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Gloucester Township BOE Spars During Reorg Meeting

Joseph Gunn and Maryanne Coyle were voted board officers, over the objection of some of the board and public.

Gloucester Township School Administration Building
Gloucester Township School Administration Building
If all the Gloucester Township Board of Education meetings are like Monday's first of the year gathering, popcorn might be sold for spectators.

To borrow a hockey term, the nine members got a little "chippy," bickering among themselves over who would be nominated and elected president and vice president.

Retired court administrator and two-year board member Joseph Gunn emerged as president by a 5-2 vote. The two dissenting votes were from Felicia Reid and Dominic Gagliardi, who was sworn in Monday as the newest board member. 

Reid had earlier nominated Ellen Reese to be president, but the nomination was not seconded and Reese withdrew her name and voted for Gunn. 

Then things really got interesting on the nomination and vote for vice president. Linda Gilch nominated Reese for vice president and Gagliardi seconded. Then Maryanne Coyle nominated Raymond Carr, the current vice president. 

A debate ensued when several members questioned if Carr could serve consecutive terms as vice president. Carr eventually withdrew. Coyle was then nominated by Edward Pearce, who was also sworn in Monday after being appointed to the board last month to fill an unexpired term. 

Gagliardi, Gilch, Reese and Reid voted for Reese. Carr, Coyle, William Fontanez and Pearce voted for Coyle. Gunn initially voted to abstain, but when board solicitor Leonard Wood told him and the board the deadlock would have to be settled by the county superintendent of schools, Gunn voted for Coyle. She became vice president over the objection of several board members, who questioned if Gunn could change his vote after initially abstaining. Wood advised he could. 

Gunn subsequently called for a motion to adjourn the meeting before a public comment portion. After several catcalls from the audience of about a dozen, Carr and the board agreed to allow public comment.

Two audience members questioned if a criminal background check on Pearce had been completed, which it had not. They questioned if Pearce should be allowed to vote since the check had not been completed. Once again, Wood stated a directive he had from the state Department of Education said Pearce could vote in proceedings before his check is completed.

Gunn then moved to adjourn the meeting again, but was delayed by Reid, who protested he had not called for board member comments. After several minutes of debate as to whether the meeting had actually been adjourned, Gunn ruled it had, but said Reid was free to say whatever she wanted. 

She protested that the comments would not be on the record, but proceeded anyway.

"We need to be careful," Reid said. "We need to tighten it up. I wish Mr. Gunn and Mrs. Coyle well, even though they would not have been my choice for president or vice president."

Gilch shook her head afterward.

"I don't know what to say about this meeting," she said.

CORRECTION: The school board solicitor at Monday's meeting was Leonard Wood. An earlier version of this story misidentified him.
 
Jennifer January 07, 2014 at 07:21 AM
Here are the corrections Mr. Duhardt: The solicitors name was Wood. Leonard Wood of Wood, Long, Kennedy and Wade. Reese was nominated to the President position and she declined immediately, no 2nd nomination needed. Other than that…it was a complete circus! I have to disagree Dawn, some long time board members are not just going along with things anymore…they are speaking out. I think it's an improvement!
SJ Birds Fan January 07, 2014 at 07:54 AM
Wow. I am sure our children will benefit greatly from that session.
Caring4GT January 07, 2014 at 07:57 AM
Sinking to a new low. The Charlie Foxtrot of a meeting is to be expected when puppets and fools are in charge coupled with incompetent legal advice. But what is up with the bullying of moms by supporters of Pearce? This must be the "negotiating skills" Gunn thought were so important. Where is GTPD in all of this? No wonder GT schools were ranked 12th in bullying. Attitude reflects leadership.
Maryann Ludwick January 07, 2014 at 08:31 AM
Just disgusting totally unprofessional as usual
l t Paine January 07, 2014 at 09:06 AM
Well this Board never ceases to amaze and disappoint and for all the people who wanted a non-political Board that would put children first and end the political games, keep on wishing because you are not going to get it from this group. Gunn, Coyle, Carr, Fontanez and now Pearce. I have to say nice to see Gilch and Reese show a little backbone and put up a little fight for what's right hope it continues and kudos to Reid for her decision to question and fight. That said I am very concerned and disappointed about the "GOON" going after a mom. I guess the Board figured that they needed some help out in the audience to control the parents, this shows that this Board will do whatever is needed to keep the status quo. Keep shining the light on this incompetent and unethical Board and it's members and don't forget about Bilodeau, Acerba and Dr. Martin the incompetency goes beyond just the Board it goes to this Administration. I can't help but wonder if the "GOON" was a union cronie of Pearce's, ah the mad, mad world of the Gloucester Township School Board. Can't help but wonder is this the next step from this Board put goons in the audience to try to quiet residents through intimidation?
Joshua Berry January 07, 2014 at 09:27 AM
A friend of mine sits on the board in another town. according to him, Pearce is not able to sit. Here is the documentation. http://www.njsba.org/news/sbn/20131203/reminder-deadline-for-background-check-for-new-board-members-is-near.php Note: On Dec. 17, the New Jersey Department of Education informed NJSBA that newly elected board members cannot sit or vote as board members unless their criminal history record checks are completed and show no disqualifying offenses. “A school board member may not sit or vote as a board member until s/he receives final approval from the DOE indicating that no criminal history record exists that would disqualify the member from serving on a school board,” the manager of the NJDOE Criminal History Review Unit stated.
Joshua Berry January 07, 2014 at 09:35 AM
I certainty am not one to question the competence of Solicitor Wade given his prominence in the list of donors to Team Mayer and how he was magically appointed again to his position, but how is it that parents continuously can find the documentation that he and his law firm do not know the basic laws which govern how public bodies are supposed to function? After this article came out, TWO friends of mine who are board members in separate towns told me Pearce could not have been seated. If Wade gets these points wrong, what else has he failed to properly advise our board on?
Bea Coyle January 07, 2014 at 10:04 AM
It Paine, Here is a little help so you won't have to " Wonder". The man who intimidated the Mom last night was first seen at the Meeting in November where Mr. Pearce was selected to take this board seat. He was part of a group of men who were their as friends of Mr.Pearce shown to all by how they gathered around him to congratulate him on his appointment with familiarity. He was at the December meeting where Mr.Pearce was sworn in and again cheered for him.He was of course there last night to approach this unsuspecting Mom. NEVER before the November appointment meeting had any Parent seen him attend a single school board meeting. You connect the dots......
Paul J. DiBartolo January 07, 2014 at 10:07 AM
FYI... Wade, Long, Wood & Kennedy LLC -> 2012-13 GT Democrat Campaign Contributions = $14,500.00
Caring4GT January 07, 2014 at 10:11 AM
More FYI: John Wade (WLWK) billed around $300,000.00 to the GTBOE from 2012-2013. Pretty good return on that investment. WE pay that, the residents and taxpayers. This is outrageous!!!
Jennifer January 07, 2014 at 11:17 AM
I have an email dated December 20, 2013 from Mr. Carl H. Carabelli, Manager of the Criminal History Review Unit, NJ Dept of Education. It states that Mr. Pearce can NOT sit with the board or vote until his background check and fingerprinting are complete. Of course I brought this to the BOE meeting. Mr. Wood provided a letter from the EXACT gentleman dated Jan. 6, 2014 stating that he can. Go figure!
Caring4GT January 07, 2014 at 11:45 AM
"The mission of the Gloucester Township Public School District is to provide an educational program for all students in order to build a strong foundation of knowledge and decision making skills. Our students will need these skills to meet the challenges they will encounter as citizens in the 21st century society." This is from the GTBOE mission statement. Does anyone trust theses people to instil this in our children when THEY have on decision making skills. Shameful and deplorable.
Bob Kola January 07, 2014 at 11:48 AM
I would question if the Manager of Criminal History Review Unit for the NJ Department of Education would have the authority to make a decision on a procedural matter. I would think/hope a decision like that would have to be made one or two pay grades above him and in a different division.
Joshua Berry January 07, 2014 at 12:09 PM
Here is a thought. Let's for argument's sake assert the letter dated Jan 6th was from this individual and not tampered with and this individual had the authority to make an exception in this case when every other school district had to exclude board members whose check was not complete. Mr. Pearce was sworn in December if I recall my meeting minutes properly. If they did not get permission for him to be sworn in and vote until Jan 6th, 2014 then his swearing in was not legal (at the time) in December 2013. Unless they swore him in again with Mr. Gagliardi, he was not officially seated and thus could not vote at the Jan 6th re-org meeting. Again, I find it suspicious there would be an email granting an exception for Mr. Pearce, but nice work Jenn. Did this letter retroactively grant the ability to seat him in December a week after being appointed in stark contrast to every ruling and policy in the state?
Jennifer January 07, 2014 at 01:16 PM
He was re-sworn in last night and when I questioned why, they stated because the wording of the oath has changed.
Jennifer January 07, 2014 at 01:23 PM
N.J.S.A.18A:12-1.2 section 5.a. I'll copy and paste the important parts. Revised November 14, 2013 THE EDUCATIONAL FACILITY OR AUTHORIZED CONTRACTOR IS STATUTORILY RESPONSIBLE TO ENSURE THAT THE APPLICANTS, EMPLOYEES, OR BOARD/TRUSTEE MEMBERS COMPLETE THE CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORD CHECK PROCESS PRIOR TO EMPLOYMENT OR SERVICE. THEY SHALL PROVIDE THE INDIVIDUAL WITH INSTRUCTIONS ON ACCESSING THE ONLINE E-PAYMENT PROCESS. UPON COMPLETION OF THIS PROCESS, THE APPLICANT MAY ACCESS THE MORPHOTRUST WEBSITE THROUGH A LINK ON THE E-PAYMENT PROCESS CONFIRMATION PAGE. It does say "before" but who knows, that word may now be open for interpretation.
Joshua Berry January 07, 2014 at 02:00 PM
I just got off the phone with NJ School Board Association. Yesterday the state changed the rules to allow *Newly elected* people to be seated before the background checks have come back final as long as they have submitted fingerprints and other paperwork for the check within 30 days of the election being certified. HOWEVER, the new rule is unclear as to appointees being sworn in before the check is complete. The NJSBA has specifically asked about this. They will attempt to follow up. that said the assumption is that if it is ok for elected it will most likely be ok for appointed. Additionally in re-org meetings you are absolutely allowed to change your vote for Pres and VP.
Joshua Berry January 07, 2014 at 02:11 PM
Here is a link to the statement: http://www.njsba.org/news/press-releases/njdoe-to-permit-swearing-in-of-new-board-members-with-incomplete-background-checks.php?w=658 This is clear for newly elected members, but it does NOT explicitly waive the rules for appointed members. In my opinion Mr. Pearce should not have been sworn in without a clarification on appointments. Does anyone have a copy of this letter?
Joshua Berry January 07, 2014 at 03:17 PM
More updates after speaking to the county. On the "change of vote", he was not able to change his vote within the voting block itself meaning if he voted to abstain then others voted. If the vote ended in a tie, there needed to be another motion for another, separate, vote in which he could have voted differently.
speakupnow January 08, 2014 at 08:04 AM
So for years the ruling was Background check and fingerprint results had to be back. But on the day of the meeting January 6,2014 that changed. Still in December 2013 when they swore in Pearce and the lawyer said it was legal ,it was not legal . So they swore him in again and gave a Parent a lie for the reason. That is just Great ! Also no one ever saw a letter with Pearces name on it nor did the lawyer say it was an exception for PEARCE .He only cited a new ruling which just went into effect. My concern is this School Board,with the exception of a few, does not know what they are doing. So if they can not even run a meeting well,don't follow the law and skirt it every time they can, how bad are the decisions they make for the Education of our children. My answer is VERY BAD. It is these same people who approved a Curriculum with inappropriate sexual material for students, never having read it. They approve the hiring of Administration and Directors to make ALL the decisions for our children. What makes any one of us think we can rely on their choices? Ask yourself who suffers from these bad decisions. ( OUR CHILDREN ,not theirs.) Now is your chance to stop this ,to speak up for your kids,and to make a difference. It will mean giving your time and making adjustments in your life to get involved but our children are worth it. Get involved ,attend meetings ,voice your concerns and if you can't, at the very least write letters or make phone calls to your school Superintendent ,the County, the State. Help any way you can.
Big Daddy 1 January 08, 2014 at 10:56 AM
The Wade, Long.... law firm has also been the prosecutor for GT for a long time. And I can attest that at least one of their partners is no stranger to corruption. That's also what happens when contracts are based on pay to play.
Paul J. DiBartolo January 08, 2014 at 12:07 PM
When I went to traffic court to fight my bogus Red-Light Camera ticket for which there was insufficient evidence to convict, I was directed by the law officer reviewing the video to speak to the prosecutor (Kennedy of Wade, Long, Wood & Kennedy LLC) since the writing officer was not in court. When I approached the prosecutor, he looked at me and said gruffly, "What do you want?" I began to explain my dilemma and he cut me off and said, "Take it to the judge." A real public servant. That is what happens when you belong to the favored class too long and you begin to feel you're somebody special and owed a living off the taxpayer. It's well past time to get a new law firm to represent Gloucester Township.
Michelle Wolfson January 08, 2014 at 04:26 PM
I suppose having a little bit of dissent among board members can be viewed as a positive, as opposed to simply voting lock step every single time on every single issue If only the discussion was actually about THE KIDS and not about THEMSELVES. I'm beginning to wonder how much concern for the students of Gloucester Twp there actually is on the board.
Michelle Wolfson January 08, 2014 at 04:29 PM
And I don't know Mr. Pearce and have nothing against him personally, but I have a real issue with someone, anyone, sitting on a board and VOTING on issues that impact MY CHILDREN before a criminal background check has even been completed on them. I call shenanigans!
Big Daddy 1 January 08, 2014 at 04:48 PM
I caught Long adding testimony to a court transcript and erasing the tapes to obtain a fraudulent insurance settement. And I am sure there was more than that going on.
Darren Gladden January 11, 2014 at 10:52 PM
Miss me yet GT
Schu January 12, 2014 at 08:59 AM
This BOE is toxic.
Paul J. DiBartolo January 12, 2014 at 12:18 PM
I heard they're missing you at the council meetings, Darren. Dave stopped coming...is it because he thinks it's no fun without you? Don't be a stranger.
l t Paine January 12, 2014 at 07:06 PM
We thought Bill Collins as Board President was bad, I have a feeling Gunn as President and Coyle as Vice President are going to show residents new lows lf the reorganization meeting is any indication of future meetings. Hopefully Gun picked up a copy of Robert's Rules to read or have somebody explain it to him and Coyle, maybe Wade will even want to sit in. I have to agree with Schu , This Board is not only toxic, it is also inept and the only ones that pay are the children of this District. Don't stop asking questions and demanding answers from bilodeau, Acerba and this Board.
Jennifer February 15, 2014 at 07:37 AM
Oh look, a new low for the GTBOE and the patch isn't there to cover it. Wonder if Duhart disappeared when he started asking tough questions at the meetings. Who exactly owns this paper?

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