ROXBURY, NJ – The debate about removing voting from Roxbury schools is heating up; it was the subject of spirited discussions by the school board on Monday and by the town council on Tuesday.
At its meeting, the school board heard Roxbury council members Dan Kline, Jaki Albrecht and Richard Zoschak present their determination: That using the township building at Horseshoe Lake is the only potentially feasible site for polling if voting was removed from Jefferson School, Kennedy School, Nixon School, Eisenhower School and Roxbury High School.
Roxbury School Board Member Carol Scheneck took issue with that proposal, contending the council members were exaggerating the cost estimates. She suggested there would be far fewer voters using the 72 Eyland Ave. building than predicted by the council sub-committee and she said the panel’s inclusion of a $150,000 emergency generator in the estimates was unnecessary.
“I have been at the senior center when there were power outages and in fact they continued voting,” said Scheneck, a former member of the council. She said the voting machines have battery backups and the buildings can use temporary emergency lights, eliminating the need for a generator.
School Board Member Margaret Casola also spoke up at the board meeting, denouncing suggestions made by some members of the council that the best solution would be to close schools on Election Day - during the same week schools are closed two days for the annual teachers’ convention in Atlantic City.
Going to Disney World
“You want us to close the schools a third day that week … It’s not educationally responsible for us to do that,” Casola said. “You’re asking parents to keep their kids home so that they can go vote. We can’t do that. There are a certain amount of days we have to have the kids in school and a certain amount of days the teachers have to work. Let me tell you, if we give them three days off during the week, it is going to be New Jersey Disney in Orlando because no one is going to come to school that week.”
In an attempt to quell the back-and-forth, Roxbury School Board President Leo Coakley successfully suggested the board form a 4-member “ad-hoc” committee that will meet with Kline, Albrecht and Zoschak to discuss the matter.
Despite that, Albrecht told her fellow council members on Tuesday that the school board appeared intractable, particularly when it came to closing schools on Election Day or helping fund the use of the Eyland Avenue building. “There’s no sense of wanting to work with us,” Albrecht said. “They don’t really want to bend.”
That prompted Roxbury Councilman Jim Rilee to assert the board is “just trying to use the bully pulpit." Rilee said the board is "misleading people" and he asserted, "It’s never been about negotiating. This way they can just point to us as the reason when, in actuality, they don’t take things like voting rights into mind during this process.”
The council voted to introduce a resolution urging the state Legislature to endorse a bill – introduced last month – that would require schools to be closed statewide on Election day. Additionally, the council voted to introduce a resolution – suggested by Roxbury Councilman Bob DeFillippo – “urging the school board, for the sake of the safety of the children in all of our schools, to consider closing their schools on Election Day.”