Letters to the Editor

An Open Letter to the Plainfield Board of Education


PLAINFIELD, NJ - June 26, 2017

This is where I stand on the appointment of an Assistant/Acting Superintendent.  I have no attachment to Dr. Debra Sheard. If you recall, I was one two people who voted against her initial appointment as Assistant Superintendent in September of 2016.  I had reason to believe she was the “King Makers” candidate and after the disaster of a former Superintendent I was not about to allow that to happen again. As it turned out -Dr. Sheard is more than capable of fulfilling her position as Acting/Assistant Superintendent.

I watched a former Superintendent make one bad decision after another as the community felt she was directly controlled by a couple of key board members who felt it was their place to lead the district with no qualifications -namely Campbell and Edwards.  I know this and they know I know which is why you will never see them confront me on it. This is the direct reason we all fell out. I will state my appreciation to Wilma and John Campbell for initially getting me involved with the school board in 2011; however, I don’t agree, subscribe, nor condone their school board politics as it has proven to be detrimental to our district. 

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As a result of previous board members refusing to make the hard decisions to keep Plainfield School District fiscally in order, and their lack of direction and accountability, we are now facing 5 charter schools, an 8 million dollar deficit this year and a 10 million dollar deficit in the upcoming year.
I have never believed in patronage jobs and have personally refused to recommend friends and family if they were not qualified. I have not and will not interfere with the duties of any Superintendent beyond what I'm charged with as an elected board member. The Superintendent will either sink or swim based on their merits. However, I would prefer they excel, which is in the best interest for all involved.

As I see it, the exact reason certain people don't want Dr. Sheard in place is because she makes her own decisions and is refusing to bow to the whims of board members when it doesn't make sense. Certain board members exhibit a severe lack of understanding of what a board member's role is. I have watched training occur and at the time it seemed that fellow board members absorbed the content only to watch them a few days later do the exact opposite of what was taught.

We were elected by the people to represent them and use our best judgment when making decisions. Do you honestly feel that is what we're doing?

The majority of the board led by the current board president were all for Dr. Debra Sheard, as Assistant Superintendent in September 2016. The board president is also the very person who tapped Dr. Sheard (without consulting the board) to take the Acting Superintendent position in February 2017. Now the Board President is the most vocal about removing and non-renewing Dr. Sheard as Assistant Superintendent without a formal evaluation. This board requires district leadership to provide evidence when their recommendation is to non-renew staff based primarily on evaluation and day to day performance.

This board has yet to conduct an evaluation on our only employee that we’re scheduled to replace this week.

Our inexperienced Board President has moved from looking for an Interim Superintendent who has “no past or future in this district” to looking for an in house teacher or administrator to bridge the gap and “lead the district.”
We obviously have a highly educated staff. However, in my opinion, this new in house search is obviously an act of desperation based on the independent leadership of Dr. Sheard in the day to day operation of our school district. Something it appears the current board president is uncomfortable with.

Tonight at 6:30pm we are scheduled to interview internal candidates for the Acting Superintendent position. None of the candidates know what we’re looking for in an acting superintendent. There was no prior discussion about questions we will ask of the person who will be in charge of figuring out staff renewals and a budget crisis that includes an 8-million-dollar deficit within their first 30 days. Continuing with this process will only set this person up for failure and an immediate embarrassment to our district According to the Board President we will choose a new Acting Superintendent within one four hour meeting.

I ask you all (for the sake of our students) to consider what I’ve shared and vote for what's right for our district.

I urge you to Re-appoint Dr. Debra Sheard as Assistant Superintendent and Acting Superintendent through 2017-2018 as we address the immediate critical areas of concern and begin to conduct a thorough search for permanent superintendent.

Dorien Hurtt
Board Vice President


The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor.

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