Education

Special Elizabeth Board of Education Meeting Marked by Angry Exchange Between Board Member and Audience

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Elizabeth Board of Education Credits: Fran Sullivan
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ELIZABETH, NJ – Tuesday night’s, August 4, special meeting of the Board of Education turned heated when board member Tony Monteiro began an angry speech accusing Mayor Bollwage of attempting to stock the Board with unsuitable candidates and publically criticizing by name two members of the audience.

YouTube video supplied courtesy of Don Lorenz

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Prior to Monteiro’s taking the floor, assistant board secretary Don Goncalves spoke as a private citizen in the public portion of the meeting. He objected to comments on Twitter about his decision to place his child in private school, saying “this was a private decision.” He considered the remarks to be an attack on his family. (A complete transcript of his remarks was supplied to TAPinto Elizabeth by Don Goncalves and is printed below.)

After the public portion was finished, Monteiro began a lengthy speech, which began, “Since January 7, 2015, politics were injected into the Board. People saw fit to bring vile hatred to the Board of Education. All of this has taken place on social media, the politics, the ugliness, when they start to attack families, like Don Goncalves’s daughter …

“Every single meeting there is a group who sits here and pontificates on all the bad things that go on in the Board of Education. These are the kind of people who support people for the Board of Education who have no place up here. They are supporting candidates who have no children in the school system,” Monteiro, who has no children, continued. “I am up here because of my years of service. My love for this city speaks for itself, eight years on the City Council, multiple years as a committee member, many years as a Board of Education member. I fight to keep the politics out of the Board of Education. I fight to stop the mayor from taking over the Board of Education and putting in members that he chooses, that have no business, no business in the world, to see that this Board of Education continues the progress.”

He then named audience members Cristina Moreira Cunha and Maria Lorenz who filed ethics charges against him with New Jersey Department of Education Ethics Committee due to two emails sent to them. “I sent a personal email to everyone on my list with a Happy Mother’s Day message.” The message included a picture of Monteiro and his running mate with the caption “Democrats for Assembly.” Moreira Cunha and Lorenz communicated with Monteiro via his personal email about Board of Education matters because he doesn’t have a Board of Education email address.

Moreira Cunha and Lorenz also spoke in the public portion about issues and concerns brought up at previous meetings that have not yet been addressed. A recent scheduled meeting between Superintendent Olga Hugelmeyer and Moreira Cunha was cancelled two hours before with the reason given Moreira Cunha’s litigation involving Monteiro.

At this moment, Board member Stan Neron interjected, saying, “With all due respect, I think you have personal issues. You made this very clear, this is personal. You should probably use your personal time.”

Shouts could be heard from the audience, and Moreira Cunha was escorted from the room by security guards.  Moreira Cunha, Lorenz, along with Dr. Patricia Gallante, all members of a parents’ advocacy group Elizabeth Parents and Students Care, are also involved with ongoing ligation challenging Monteiro’s right to sit on the Board after he resigned and was replace by Rafael Fajardo in January. One week later, Monteiro took back his seat.

Monteiro ended his comments with applause from some members of the audience.

The following is the text of Don Goncalves’s speech as supplied to TAPinto Elizabeth:

 "As a team member of the Elizabeth Public Schools, I continue to be proud of many of the successes of this organization - which has resulted in it being considered one of the top urban school districts in the State of New Jersey.  I personally believe in the mission of this board to ensure that every child achieves excellence.  There is absolutely reason to celebrate success especially when you look at the direction of this great organization and the successes made over the years. 

Now if you don't believe that, then you most assuredly choose to ignore the facts, like the State of New Jersey Department of Education or the US Department of Education continuing to support EPS’s work on a large scale whether it be though technical support or financial support.  Just recently Elizabeth was the recipient of a 3 million dollar i3 Grant by the USDOE.  That underscores commitment and trust in the work Elizabeth is doing. 

Where there is new and innovative programming or initiatives to be undertaken in this state or in this nation, well rest assured, Elizabeth is almost always at the top of the list to helping to showcase new and innovative practices. The facts speak for themselves, our schools are busting at the seams because people are moving into Elizabeth, because they KNOW that their children will receive a great public education.  Rampant development has helped to contribute to this fact also, but in the end, this district has stepped up to the plate and fulfilled its mission to educate the children of Elizabeth. 

But if you listen to some of the few naysayers, you would think that the school district is dysfunctional and in absolute tatters. This is the reality that some choose to create, that this board doesn’t care, that our children do not learn and that our teachers do not teach. All you have to do is attend any Elizabeth Board of Education meeting where some in the audience will undertake their daily ritual of diatribes against this district.  Anyone that now attends the Board of Education meeting is subjected to a circus like atmosphere, of continued catcalling of people and children, loud outbursts toward innocent people along with vile comments toward board members, team members and ordinary citizens.  This board has in fact shown great restraint. 

But the facts remain, ALL 9 OF YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO SPEAK OUT TO WHAT IS THE MOST OBVIOUS INJUSTICE OF ALL, there are those that continue to make a mockery of our Democratic system by coming here to destabilize meetings of this board sapping the time, energy and money of everyone that attends. 

Board members, you also have a responsibility to protect those of our most defenseless, the citizens from this injustice.  In many cases those citizens are children. 

Since January, some individuals have used social media with a level of virility and character assault that this city has never seen.  People’s religion, accents, lifestyles cultures and even families all seem to be fair game. Many of you have been the subject of it. These highly personal attacks by some are designed to hurt, maim and destroy the character of some  - literally at all costs. There is a form of cyber bullying and character assassination, which exists in this city that I believe needs to be addressed immediately. 

Over that last few weeks, my daughter and her education has become a flashpoint for certain individuals who choose to attack my integrity, and character. It is true that my daughter’s education has been since its inception provided in a private Catholic school environment.  Never did I believe that I would be required to continuously defend this personal decision which was done for religious purposes – it is my right, but is also done so that my daughter would never once be subjected to the comment or belief that her father had anything to do with her receiving special favor or treatment. Her education is done at a great personal financial burden away from those that continues their callous political attack agenda with personal attacks on my character.  These attacks impacted my daughter deeply. 

In spite of the fact that I have asked for certain individuals to cease and desist, they continue anyway. One has even gone further by making baseless outlandish charges about me that I wont even dignify here this evening. 

My many appeals to leave my daughter and her education out of it went unheeded as I was still continuously subjected to questions about my employment with the Board of Education and my so called hypocrisy for having my daughter in a private Catholic School. 

I have seen other’s children held out for discussion, which I believe, is reprehensible.  I believe that myself along with others have rights, which are asserted to us, by this country.  

I am here to let you know that as a citizen, my rights and that of others are being stripped away by the callous, vicious attacks of some individuals who have made a decision to attack families because it has been deemed by them to be convenient targets.   

This is a question of common decency – which as citizens of this community we live in - it should be our guiding principle.  Bringing in families, children and those that are innocent bystanders to this political war, is something that I believe needs to be addressed and condemned.”

 

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