Sparta Board of Education Wrangles over OPRA Requests

Credits: Jennifer Dericks

SPARTA, NJ – This is not the first time there has been controversy over how to handle OPRA requests for the Sparta Board of Education. At the October board meeting, during the New Business portion of the agenda, board member Frank Favichia requested that the topic of posting OPRA requests on the district web site be discussed in the relevant committee. He repeated the request at the November meeting.

OPRA in an acronym for Open Public Records Act, legislation that governs public access to government records.  The act also defines which records are considered government records, which are exempt from disclosure and establishes an appeal process should a request be denied. 

Favichia’s request sparked a discussion that was at times confrontational among board members. He stated he was seeking to have the request, including the name of the requestor, posted on the web site. 

Sign Up for E-News

“There is a cost to the district. Some of the requests are over the top. Putting the names out there are a way to put it out to the public who is causing all of the costs,” said Favichia. “We all ran on a ticket of exposing the costs that are unnecessary.”

Many OPRA requests are reviewed by the district's attorney to determine the proper course of action for handling the request.

Board member Kim Yoemans did not agree.  “How is it improving transparency?”  She said the responses should be posted as well. 

Favichia said, “To add the responses up there [would mean] more costs because of the cost of taking the time to post it.”

Yoemans and Brenda Beebe were concerned that this initiative was intended to intimidate members of the community from making requests.  Favichia said, “OPRAs have been used for intimidation of the district staff and board members.”

Beebe also wanted the response to the OPRA request posted along with whether the request was fulfilled or denied and the costs associated with the request.

Yoemans said “There are more effective ways to lower legal fees like getting Linda Alvarez more training so she feels more comfortable answering them on her own.”

Superintendent Dennis Tobin said, “That won’t be the recommendation from my office.”

Yoemans also said, “We don’t get that many [requests].” 

Board Secretary and Business Administrator Alvarez responded, “I talk to my peers around the county and they only get one or two a year.” The board of education's posted minutes indicate 25 requests over the past 12 months with a reported associated cost of $5288.25. 

Jack Surdoval said, “Linda Alvarez is acting to protect the board and the district. We as a board want the attorney’s opinion, to protect us.”

Yoemans continued to disagree asserting that the law had been written with “intention to be implemented by the BA, not get the attorney involved in every request.”

There is a history of people using information garnered from an OPRA request to bolster legal action against the school district. 

Richard Bladek said he wanted to see the request and the findings posted “so there is no repeat.”

Tobin concluded the discussion by asking that all of the committees review the topic of posting OPRA requests on the district's web site.  

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Sparta Police: Pot Arrest for Man Laying Down in Parked Car

February 19, 2018

SPARTA, NJ – Two people sitting in the back seat of a car parked on Indian Trail made someone suspicious enough to call Sparta Police Department.  On February 15 around 12:50 a.m. Sparta Police Officer Erick Finley went to investigate the red Dodge Caliber police report.

A man and a woman were lying down in the back seat when the officer arrived.  Finley asked them both for ...

Sparta Police: Stop for Broken Light Ends with DWI for Newton Man

SPARTA, NJ – A Newton man caught the attention of Sparta Cpl Rubino when he drove passed him on West Shore Trail with a broken license plate light.  Alexis Obolensky was stopped in his gold Subaru on February 15 around 7:45 p.m., police report.

When the officer was stopping the 28-year-old driver he saw him flick a cigarette out the window.  As Rubino spoke with him he smelled ...

Sparta Police Nab Two on Outstanding Warrants

SPARTA,NJ – Several people with active warrants were picked up by Sparta Police this week. On February 12 around noon, Sparta Police Officer Christopher Favaro stopped Newark resident Alex Nunes-Ramalho, 23, for broken break lights on his gold Chevy Impala. 

 Nunes-Ramalho told Favaro that he did not have his wallet with him.  Instead, the driver showed the officer a ...

Upcoming Events


Tue, February 20, 6:30 PM

Sparta United Methodist Church, Sparta

Girl Scout STEAM Program

Arts & Entertainment Education

Sat, February 24, 7:00 PM

The Prudential Center, Newark

Sparta Education Foundation Night Out with the NJ ...

Giving Back Sports


Tue, February 27, 6:30 PM

Sparta United Methodist Church, Sparta

Girl Scout STEAM Program

Arts & Entertainment Education


Fri, March 2, 7:00 PM

Wallkill Valley Regional High School, Hamburg

The Drowsy Chaperone

Arts & Entertainment


Sat, March 3, 7:00 AM

First United Methodist Church, Newton

Newton Rotary Pancake Breakfast

Food & Drink

Paterson's Poet Laureate

February 13, 2018

PATERSON, NJ- The City of Paterson has given birth to famous athletes, business leaders, actors, and now, a poet laureate.

Born and raised in Paterson, Talena Lachelle Queen told TAPinto Paterson that she has been writing since she was five-years old, and, as she grew older, realized that when it came to pursuing studies and a career in writing, she “didn’t have a choice.” ...

How to Talk with Kids About the Florida Shooting

February 15, 2018

The tragedy of the Florida school shooting is devastating, leaving 17 killed and 15 injured. Our children can easily identify with what occurred yesterday. It will be the topic of conversation today in schools everywhere. School administrators are doing all they can to provide support and guidance. The shootings affect children, teachers, and school personnel. The school shooting ...

Top 5 Reasons to Hire a Real Estate Professional When Buying or Selling in NJ

Team Nest Builder knows that whether you are buying or selling a New Jersey home it can be quite the adventure, which is why you need an experienced real estate professional to guide you on the path to achieving your ultimate goal. But in this world of instant gratification and internet searches, many sellers think that they can ‘For Sale by Owner’ or ...

Does Marriage or Mortgage Come First?

According to the National Association of REALTORS most recent Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers, married couples once again dominated the first-time homebuyer statistics in 2017 at 57% of all buyers. Team Nest Builder knows it's no surprise that having two incomes to save for down payments and contribute to monthly housing costs makes buying a home more ...

Very Hot Tea Increases Cancer Risk

Researchers in China studying the consumption of “burning” hot tea, alcohol, and smoking habits of greater than 450,000 people ages 30 –79 for more than nine years found a five time greater risk of esophageal cancer in those who engaged in all three of the behaviors and a two time greater risk in those who either smoked or drank alcohol and consumed burning hot tea as compared ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 12

On this week’s episode of AtlantiCast, decade of excellence makes headlines, as Atlantic Health’s place on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For List leads off the newest episode of AtlantiCast. Also on this week’s show, check out the newest “hybrid” operating room at Morristown Medical Center and find out how Atlantic Health is helping local ...

AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link:

AtlantiCast Episode 011

Breaking Atlantic Health System news on this week’s AtlantiCast! Plus, find out why Morristown Medical Center is one of the best hospitals in the nation when it comes to recovering from joint surgery, see the newest center for fighting brain cancer and an Atlantic Health System red-carpet premiere!


Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders February 14 2018 Meeting Video

NEWTON, NJ - Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders February 14 2018 Meeting Video 


Sparta Woman's Club General Meeting

February 19, 2018

Sparta Woman's Club will have a meeting on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at 11:45 am at the Lake Mohawk County Club located at 21 Boardwalk in Sparta. This month Kelly Evans, proprietor of Signs, Inc, will present the history and the technique for creating Pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs. Please contact Jennifer Mohr at 973-726-7273 for information on attending.