Dear Editor,

When the facts aren’t on your side, you resort to distraction in order to divert attention from the issues at hand. Chatham voters, however, will not be fooled.

At last evening’s Board of Education (BOE) presentation before the Chatham Borough Council, BOE President Jill Weber and Schools Superintendent Michael LaSusa, under relentless questioning by council member Alida Kass, stated that whether debt service comes under the operating budget or capital budget is a matter of “semantics.” Those “semantics” are tax dollars coming out of your pockets which should be going toward funding educational programs, not paying off debt. Period.

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The BOE and Education Counts, a Continuing Political Committee filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), has intentionally tried to divert your attention to the “terrible misdeeds of Education Focused.” Education Focused has asked the proper and hard questions of the BOE and has received different answers at different times.

Education Counts spreads the BOE’s version of the “facts” by having a direct link on the School District of the Chathams website. When you click on the link, you are taken to a page that looks exactly like a page on the School District of the Chathams website. School Districts should be apolitical. Education Counts is a Continuing Political Committee which begs the question: Why does a Continuing Political Committee have a direct link our School District’s website? Does that pass your sniff test? 

Education Focused supports, and in fact suggests, a “yes” vote on the Operating Budget, which is Question 1 on the ballot. We strongly urge a “no” vote on Question 2, the referendum, because it mixes “wants” and “needs,” deprives taxpayers of their American right of choice and puts “bricks and mortar” ahead of education.

By choosing to emphasize “bricks and mortar” over education, the BOE is only setting Chatham up for future tax increases to fund needed programs. As council member Kass indicated last evening, all this happens because there is no long-range strategic plan. 

When she asked BOE President Weber if there was a written long-range strategic plan, Ms. Weber stated “we discuss these projects all the time.”  Council member Kass pressed on Full-Day Kindergarten. Ms. Weber’s response was “we have to pass the referendum before even starting a discussion on full-day kindergarten.”

Thus, the short answer to the question “Is there a written strategic plan” was “NO”; and, therein lies the problem. Strategic planning means a written set of priorities and written goals towards achieving written objectives. It would also set accountability. Since there is currently no written strategic plan, the BOE lurches from crisis to crisis, pays attention to whomever has the loudest voice at the time and the end result is a disjointed effort.

Despite all this, we are a top ranked school district. But, make no mistake: Parents have a big hand in making sure we’re a top school district by supplementing our outstanding and under-compensated teaching staff by paying for additional resources out of their own pockets.

If the BOE wants an example of strategic planning, they need only consult Chatham Borough Administrator Robert Falzarano. He sets goals and objectives for the Borough each year, reports on their progress quarterly and, at the end of the year, he is held accountable. 

The time has come to spend money wisely and develop a written strategic plan which involves the entire community. That means parents, seniors, singles, business owners, elected officials —everyone. We can only begin this process by a resounding NO vote on Question 2  this coming Tuesday, April 21st.

I urge my fellow citizens to join me in voting NO on Question 2. 

Sincerely,

Len Resto

Chatham Borough