WEST ORANGE, NJ – A resolution to formally object to a state law that details removal of a working school official who resides in the same municipality was unanimously passed by the West Orange Board of Education at a meeting on Monday night at Roosevelt Middle School.
The New Jersey Conflict of Interest Law was passed by Legislature in 1971 and was recently applied to the public school system by acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf. He says that any county superintendent or county business administrator who resides in the same municipality that they work in must recuse themselves from that position.
The presumption with the law is that an official who resides in the same municipality would breach the public trust.
West Orange Board of Education president Laura Lab read the resolution that states the board’s objection to the law because it is “incongruous with proper public policy.” The resolution furthermore reads that interpretation of the law is in conflict with a bill signed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie “which requires certain public employees to reside in New Jersey.”
“There’s a concern here because this could lead down a very narrow path,” Lab said before the public on Monday night. “This now separates where you live in the state and where you can work. There is concern…you can’t possibly run your school impartially if you live in the same town,” she added.
This law has already affected the West Orange public school system as Essex County Superintendent Dr. Lawrence Feinsod, who resides in West Orange, no longer oversees the district’s schools. This job has now been given to Dr. Kathleen Serafino who serves as County Superintendent to Morris and Somerset counties.
“We take exception to that. We do have concerns about the immediate issue. The board has concerns that this is arbitrary and there is a problem with it,” Lab said.
More discussion regarding this issue is expected to take place at future board meetings.
In other news, the five members of the West Orange Board of Education were recognized for their work in a celebratory proclamation given by Roosevelt Middle School Principal Lionel Hush and Superintendent of West Orange School’s Dr. Anthony Cavanna.
Lab, Vice President Paul Petigrow, Michelle Casalino, Sandra Mordecai and Megan Brill were given individual certificates after short thank you presentations delivered by five Roosevelt Middle School students.
Cavanna then went on to read a resolution, officially declaring Jan. 9 a day to recognize the work of the board.
A technology policy and student disability policy were passed by the board on first reading.
The next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. at West Orange High School.
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