I’ve had the unfortunate experience of observing on social media the negative attacks against Debbie Boyle, who is running to be re-elected to the Board of Education. They have appeared not only during this election season, but have been allowed to fester for several years on local Facebook pages that are not properly moderated to counteract gossip. Rather than providing substantive arguments, the comments amount to name-calling, taunting memes, false accusations, and even provoke violence; for example, a South Plainfield Volunteer Firefighter posted that someone ought to slap Debbie upside the head. As these comments are often rooted in falsehoods with the intention to harm, they influence people unfamiliar with the truth. I feel I can no longer ignore these baseless attacks on Debbie.
In 2017, comments on Facebook began to appear accusing Debbie of “stealing” Middle School PTO money while she served as this organization’s President. These accusations appear constructed with the intention to destroy Debbie’s reputation in the community, because they targeted Debbie who served as President of the PTO, rather than asking the Treasurer who kept the books, deposits, and expenditures. These accusations also appear constructed because they are at odds with the numerous fundraising events for South Plainfield students, athletic teams, musical organizations, town events and families in need that Debbie has had a leading role in for decades without any incidence of money mishandling. In response, Debbie provided the public with the ways PTO money was spent over the years. Also, a police investigation was conducted regarding these accusations. Despite no evidence of stealing, the false accusations and online harassment hasn’t stopped.
These accusations stem from a 2017 revision to Policy 9210 that banned Board of Education (BOE) members from serving as members on the Executive Board of any school-based organization, such as a PTO. The policy revision went into effect immediately. This led to the Middle School PTO being dissolved, as no serving members of the Executive Board wanted to take over as President once Debbie was banned from serving in that role. Prior to its dissolution, the Middle School PTO Executive Board voted to transfer remaining money to a scholarship fund to benefit Middle School students who helped raise that money. Members of a newly formed Middle School PTO appeared angered by this, perhaps because they felt entitled to use this money, although fundraised by others. I would like to point out that this anger appears contrived as “the organization is as strong as ever” as BOE member Giannakis points out in his recent Letter to the Editor. However, some of these individuals manifested their anger with accusations of theft. This could be inspired by BOE member Chapman’s justification for his support of Policy 9210, who stated at the BOE meeting on 7/19/2017 and as quoted by TAPinto: “While I don't think there is any financial impropriety, I started thinking, what if a member of the BOE who was also an executive for a PTO and something problematic financially [occurred]. The headline you would read in the newspaper would [say]: Board of Education Member Found…”.
In fact, the 2017 accusations come from a small group of people that have an earlier history of posting negative comments about Debbie on Facebook. This provides a public record displaying their vendetta against her, which makes it clear these are personal attacks rather than criticism. If one searches posts for “Debbie Boyle” on the TAPinto South Plainfield Facebook page, then one can see that it is often the same people who post these negative comments about her on all articles mentioning Debbie’s name. One can also see that the commenters frequently share the same mutual friends since they have their Friend List publicly viewable. It then becomes quite easy to understand the motivation behind these negative posts, and the association with the people who like them. Their earliest appearance are on an 8/21/2015 article announcing that Debbie was selected to be co-honorary Grand Marshal of the 2015 South Plainfield Labor Day Parade. These attacks were even extended to members of Debbie’s family, as demonstrated by negative comments on a 2/20/2016 TAPinto article announcing Megan Boyle Winters as head coach of the SPMS Softball Team. It’s worth mentioning that these commenters are close friends (in public and on Facebook) with BOE member Chapman, who happened to vote against Megan’s appointment as softball coach. This was in contradiction to the recommendation of the athletic director and head SPHS softball coach. As I’m not aware of this ever happening to a South Plainfield teacher/coach, it appears this was a decision based on anger toward Debbie. Actions like these demonstrate how this social circle’s vendetta against Debbie influences how BOE members vote on certain issues, rather than making decisions to benefit the students. One can create false narratives and try to spread them to those unfamiliar with the facts, but actions and voting records speak louder than political games.
Due to the history of harassment from this social circle and its escalation in 2017 to accusations of theft, friends and supporters of Debbie encouraged her to defend herself in a lawsuit. Witnesses declared in sworn testimonies that they had been recruited by BOE members of this social circle to participate in their ploy and rally as “pitbulls” against Debbie on Facebook. Although the lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, I stand in solidarity with Debbie because she had the courage to stand up to her harassers and against her false accusers. Some of the most vocal individuals are no longer echoing their false accusations, and I hope the lawsuit has raised awareness to prevent similar situations arising in the future for any publicly elected member of the community. I encourage people to read the public lawsuit themselves, rather than be influenced by false assumptions and interpretations from others. Debbie has since stated in her recent Letter to the Editor that she has accepted the determination by the court and is moving forward to continue bringing positive changes and creating new opportunities for the students of South Plainfield.
I am behind Debbie more than ever and believe you should support her for Board of Education because she has always been, and continues to be, all about the community of South Plainfield. She has brought transparency as a member of the community, such as when she started videotaping BOE and Town Council meetings a decade ago so that they are accessible to everyone online and on the local public TV channel. This allows discussions on topics to be transparent and documented, so that public officials cannot create their own alternative facts or misconstrue their voting records. Any attempts to do so will be met with a public question from Debbie so that the public is fully aware and informed on every issue. She doesn’t have one opinion in public and a different one behind closed doors.
I believe you should support Debbie for Board of Education because she has always been, and continues to be, all about the teachers and staff of South Plainfield. Her voting record demonstrates that she’s always supported teachers and staff. An example of this occurred in 2010, when superintendent Negron proposed raises for two administrators (one was hired just four months earlier). Debbie chose to vote against these raises because the teachers were just asked to take a pay freeze due to budget constraints. According to a 6/17/2010 article on 07080.blogspot.com, some members of the BOE did vote for the raises (two are running in this year’s election: current BOE member Giannakis and former BOE member Seesselberg) despite what the BOE told teachers about their salaries and lack of money. Debbie supports administrators who promote equality and always defends teachers against unjust treatment.
I believe you should support Debbie for Board of Education because she has always been, and continues to be, all about the parents of South Plainfield. Outside of public meetings, she always has her phone and e-mail available for those with questions or need assistance. Anyone who has asked her for help can attest that she immediately gets them an answer and tries to help resolve their problem.
I believe you should support Debbie for Board of Education because she has always been, and continues to be, all about the kids of South Plainfield. Debbie attends almost every concert, play, multi-cultural and holiday event to show the students of South Plainfield that those making decisions affecting their school experience are there to listen and support their hard work. Through the Boyle Memorial Foundation, she and her husband have raised money to award South Plainfield students over $100,000 in scholarships over the years, to help them pay for catholic high school (Sacred Heart school) and college (SPHS graduates). She’s supported the Referendum since the beginning and helped to gain support for it, voted to provide Chromebooks to SPHS students to facilitate learning, and helped pass policies that led to SPHS being named Top 100 Best High Schools in the state. She’s helped put together events and fundraisers that benefit the youth of this community by promoting wellness and exercise health, sustainability for a better planet, and new opportunities in the arts, athletics, sciences, computing, and robotics.
As Debbie always says, “it’s all about the kids” and I hope you keep the kids of South Plainfield in mind when you vote for her on November 5.
Respectfully submitted in my own thoughts and words,
Her kid: Michael Boyle