Gloucester Township school board President William Collins, who lost a reelection bid in November, said Monday he will not be a candidate to replace outgoing board member Andrew Lalli.
The news sheds some light on a process several board members set in motion last month to solicit candidates to replace Lalli, who left the board on Nov. 30. School officials said up to 20 candidates submitted resumes to the board for consideration to be appointed to Lalli’s remaining term. But the board has not revealed the names of any of the applicants.
Board Solicitor John Wade said the board planned to release the resume of the eventual appointee but not the other applicants.
Tom Crone, a township resident and head of the Camden County Republican party, said, during a public portion of a school board work session Monday, that he had submitted an open public record request to get the names of applicants.
Crone also had a heated 15-minute exchange with the board in which he demanded Collins not be part of the process to appoint someone to fill Lalli’s unexpired term.
"This is a travesty, nothing more than a coup, in my opinion," Crone said. "You are rushing this process. It’s unfair to the people who didn’t vote for Mr. Collins, it’s unfair to the new person who is coming in. You work for the people. I don’t want to hear any more about you work for the children."
Several members at that point began to loudly protest what Crone was saying. Board member William Fontanez, who has rarely spoken during meetings over the past year, banged the table and demanded a point of order.
Board member Felicia Reid, choked with emotion and mounting anger, insisted on immediately answering Crone.
"Hold it. hold it, hold it!" she said. "No, he doesn’t have the floor with offensive comments. This is ridiculous. I’ve taken it as long as I can. I don’t know you and you don’t know me, you don’t get up and say I don’t care about kids."
Crone continued to argue with the board after Collins pounded the gavel and thanked him for his comments.
"Bring the police and have me arrested," Crone said. "That’s what I would like to see. I really would like to see that."
After the exchange, the board affirmed a scheduled public meeting on Wednesday to interview each candidate.
Some township residents had previously expressed concern that Collins could be appointed to the board after losing in the election.
Collins put an end to that speculation Monday, before Crone’s comments.
"I do not expect to be a member of the board after January," Collins said during a break before the board went into a two-hour, closed-door executive session. "We voted on a process and I'm not part of that process."
Board solicitor John Wade said the executive session was to
discuss ground rules for candidate interviews and several "personnel
matters." The session started at 8:17 p.m. and the public meeting reconvened at
10:17 p.m. Seven people attended the meeting and all stayed until the nearly
3.5-hour end just before 10:30 p.m.
Collins’ two running mates, Linda Gilch and Ellen Reese finished at the top of a six-candidate field for three open board seats. Collins finished fourth behind newcomer Dominic Gagliardi.
The board reorganization is scheduled for January, when Gagliardi will be sworn in.
Collins, a board member for more than 20 years, was the public face of the board during a the past year with issues such as seven of 11 township K-8 schools failing meet state academic achievement goals and year-long struggles to agree on a contracts for district teachers and support staffs.