Issue should be laid to rest

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:39

    As president of the Sparta Education Association, I was dismayed by the Dec. 1 letter from Senator Oroho and Assembly members McHose and Chiusano ("Party politics shouldn't be on school property"). I was under the impression that the incident to which they refer had been put to rest, but apparently there is no statute of limitations on the desire of politicians to play politics. Their letter referred to an incident in which the SEA invited members to do election phone-banking, which is our legal right, after school hours. We met in a school building, since there is a long-standing policy allowing us to do so. What concerned the legislators is that we were engaged in political activity, which is true. Subsequent to the news coverage of that event — triggered by Assemblyman Chiusano, I might add — the SEA agreed with the district that we would not use school facilities for such activities in the future, and that we would not communicate such activities via our district email addresses. We understood that this was a common-sense step to take, and we believed the matter was put to rest. But then the legislators' letter appeared in the Sparta Independent, making all sorts of ridiculous and erroneous claims. "We do not want to see tax money diverted to underwrite political operations of any kind, by any party," they wrote. Neither does the SEA. We were engaged on our own time, using our personal cell phones to conduct phone banking to our own members — which, again, is our right under the law. The legislators' primary objection appears to be that we did so in a school building, and while there was no additional cost to taxpayers (the building is always open after school hours for other purposed, and there were no additional operating or maintenance costs involved as a result of our meeting), we agreed that any future meetings of this type would take place elsewhere. That's the entire story. No interest other than scoring political points is served by trying to make a major property tax issue out of this one event. That is a specious and irrelevant claim. We would ask that our legislators focus on the real issues facing Sparta, Sussex County, and New Jersey, and let this one-time occurrence fade into history, where it already resides. Susan J. Sawey, President Sparta Education Association