ROXBURY, NJ – To ensure the safety of students, the Roxbury school district should close schools on Election Day and the state should require the same thing at schools statewide when schools are used as polling places, says the Roxbury Mayor and Council.
The council, on Monday, passed resolutions calling for those actions. It did so even as some on the panel acknowledged they don’t expect the resolutions to have much of an impact; Roxbury Schools Superintendent Loretta Radulic, and many on the Roxbury School Board – oppose having schools closed a third day on Election Days in November, a week when schools are already closed Thursday and Friday for the annual state teachers’ convention.
“It’s not going to matter,” said Roxbury Councilman Jim Rilee. “I think what it does do, though, is stresses that we all agree there is concern about the safety of our children and that’s all these resolutions talk about.”
The resolutions passed unanimously, but Roxbury Councilman Dan Kline voted yes by accident. Kline, after the meeting, said he thought the motion was to table the resolutions until after a council sub-committee investigating the matter meets Aug 23 with a sub-committee from the Roxbury School Board.
The council’s sub-committee – of which Kline is a member – reached a preliminary conclusion last month that found the only potentially feasible way to move Election Day voters out of Roxbury schools would be to use the township building at Horseshoe Lake Park as a massive polling site.
The sub-committee said doing so could cost more than $150,000, might alienate voters living far from the site and would likely cause clogged roads. The sub-committee presented the idea to the school board July 23 and the board decided to form a sub-committee of its own to meet with the council’s.
We 'Let You Down'
Kline, today issued a statement in which he stressed his vote in support of the resolutions was accidental. He also chastised his council colleagues for not postponing the vote.
“These resolutions completely undermine our ongoing negotiations with the BoE regarding elections in schools,” wrote Kline. “I thought one of my colleagues was persuaded by a smart and well-spoken member of our community who asked Council to table these resolutions. Clearly, I was wrong. I misheard a motion and instead of being tabled, these terrible resolutions were introduced and passed.”
Kline was referring to Roxbury School Board Candidate Minnie Borrero, an advocate of moving elections out of schools, who spoke at the council meeting and suggested that allowing early voting statewide might alleviate the problem partially.
Kline asserted the resolutions “put politics over the safety of our children” and should have been tabled, as he suggested during the meeting. “We should have taken the high road,” he added. “Instead, we chose to play games and point fingers. You deserve better. Tonight, the entire Town Council let you down.”
However, during the meeting, Roxbury Councilman Bob DeFillippo, and others who voted for the resolutions, insisted they still want to work with the school board on the issue but are not convinced closing schools isn’t a viable option.
“We’ve already conducted a fairly extensive review of what is possible and what isn’t possible and we presented that to the school board and yet the school board … opposes the closing of the schools," DeFillippo said. "But I’m still not 100 percent sure why they don’t want to close the schools. I don’t know what the difference is between closing schools on Tuesday and closing them on Thursday and Friday and why one disadvantages our students and the other two days don’t.”