Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Since the yes vote

Since I voted yes

As a school board member, I vote on hundreds of different items on a monthly basis. Those votes range from hiring or suspending employees to approving  contracts for iPads or elevator repair. I read everything I get and ask questions to get further clarity. On most votes, it seems that I am on the same side as the public and on every vote the side of student success.

No vote has been so divisive and complex as the vote for the Norcross/KIPP Renaissance School. I voted “no” on the original resolution to support that school and “yes” on the second vote. That came to a surprise to some and confirmed rumors before that vote that I would “flip”.

I am very comfortable with both votes based on the information I had at the time. By January, there will be a contract presented to the Camden school board. At that time, the details and product of negotiations will be presented. The substance will confirm what was negotiated, which is now legally premature to discuss.

I wasn’t offered, nor did i solicit favors, money, or a position based on my KIPP vote or any other decision I’ve made as a school board member.  Furthermore if I was offered any of the above, I would not accept.  To do so would be unethical, illegal, and would diminish any other work that is going on. It is sad that people would spread and believe lies that represent ways outside of my character. I am in no greater favor with “The Machine” today than I was one month, one year, or ten years ago. As a public official my fights within government are not public, and should not be unless that is the last resort.

An important lesson that I learned from the aftermath of the vote is that I should have been clearer about the possibility that I would vote yes. I knew that KIPP would be at the board meeting days prior.  I knew that if they explained things about their proposal and made certain concessions there was a possibility I would support the proposal knowing that the proposal was the only feasible option for a school in the Lanning Square neighborhood.

People will question my wisdom, but I hope will not question my motives or ethics. A no vote on the KIPP school would have appeased certain important groups and individuals in the public that I respect and agree with, but would also open up the district to a contentious and adversarial board, increase the likelihood of a state takeover, and leave that land on Broadway empty for years. The governor, Commissioner of Education, Director of the School Development Authority, 5th district state delegation, Freeholders, Mayor, and some board members were willing to do whatever they had to get it passed. I decided to vote on the side of those 300 Camden children that will enter the school in November 2014.

I am aware that many that read this will remain angry and confused about this vote. I ask that you remember that there are plenty of issues that we can agree need to be addressed in our schools, the administration, and the city. Right now, as the chairman of the Policy Committee, we are looking into updating the Code of Conduct to change the way we discipline students using a model known as restorative justice. We just modernized our wellness policy, putting an emphasis on healthy eating in schools. The hiring and negotiations process will soon change into one that is more fair and inclusive. The board will soon interview and hire a superintendent. The policy committee just reviewed and recommended changes to special education.

With that, I ask that you hold me accountable; trust my judgement, and continue to be a participating stakeholder in the mentioned endeavors with the intent of providing the children of Camden a better education system.

Thank you, please contact me at 856-295-2955 if you want to discuss the contents of this or anything else.


Anonymous said...

Well stated. The education of our children is more important than any other group, faction, individual or popular trend. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

How did you fund the trip to Africa?

Anonymous said...

The trip to Africa is being funded from a lot of different people fundraising for the organization. Their are so many other things that we need to be worried about in our community then focus on a trip.

Founder said...

The trip to Africa isn't funded. We've raised about 10% of the total cost. Money was raised by selling shirts, food, and donations.

Anonymous said...

Your meandering entry made it conspicuously clear that you probably never did understand the interconnecting issues related to the UHA and its potential to do great harm to the public school district. Your lack of both a macro and micro perspective on what was happening around you is startling. The few details of your explanation reveals a limited grasp of facts and poor judgment.

Your declaration that the deciding factor in your vote was the building of a school for 300-children from the Lanning Square Neighborhood illustrates your failure to grasp the situation. Somehow you decided to ignore the RFP's over arching goal of approving a proposal that would be the “most advantageous to’ and in the “best interests of the Camden City School District.” The RFP made clear that the paramount goal was the maintaining of the District’s capacity to fulfill its overall responsibilities to all of the district's children. Instead of adhering to the RFP and protecting the district you chose to sacrifice the district's fiscal, organizational and programmatic capacities for a single school.

You mentioned a contract between George and the Board being finalized in January of next year. I suspect that it will not be worth the paper it will be written on. The value of a contract is based on its enforceability. What recourse will the Board have should it be violated? Precious little. Remember, the finale arrangement is between the Commissioner, who has sole responsibility to oversee its implementation, and the provider.

Another interesting fact is that you and your fellow Board members violated the OPMA by inviting a vendor's representatives into your close session. First, this action was not reflected in the resolution to go into close session. Second, you negotiate a contract before you approved the vendors ability to file an application to the Commissioner. The law/regulations is clear on the process. Third, affording this opportunity to one, instead of all the vendors, is unfair. And, lastly, there is no clear evidence that what you discussed in close session is covered by the OPMA exceptions. But why quibble with these unimportant matters - we got to build that school.

Finally, you, despite all your self-declared personal competence, failed to determine the budgetary impact that this decision would have on the district. This is one of your most fundamental responsibilities. A whole host of other unexplored consequences flow from this fiscal hemorrhage. But hey - we got to build that school.

In the end this decision only enhances the chances that the state will take over the district. Those wanting to privatize public education and to gain access to millions in Abbott funds only needed you to open the door. Why would they need you now? Only time will tell, but I hear that January may be an interesting month.

If I were you I would stop talking about your decision. There is nothing that you can explain away. Besides, we know where we can find you should we need someone to carry the white flag or to make a bad deal.

Jose Delgado

Founder said...

I'm going to blog about the last five months on the school board.