LINDEN, NJ - Linden Board of Education President Raymond J. Topoleski released a statement this week regarding the use of Linden Public schools as polling locations on Primary Election Days.
The board is considering moving election voting out of the schools for safety reasons, but have not yet decided on the final action to be taken. One of the options is to remove the students by having faculty conduct an in-service day but the final solution has yet to be determined.
The topic has been an issue of ongoing debate between parents, school administrators, and local elected officials, which includes Mayor Derek Armstead and Linden Public School Superintendent Dr. Danny Robertozzi.
Here is the full letter from Raymond J. Topoleski, Board of Education President:
Based on concerns from parents, the Linden Board of Education is discussing ways we can ensure the safety of our students and staff on Primary Election Day. In the past, the public has had unchecked access to our schools on these days, which goes against a new school security policy that the board implemented on April 9, 2018.
This policy was put into place after great discussion among board members and school administrators about the safety of our schools following numerous acts of violence against schools around the country.
On June 5, 2018, the day of the most recent primary, numerous parents expressed concern over the safety of their children during voting. Board member Tracey Anne Birch was approached by parents that evening at the monthly meeting of our Parent Educational Support Team. Also, parents from nearly every school that was used as a polling place called our board offices to express concern.
After a discussion over the safety issue by the board at a committee meeting in June, one of several options discussed was removing the polling places from the school. Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi said that a letter was being drafted to be sent to the Union County Board of Elections to request that polling places be removed from the schools, and no board member voiced concern over this plan of action.
In early August, Dr. Robertozzi shared the letter he planned to send to the Board of Elections. At that time, one board member expressed a concern, and Dr. Robertozzi and I decided to hold the letter and wait for further discussion at the August board meeting. We are also looking into the possibility of having an in-service day for school staff or closing schools on Primary Election Day, so that no student will be in the buildings – as is the case for the general election in November.
Linden Mayor Derek Armstead recently claimed that the discussions of how to secure our schools were based on politics and an attempt to suppress votes. Mayor Armstead made this accusation through news media and never attempted to discuss the issue with Dr. Robertozzi or the school board leadership. I am disappointed not only that he chose to take that approach but based his arguments on inaccurate information and hyperbole. For the mayor to accuse the board of putting politics ahead of the safety of our children is disingenuous.
I am not sure how the mayor saw the letter to the Board of Elections since it was never mailed and only shared internally, but if the mayor had questions over the board’s concern for student safety, he could have contacted Dr. Robertozzi or me. He instead chose to inject politics and his feud with Sen. Nicholas Scutari into the vital work of the Linden Public Schools and the Board of Education’s attempt to address parents’ concern over their children’s safety.
We welcome Mayor Armstead’s suggestions in regards to the Linden Public Schools and will gladly accept any constructive input he would like to share with the board, however politics have no place in a dialogue about how best to ensure the safety of our students.
Raymond J. Topoleski, Board of Education President
The school board’s next meeting is an will be held on Tuesday, August 28 at 6 p.m.