Daily Archives: May 18, 2010

The Arrogance Of Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger Hiding Behind A Website

The following was sent in by a reader who attended last night’s Middeltown Township Committee meeting and wanted to get something off their chest. This person supported the school budget and did not think it necessary, fair or honest of the Township Committee to impose further cuts to the school budget after apparently agreeing to ~$ 1.6M proposed by the Board of Education without first informing the school board of it.

At last nights committee meeting the township committee finally approved the resolution to cut the school budget. The budget was defeated on April 20th by an unprecedented number of voters after the Governor in an equally unprecedented move had called for the defeat of school budget state wide.

After completely ignoring the invitation of the school board to hold a joint meeting in public ensuring maximum transparency to the process. The Mayor insisted on closed door meetings to discuss the defeated budget. At the workshop meeting resident after resident pleaded with the committee to hold an open forum were residents to discuss their concerns because roughly $10,000,000 had already been cut from the school budget prior to its defeat.

But the mayor who steadfastly refuses to hear the residents speak on regular committee issues prior to the committee voting, has been hiding in plain sight for years from the public, just as the majority of the committee has, unlike Democratic Committeeman Sean Byrnes, who has strived to make the committee operations more transparent and open to the public.

Finally after realizing the public could not be ignored the township set up a link so that residents could email concerns. It was a feeble attempt designed to once again hide in plain sight by receiving emails but refusing to hear in public or discuss residents concerns. While both the mayor and the deputy mayor championed the idea it demonstrated that they were only willing to receive the equivalent of a “Dear John” letter without facing the issue with the voters.

Not surprisingly they also stuck to the same pattern of hiding from the public by failing to place the resolution on the website, as was done with every other resolution of the evening. You have to wonder what the committee was trying to hide. It was not until after the vote and after the public was finally allowed to make statements that they finally disclosed the amount cut to a roomful of anxious school budget supporters.

They cut $2,090, 894 dollars from the school budget.

Ignoring all the information supplied by the superintendent and the school officials that they would be unable to cover state mandated requirements and insure student safety they cut more assistant principals from the already understaffed high schools.

But to add insult to injury they did not even have the courtesy to send a letter to the superintendent or the board president notifying them of the amount of the cut. It was just another example of the arrogance of the Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger not even to have the decency to notify school officials or the public about the cut.

Hiding behind a website is not transparency Gerry, its cowardice.

“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”

– Patrick Henry, American colonial revolutionary

“Government ought to be all outside and no inside. . . . Everybody knows that corruption thrives in secret places, and avoids public places, and we believe it a fair presumption that secrecy means impropriety.”

– Woodrow Wilson

“Everybody knows that corruption thrives in secret places, and avoids public places, and we believe it is a fair presumption that secrecy means impropriety”

– Pres. Woodrow Wilson

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Filed under budget cuts, Mayor Scharfenberger, Midddletown Board of Education, Middletown, Middletown Township Committee, school budgets, Sean F. Byrnes

Middletown Board of Education Blindsided By Additional Cuts

In yet another example of how arrogance and political posturing has overtaken sound judgment and honesty, Mayor Scharfenberger and his crew blindsided the Middletown Board of Education last night with Resolution NO. 10-151, which details the further budget cuts that the Township Committee expects the Board of Education to make to its 2010/2011 school year budget.

I say blindsided because until I posted details of Resolution NO. 10-151 on this blog, members of the Board of Education had not been given the courtesy a head of time of knowing that most of the cuts outlined were going to be included.

From what I have been told, the members of the Board of Education that sat down with Gerry Scharfenberger and Pam Brightbill for their two meeting on May 3rd and May 6th presented ~ $1.5 million worth of cuts on their own to the Township representatives that were in attendance. They had thought that there was agreement between them and that no additional cuts would be needed. These cuts came from savings in the employee health insurance plan ($803,878), the refinancing of a bond ($465,829), modifications to the nursing services contract ($150,000) and a change to the summer guidance program ($70,000).

Boy, were they wrong!

Stating that the Committee relied on the hundreds of suggestions that they had received through the Township website, the mayor said that he felt obligated to seek out more on his own. So without further correspondences with the BoE and little knowledge as to how further cuts would affect the school system, he stated last night that he feverishly scoured the budget over the last days to find additional cuts. What he came up with was another ~ $600K, all of which seemed politically motivated and consisted of the elimination of Classroom supplies ($58,000),1 Night Foreman position ($50,117),1 Public Relations position ($16,000),1 Assistant Business Administrator ($91,000),1 Assistant Principal HS South ($130,000),1 Assistant Principal HS North ($130,000) and1 Director Position ($126,000).

What’s funny about this is that after mayor Scharfenberger’s open and public sparing match with the MTEA, which contributed nothing to the process other than to further alienate anger and poison resident’s opinion of the teachers union, he seemed to have given up on that fight. Instead the focused turned to comments left on the website over the past few days, sparing the teachers from additional cuts.

The question remains though, were these addition cuts really necessary? According to those with knowledge of the school budget the answer is No. They said that these additional cuts will have devastating effects on the school system regardless of the spin that Gerry Scharfenberger or his deputy mayor, Tony Fiore place on them. Fiore made the following comment after the resolution was introduced “My hope is that this is a meaningful cut… these cuts, they do not cut one teacher, they do not cut one program.”

While that may be the intent, the reality is something far different. I was informed that members of the school board told Scharfenberger just that during their meetings. Cutting more administrators from the school budget would have crippling effects on the quality of education that children receive in the classroom he was told.

The Assistant Principals at the high schools main functions are supervisory; they oversee the curriculum, evaluate teacher performance and act as disciplinarians to maintain order in schools that have close to 2000 students each. After already eliminating seven positions district wide previously in the failed budget, equalivent to 14% of the administrative staff, the loss of two more cannot be tolerated without having a direct, long term effect in the classroom.

And what about the $58K further reduction in the budget for classroom supplies? I was told that that line item was already trimmed previously by 10%, did more really need to be cut? I guess so if you don’t expect to need new text books or expect parents to purchase more supplies for their kids than they already do now.

Even though the school board is now bound and obligated to reduce the school budget by an additional $2.09M by the Township Committee, I would be surprised if they implemented their recommendations fully.

In my opinion, I think that the district will be looking into the possible layoff of a handful of more teachers, the possible elimination of non varsity sports programs or a sports program that will be based on a pay-to-play fee system and the possible closure of a district school, which I was told could not be fully implemented this year but could happen next year.

I also would not be surprised if the Board of Education appealed this budget to the Monmouth County schools superintendent in the hope to overturn the addition $600K worth of cuts that the Township Committee imposed on them without their previous knowledge or input.

If that happened then there would be little need for further layoffs of any kind, the possible elimination of any extracurricular programs or the possible closure of a school. Let’s hope that the County Superintendent agrees.

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Filed under budget cuts, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown Board of Education, Middletown Township Committee, school budgets, School cuts, Tony"the fibber"Fiore