RANDOLPH, NJ- Eliza Schleifstein, a Randolph Resident,  addressed the Randolph Board of Education at the March 19 meeting with a public statement alleging that the Board has not only handled its public relations and communications efforts poorly, but has also spent an unacceptable amount of the township’s money on PR services from a local firm.

Specifically, Schleifstein pointed to the almost $25,000 in PR fees for the referendum campaign that had, according to her, "The approved stated goal in the PR plan of 'motivating them to vote YES,' – the 'YES' in capital letters – despite a written denial from your Board attorney to that 'We were very careful to make sure that we put out factual pieces rather than material that advocated a yes or no vote for the referendum.'"

She called out the over $10,000 monthly retainer for the PR firm, noting that their website updates for the district included "over 50 grammatical, spelling and consistency errors and photos taken with an iPhone."

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Other examples included the almost $3,000 in fees for writing the Superintendent's 700-word holiday letter that, per Schleifstein, "had typos, could not be opened on mobile devices, and, per the proposal, would 'position the Superintendent and BOE during a positive time to reinforce their dedication to the community' but was publicly ridiculed."

Schleifstein posted her entire statement on the Randolph Residents Facebook page, drawing a rapid and strong response from community members.

Schleifstein, a PR professional herself, was a candidate in the most recent BOE election.

The Board of Education issued the following statement and spreadsheet  regarding Schleifstein's comments:

"As a Board, we have heard and recognized the need for better, more comprehensive communication with our constituents. Two years ago, we established communication as a Board priority, forming a communication committee of the Board. Our planning is ongoing and will be consistently refined to look at the future of communication in our district, the ways in which we work together as a Board, and how we best interact with our community, and not just the residents who have students in our schools, but with the 70% of residents that do not. These initiatives are important and we have put the appropriate resources behind them. As is common in many districts and entities, we brought in the assistance of outside communication consultants to work with us in a variety of areas and supplement resources within district.  Contrary to what is being said, to date, in 2018 and 2019, we have spent $37,175 on communication services. We respectfully point out that we have followed all procedures in our procurement and billing process, and that scopes of work and purchase orders are essentially estimates of work that may be done if the Board so chooses, not costs for services already rendered.  We are very satisfied with our communication progress and look forward to continuing to champion the success of our students and educators.  We welcome all our constituents to attend our bi-monthly Board meetings and public committee meetings so that you can provide us with your questions and feedback."

The board further stated the following when providing the specific project details below :

 "To work toward that goal, the board contracted with a communication consultant that helps with setting communication goals, developing communication pieces, teaches the district better ways to communicate internally and externally whether that's through actions, email, in person conversations, board and committee meetings, etc.   We are excited about the improvements and are starting to see some of the fruits of our labor."


Noted by BOE : "Scopes of work and purchase orders are essentially estimates of work that may be done if the Board so chooses, not costs for services already rendered.  Please see the table below for the Breakdown of projects" :
 

Project Name

PO #

Estimated Project Cost

Paid as of 03/21/2019

Project Balance

Check Date

Check Number

Check Amount

Referendum

1901483

$24,000

$19,000

$5,000

10/11/2018

99228

$19,000

Medical Leave

1901509

$5,900

$5,900

$0

10/11/2018

99228

$5,900

Holiday Message

1902387

$2,675

$2,675

$0

02/14/2019

10370

$2,675

Water Main

1902388

$4,575

$4,575

$0

02/14/2019

10370

$4,575

New Year Message**

1902389

$3,150

$3,150

$0

2/14/2019

10370

$3,150

Communications Messages

1902390

$1,875

$1,875

$0

02/14/2019

10370

$1,875

Strategic Plan/Execution**

1903150

$76,850

$0

$76,850

 

 

 

Totals:

 

$119,025

$37,175

$81,850

 

 

$37,175

 
**The New Year Message and Strategic Plan/Execution projects are part of the not to exceed $80,000 that was awarded by the Board at the December 18, 2018 Board meeting.