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LBI Joint Council of Taxpayers “Letter to the Editor”

A ‘Letter to the Editor’ of the Sand Paper from the LBI Joint Council of Taxpayers regarding Southern Regional School District. Published Wednesday, January 27, 2010.

Lack of Open Government at Southern Regional School District

Why are the Southern Regional School District’s Superintendent and Board of Education resistant to providing critical information to evaluate their administrative and fiscal practices involving taxpayer monies? Are Superintendent Craig Henry and the Board of Education afraid to provide information that will put them in bad light with the voters by disclosing inefficiencies and funding waste that will have a negative effect on the district’s proposed 2010-2011 budget vote in April?

The School Committee of the Joint Council of Taxpayer Associations of Long Beach Island have continually requested information on and explanation for the 2009-2010 budget expenditures. The purpose of these requests are to analyze and provide recommendations to the taxpayers and voters on Southern Regional’s annual budget and proposed referendums regarding potential cost saving which could be applied to the proposed 2010-2011 budget. The committees’ prime concern is the assurance from the District that quality education is provided in a safe environment, efficiently administrated but in a cost effective manner.

Unfortunately, the committee’s request for answers concerning: student safety, shared service agreements between Southern Regional School District and the Stafford Police Department, teacher assignments, curriculum, student participation, and maintenance including the shared services agreement with the island’s consolidated school district have been disregarded or only partially answered.

Superintendent Craig Henry has arrogantly refused to answer our questions and has referred all questions on administration decisions and budget expenditures to the Board of Education. The superintendent only provides copies of documents specifically requested under the freedom of information (OPRA) requirement. The pitfall of OPRA requests is that you may not be aware of all the documents containing information needed to evaluate the concern and thus be discredited for your findings.

The Board of Education’s refusal to respond to the committee’s written requests regarding administration decisions and budgetary expense approvals is also disconcerting. Both Superintendent Henry and the Board of Education have conspired to disarm the committee’s attempts to evaluate their actions by refusing to answer any questions unless they are asked during the public session of the Boards monthly meetings. The committee considers this action hostile with intent to create confrontation by discrediting our evaluation of their decision making and budgetary practices. Can you expect meaningful dialogue with a Board of Education that authorized $1.6 million cost for safety doors that was eventually reduced to less than $500,000, a $6.7 million capital budget referendum that included such priorities as a new gym storage area, air conditioned hallways and new stage and stage lighting. Additionally a proposal to share 45% of Superintendent Henry’s time with Stafford School without addressing the impact on the District’s administration. Also, the complete disregard of four Island municipalities resolutions to be more forthcoming to the public on the contents of the shared services agreement with Stafford Police Department.

The committee considers the Superintendent’s and Board of Education’s decision as a clear affront to the taxpayers and voters in the Southern Regional School District and an attempt through confrontation to discredit our review of the cost-efficiencies, or lack thereof, of the southern Regional School District.

Of an even greater concern is how can this educational system teach open and transparent government while practicing just the opposite?

Peter Trainor, Chairperson School Committee Joint Council of Taxpayer Associations Long Beach Island 209W 18th Street North Beach Haven, NJ 609-492-2331

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