police officer subject to periodic change of shifts.
With the KPD shorthanded in the wake of recent retirements, he said that overtime assignments and court appearances have resulted in “a work week of 60 to 70 hours.”
Esteves said that while he “won’t run for re-election [in November] he would “like to finish what I started.”
A nephew of Mayor Alberto Santos, Esteves ran for the school board in November 2012 and finished fourth in the balloting for three open seats.
But after the board majority declared successful candidate retired school supervisor Deborah Lowry ineligible to serve because she was, at the time, collecting a negotiated retirement compensation package from the school district – a declaration that was ultimately upheld by the state commissioner of education – the board solicited public nominations for Lowry’s vacant seat and, from those nominees, picked Esteves to fill it – a choice that the state said it should make.
Ultimately, however, Interim Executive County Schools Superintendent Monica Tone appointed Esteves to serve until the board reorganized after its next election in November 2013. Esteves then ran, unopposed, for the two years remaining in what would have been Lowry’s term expiring this November.
Since he was seated, Esteves said he told his fellow trustees that he “was using vacation days [from his job] to come to meetings” and declined committee assignments because of scheduling vagaries.
“I went into this with the intent to help bring positive change into the district,” Esteves said. “I saw that grades were poor, that our high school construction project looked like a war zone.” Since then, he said, he hasn’t seen much improvement.
He said he pressed for a system to electronically register teacher attendance in place of the current sign in/ sign out procedure, “but when several new members came on the board, that was pushed to the side.” Also ignored, he said, was his push for student residency checks to relieve overcrowding.
And at this week’s meeting, Esteves figured to be pushed out of his school board seat. Still, he said, he hoped to make a case to stay.