To the Editor,
 
I am deeply offended by the letter written by Tina Petersen, saying that Education Focused lacks ethics. I don’t know Tina Petersen, and she certainly doesn’t know me to have made such a judgment. As a member of the group, I can tell you who we are. We are group comprised of your neighbors, who are concerned parents and members of the community.
 
 
We formed with the goal to provide as much information to the community as possible before we cast our ballots on April 21; and to ensure that expenditures of taxpayer's money is prudently used towards educational needs, rather than nice-to-haves. We know that Education Counts was doing their part to discuss the pros of this referendum, so we needed to do our part to discuss the cons. There is no desire on anyone in this group's part to lie, mislead, and/or bully anyone into a vote for or against the proposed referendum .     
 
The emails that parents received were sent by parents in their respective schools, four parents to be exact, and not Education Focused. The email was an invitation to parents to join in the discussion, perhaps get involved with Education Focused and get an alternate point of view other than the one being provided by Education Counts.

 
The email addresses were not “hijacked” or “stolen,” they are available to all parents in the school community. Why is it that Education Counts, which is a group specifically formed to support the BOE recommendations, are allowed to have and send emails and even have a place on the district website, pushing the YES vote; yet a well-intentioned group of parents are the bad guys, being accused of misleading the public, just because they happen to express a different point of view?
 
I happen to know that on the Board of Trustees at Education Counts there sits three members of Encore!, a group specifically formed to enhance the Performing Arts in our School with a specific 
agenda to build a Performing Arts Center. How is their involvement in both groups not a conflict of interest?  Have I ever called them unethical?
 
We have been accused of providing misleading financial information, when the key point we are trying to make is that a tax, by any other name is still a tax, and if our tax dollars are spent on this $14 million dollar project, we will have to tax again to achieve other goals like full-day kindergarten, improved cafeterias, additional classrooms and such. And at what point do we stop?
 
For those who are concerned about property values, let’s be clear, high taxes will drive people away faster than a Performing Arts Center will draw people to the community. At the Township Committee meeting when pressed, Mr. Gilfillan, the Finance Chair of the BOE, had to concede that the savings they have been touting by transferring the BOE offices to the Middle School were not “actual” savings but rather a transfer of costs.
 
As the finance chair on the BOE, what’s his excuse? We didn’t accuse him of misleading the public even if, as an expert, he should know better.  
 
So unfortunately, this negativity is coming from those who stand to gain from this referendum. To think, if the Board of Ed would have listened to half of the community at the open meeting on Febraury 28, and split the referendum, every one of us would have made a decision on the merits of each proposal in the privacy of the voting booth. Instead we have genuinely good, concerned people being negatively cast, for trying to do the right thing.
 
Susan O’Brien
 
To learn more visit educationfocused.org