I have to give another well deserved shoutout to Ryan Fennell, the reporter who covers the Middletown beat for the Two River Times. It seems that out of the 3 or 4 reporters that regularly cover the happenings at Middletown Committee meetings he seems to be the only one interested in reporting the whole story, not just the rantings and diatribes of an appointed mayor.
At Monday night’s Committee meeting when the discussion got around to the defeated school budget, he didn’t simply rely on two previously released press releases and a personal letter issued by mayor Scharfenberger over the last 10 days that were written to chastise Middletown teachers and their union into accepting a wage freeze like others have recently done. He actually reported what was said by another member of the Committee that doesn’t happen to sit in the majority, fanning the flames of residents displeasure by attempting to turn this years defeated school budget into a political campaign issue.
Of course he reported what the mayor and deputy-mayor had to say about the teachers, their union, the potential wage freeze and the effect it would have on the Township and school system if enacted, but their comments really just amounted to a rehash of the earlier press releases and letter.
Blah, blah,blah…wage freeze…blah,blah, blah…layoffs…blah, blah, blah…union…blah, blah,blah…pay freezes….blah blah,blah…voter anger at teachers….
Instead of ending his article there, with a one sided, biased, anti-teacher/union spin designed to make the members of the teachers union look bad and glorify the righteousness of the mayor’s attempt to play hardball, he adds the following passage that included the level headed and practical comments by Committeeman Sean Byrnes, who feels that there are more important long term issues that need to be addressed, that would have a much more significant impact to taxpayers if addressed now instead of squabbling over a temporary wage freeze for teachers:
“…Committeeman Sean Byrnes said that he is in favor of the teacher’s union accepting a wage freeze for the coming year, however, does not believe that a wage freeze will solve the problems of the long term.
“Even if we secure a wage freeze, I haven’t seen a recognition that the budgets problems facing the Board of Education and the town are long term and call for significant structural changes to our budgets and to our organizations in town,” Byrnes said. “A wage freeze will help in 2010. It will not solve the budget problems that we have.”
Byrnes said that he is proposing the formation of a budget review advisory committee that would consist of the Township Committee, the Board of Education, and the Library.
The advisory committee would specifically look for ways to consolidate, share services, and approach the town’s obligations from a “one town” perspective.
“I would prefer that we not approach or discuss things with the MTEA in a political manner,” Byrnes said. “I think it makes sense for the Township Committee, with the assistance of the Board of Education members, to have some discussions with the MTEA. But my preference would be that we not have that exchange through press releases. It doesn’t encourage a resolution to do that.”…
Being a parent with two kids that attend school in Middletown and who have learning disabilities, it angers me that Governor Christie lied to voters throughout this state while on the campaign trail, telling them that he supported and valued the state education system only to turn his back on it once elected by slashing over $800M worth of state aid to local school boards and declaring war on the teachers and their union.
It’s unfortunate that Middletown’s ruling party, lead by mayor Scharfenberger and his cronies, have decided to follow in Christie’s footsteps by demonizing teachers instead of looking for long term, common sense solutions on how to deal with rising property tax rates.
Level headiness with a keen eye towards the future is what is needed by elected officials in the state, as well as here in Middletown.
Instead of politicising the school board and the school budget for short term gains and political advantages, Scharfenberger and Co. should listen to Sean Brynes for once. He is the lone voice on the committee with practical budget experience and common sense enough to make proper decisions in regards to restructuring how government operates in Middletown.
He has very valid ideas that should be listened to, not ignored and then taken, like so many are by the mayor and his republican friends.