New BOE members take their seats at the table

| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:39

    Sparta — Three newly elected Board of Education members were sworn in on Monday night, promising to uphold the constitutions of the United States and of New Jersey as they “faithfully, impartially, and justly” perform all the duties of their office. Richard Bladek, Jon Scott Turner, and Francis Favichia, who defeated incumbents Jennifer Dericks, Adam Dempsey, and Phillip Guarraia last month, then took their seats at the table with the other six board members, ready to get to work. The first order of business was to elect a new board president. Keith Smith, who served as vice president last year and is beginning his sixth year on the board, was unanimously elected as president. However, the vote for vice president was divided 5-4. Maureen Myre nominated Dorothy LaBeau, while Frank Favichia nominated Doug McKernan for vice president. During the role-call vote, McKernan voted “present” instead of 'yes’ or 'no’, but the vote counted as a 'no’ against LaBeau. McKernan said Tuesday he does not want his vote to be construed as not supporting LaBeau. McKernan said he had been told by Favichia he would be nominated and said he intended to publicly decline his nomination. He explained the process happened quickly and before he knew it the vote was being taken. He said he fully supports LaBeau and stressed that, “This does not signal a crack among the existing board members and none of the six of us are discontent with Dorothy.” He said LaBeau has earned her vice-presidency through her work on the board and her efforts for the schools and the community. The board then set about their yearly duties of making appointments for such necessary positions as auditor, treasurer of school monies, medical personnel, risk management consultant, and board attorneys, among others. Bladek, Turner, and Favichia voted against the reappointment of the board’s existing law firm, Fogarty and Hara, with Favichia questioning why the board would use a Bergen County firm instead of a local firm. Business Administrator Dr. Warren Ceurvels said the board has used Fogarty and Hara for at least 12 years and the firm is one of the state’s most widely respected experts in educational law. He said their fees are comparable to local attorneys, they are well versed in district matters, and have been very successful in advocating for the district. During public participation, several citizens urged all board members to work together. Amanda Major, who moved to Sparta last September and works as an eighth grade social studies teacher in the Chatham school district cautioned the new board members, saying, “It’s a lot different sitting on the board than watching from the outside.” She said all need to put negativity behind them and work to make sure the budget passes next year. She added, “Do the right thing. Stand tall to the council. Enough has been cut.” George Marchant admonished those who posted vicious or derogatory comments on anonymous online blogs about the former board president as well as the county superintendent. He said, “This is not the Sparta I know.” Catherine Roy thanked Dericks, Dempsey, and Guarraia for their three years of service in what she called a “thankless, but very rewarding role.” Roy said, “There is more cooperation and more progress within the township schools now than there was just a few years ago, thanks to a positive approach and cautious fiscal management, and Sparta has gotten the attention of the state legislators due to relentless efforts by past Board President Jennifer Dericks.” Roy added, “To the three incoming members, I ask that you set aside any baggage you carried during the campaign, and get up to speed very quickly because there is a ton of work to be done.” The board will meet again Friday evening at 5:30 p.m. at Mohawk Avenue School to conduct further business regarding personnel and other regular board matters.