SPARTA, NJ – Additional questions have come to light regarding Sparta Board of Education member Karen Scott’s son being hired as a full time custodian. The issue is not the qualification of Matthew Scott for the position, the issue is the legality of the behavior of the board member.
On Monday, February 24, 2020 board members approved Matthew Scott for a full time position as a custodian. Karen Scott was not in attendance.
A member of the public asked how the son of a sitting board member could be hired. Superintendent Michael Rossi and board president Kim Bragg said Matthew Scott had previously been hired as a substitute custodian, while Karen Scott had temporarily paused her service as a board member.
A review of the minutes show Matthew Scott was initially approved on the March 2018 agenda: “PP 188-18 New Substitutes for 2017-2018 School Year.”
He was renewed at the August 27, 2018 meeting: “PP 35-15 Renewed Substitutes.” Karen Scott voted to approve her son, a violation of policy and ethics.
Matthew Scott, however, was not included on the list of substitute renewal on or before August 2019. It appears his employment with the district had lapsed.
The next time he is on the agenda is January 27, 2020 under resolution “PP 141-20 New Substitutes for 2019-2020 Resolved that the Board of Education approves the following new substitutes for 2019-2020:”
While the item says “Scott, Matthew Custodian – Renewal” the resolution itself is for “New Substitutes.”
It is a long-standing practice in Sparta to have “Renewed Substitutes” as an agenda item and Matthew Scott was previously on a renewed substitutes list.
The superintendent must recommend all personnel for approval by the board of education. According to Policy 4146 “The Board will renew the employment contract of a nontenured support staff member only upon the recommendation of the Superintendent and by a recorded roll call majority vote of the full membership of the Board.”
Further; “A nontenured support staff member who is not recommended for renewal by the Superintendent is deemed nonrenewed.”
Regarding the January 2020 minutes, the resolution is “New Substitutes.” Resolutions that make up the minutes represent the “official record of the formal proceedings of the Board,” as stated in Policy 0168. The policy requires “minutes of public meetings to be signed by the Board Secretary and filed … as the permanent record of the acts of this board.”
The minutes are also considered a government record according to Regulation 8310 and N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1.
If an error occurs on an agenda, even the spelling of a name, a date or a dollar amount, that item is typically corrected by another resolution as soon as the error becomes known.
The complications of this personnel issue are:
- Hiring a family member of a board member
- Voting on the employment of a family member
- Lapse of board approval for employment
- A board member with a family member employed by the district negotiating and voting on the superintendent’s contract, merit goals and merit pay and other items related to his performance
As then Personnel Committee chair, Karen Scott was one of three board members to whom Rossi wrote, saying he wanted to renew his contract early. She was one of five board members who, via text message, agreed to have his contract negotiated.
The five members of the board of education who held a board meeting via text message, representing several violations of the Open Public Meetings Act, are facing ethics complaints regarding that process.
The mandated board of education policy 0142.1-Nepotism states:
“The Superintendent of Schools shall not recommend to the Board of Education pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:27-4.1 any relative of a Board member or the Superintendent.”
Mandated board of education policy 4125 -Employment of Support Staff Members is also relevant:
“The Board of Education prohibits any relative of a Board member or the Superintendent of Schools from being employed in an office or position in the school district in accordance with the provisions of N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-6.2 and Board Policy 0142.1 Nepotism.”
The next scheduled board of education meeting is Monday, March 16 at Mohawk Avenue School at 7:30 p.m.