Thursday, January 5, 2017

Trenton Deserves Board Members Capable of Selecting a Qualified Superintendent (NJ)

The state capital of New Jersey has been under attack from education reformers for years. Following reformer playbook moves time and time again that seek to minimize the voice of the community and take away their democratic rights, the board of education is failing to fulfill their obligation to do what is right for the children of the community.

The latest move from the Trenton Board of Education is to now appoint a superintendent that the community members of Trenton clearly do NOT want in charge of their schools, of their children.

The Trenton Education Association has submitted and released the following letter. NJ Badass Teachers stand by their side in this battle.

January 3, 2017

The relationship between the Trenton Board of Education and community stakeholders has been characterized by a lack of trust, due to the incompetent actions of the Trenton Board of Education. The Trenton Board of Education has been secretive and non-collaborative in many areas, from not adhering to established federal special education law, troubling six figure payouts to administrators in the midst of massive layoffs , (paraprofessionals, speech, occupational therapists, physical therapists and secretaries), and not being able to satisfy their own decisions.

"Success requires strong leadership, and Mayor Jackson is noticeably silent when confronted with the failures of his appointed board members who have little to no history to the Trenton community. Ultimately, the buck stops with the Mayor and his silence is a clear green light for the shenanigans happening at the Trenton Board of Education. This Board of Education fails to respect and engage Trenton community stakeholders, exhibits a clear ignorance of the challenges and trends of urban education, and often fail to even show up and stay awake for board meetings. Overall, there appears to be a lack of a coherent educational vision from Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson and his board. Mayor Eric Jackson is earning his moniker of ‘No Action’ Jackson.

The process of selecting a new permanent superintendent for the Trenton Public Schools has displayed all of the hallmarks of how this board chooses to perform its public functions; a lack of collaboration between stakeholders, secrecy, double talk, changing ground rules in midstream, and a consistent tendency to conform to the will of State Monitor Les Richens and Governor Christie’s political appointees within the NJ Department of Education."

 The Trenton Board of Education has been on the market for a new superintendent of schools since the resignation of Dr. Duran in October 2015. After a disastrous initial process with two very flawed candidates coming to the forefront, the Trenton Board of Education reopened the search process, promising to be more inclusive and transparent than in the initial debacle.

During the reopened search progress, interim school Superintendent Lucy Feria announced her resignation, effective January 3, 2017. As a result, the board advertised for an interim superintendent to serve from January 3, 2017 to June 30, 2017, with compensation at a per diem rate of $685. After an interim superintendent search process to fill the position, highlighted by a rescinded participation invitation to union partners that was orchestrated by State Monitor Les Richens, the Trenton Board of Education selected Nelson Ribon, a recent failed applicant for the position of Chief Academic Officer of the Trenton Public Schools, as interim superintendent until July 1, 2017; while its search for a permanent successor supposedly continued.

On December 30, 2016, the Times of Trenton reported that the Trenton Board of Education was planning to submit a revised contract naming Nelson Ribon as an assistant and acting superintendent rather than as interim superintendent, as initially proposed. Additionally, the Times of Trenton reported that Nelson Ribon will provide chief school administrator services to the Trenton Public Schools from Jan. 3 through Dec. 31, 2017, at the capped salary allowed rather than the per diem rate.

The undersigned signatories are resolutely opposed to this recent development. Community stakeholders were informed by the search firm that an inclusive and full throated search was being conducted for selection of a permanent superintendent by July 1, 2017. Appointing Nelson Ribon as the acting superintendent for a year’s term negatively impacts the integrity and legitimacy of the search progress. This latest development indicates to us that the new search process was a sham and another ploy by a plethora of parties to sabotage the Trenton Public Schools.

We have concerns about spending tens of thousands of dollars for two aborted searches. We believe that there is collusion with State Monitor Les Richens and NJ Department of Education to install his crony who he worked with in a previous district. Trenton’s community stakeholders requested that the new superintendent have deep and broad experience in urban education. Nelson Ribon has never worked in an urban district, and doesn’t have the broad experience in the urban context crucial to success in a community like Trenton. Since he was pushed out from his previous job as superintendent of the Fair Haven Public Schools system, a small affluent K-8 district with less than 1000 students, he has been unemployed.

Trenton deserves the best candidate selected through a transparent, collaborative, and inclusive process. Nelson Ribon is not qualified to serve as an interim superintendent. We believe that there are many more qualified candidates that are interested in leading the Trenton Public Schools. According to NJ DOE regulations, an interim superintendent must be a retired superintendent who is not paying into the pension system. The Trenton Board of Education interviewed several qualified interim superintendent candidates who they did not select.

The Trenton Board of Education has wrecked one search process and is in the process of wrecking another one. The stakes are too high for the board to abdicate their responsibility. With the emergence of Betty DeVos as the U.S. Secretary of Education nominee and Governor Christie still in office, there are political entities that are seeking to take over the Trenton Public Schools the same way that has occurred in Atlantic City, Camden, and Newark. We believe that the board must commit to selecting a retired interim superintendent for preparation for a permanent superintendent.

We demand that the Trenton Board of Education select a qualified interim superintendent and allow the process to continue for selecting a permanent superintendent by July 1, 2017. Our kids deserve better.

Sincerely, Naomi Johnson-Lafleur Betty Glenn Pat Vogt Tanisha Powell TEA President TPA President TESA President TB&T President

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