In campaign material touting her educational successes, Mayor Dickson omits some vital information about her management of the Board of Education.
Nominating individuals to serve on the BOE is one of the primary duties of the mayor. In October of 2013, after learning that she had dramatically altered the appointment process, we spoke with the mayor to learn more about her approach to this important task.
Unlike every previous mayor going back two decades, who never asked about the political affiliation of potential board members, Dickson appoints only Republicans as a matter of policy. She also takes suggestions for Board candidates only from the all-Republican Common Council, thus ending a longstanding collaborative process that included input from a variety of stakeholders. In her words to us, “elections have consequences.”
Apparently, if you elect a Republican mayor, you’re going to get only Republicans on the Board of Education. This despite the fact that, according to voter registration rolls provided by the Union County Board of Elections, Republicans are the minority party in Summit. (In 2013, of the roughly 14,000 registered voters, 6,400 were Independent; 3,900 were Democrats; and 3,800 were Republican.) More to the point: what does party affiliation have to do with one’s qualifications to serve on a local Board of Education?
“Once appointed, I do not interfere or attempt to influence a vote,” Dickson writes in her campaign materials. She doesn’t need to. By appointing party loyalists, she’s already stacked the deck. Attend a BOE meeting or just read the minutes, and you will quickly discern that political ideology has permeated a segment of the Board.
Second, despite her assertion to us that her next appointment would come from the Jefferson School district, there is still no representation from that part of town on the BOE. As a result, the school district most in need of support has no voice on the Board.
Third, and contrary to campaign materials proclaiming that she “truly cares about providing an excellent education for all children in Summit,” her actions suggest otherwise. It’s hard to argue that you care about all school children when you actively oppose providing full-day kindergarten to all students, as the vast majority of school districts do around the state and the country. Instead, we have an oversubscribed lottery system in which the lucky winners pay $7,000 to go to all-day kindergarten.
Finally, she characterizes the contract negotiations with teachers as “amicable.” We doubt that many of our hard-working teachers would call them amicable. We can’t speak for your kids, but at least one of ours couldn’t get help last year before or after school because the contentious and protracted contract talks prompted teacher protest.
It’s wonderful that so many of our high school students are getting 3s or better on their AP exams. We appreciate how well prepared our own kids were for college. But before you enter the ballot box on November 3, think about whether you really want a mayor who considers the Board of Education just another instrument of party politics.
Linda Flanagan & Sarah Sangree
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