[Editorial] There Will Be Blood

[Editorial] There Will Be Bloodthumbnail
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Published: April 19, 2010 @ 12:00 AM EDT

“Yes, under protest,” was spoken seven times by the Roselle Park Board Of Education members as they voted on the 2010-2011 School Budget. This was after a three-hour and a half meeting held at the Roselle Park High School auditorium on March 30, 2010.

The Roselle Park Board Of Education (BOE) meeting, usually attended by a handful of residents, was Standing Room Only in the 450 capacity auditorium where residents came to learn of layoffs and cutbacks due to a cut in state aid mandated by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Over 40 people spoke on the matter, including former councilmembers and the head of the Roselle Park Educator’s Association (RPEA), Kathy MacDonald who is also a resident.

“The day it’s not about the kids, is the day you will have my resignation,” she spoke as she responded to numerous calls from those asking that there be a vote from teachers to see if they would take a pay freeze in order to save some of the jobs of their fellow teachers and staff.

Rick Schwartz, who was one of the teachers who were proposed to be laid off, had the most public support from the audience. People held up trophies the Marching Band won under his leadership. One resident even made a request to pay $25,000 to have Mr. Schwartz keep his position.

Board President Luanne Cindea listened to each person and tried to provide answers to those asking questions. What could have started out as a shouting match when a resident started speaking out from the audience instead of the microphone, ended up as a chance to have everyone who wanted to have a say.

The speakers, although most wanting some kind of concession from the RPEA, had various points of view. One resident, John S. Poulos, who gave his name as John Stevenson, was concerned about the budget recommendation to move children from neighborhood schools to other schools in the municipality. His comment on his perceived quality of education at the Robert Gordon School was the only audience comment to draw boos from those in attendance.

Mrs. Cindea reminded everyone that the forum was open for all viewpoints, which set the tone for the rest of the meeting.

After the public portion the budget was voted on unanimously. It will go up for a vote on April 20, 2010.

The debate whether to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is now taking place but even before the budget comes up to a vote, the question has repeatedly been asked. “Who will this hurt?”

The other question that remains unasked is, “What is this all about?”

Simply put, it is about money. It is about money for the teachers with regard to their salaries and benefits. It is about money for the BOE in relation  to expenditures and responsible use of assets. It is about money for the residents in the form of taxes that will be paid. In fact, it is about money for everyone except those affected most directly, the students. In their protest they wanted the programs and teachers back. They told that to the administration, to the teachers, to the BOE, and to their parents, but not many listened since the students are viewed as pawns or idealists. Funny how those most directly affected had the least amount of say.

Until the question of what is this issue is really about is answered and dealt with honestly, people on both sides of the argument will play the blame game instead of take responsibility.

And that leads to the main question, “Who will this hurt?”

In the end, it will hurt everyone. There are those who state that it will hurt the children since they suffer due to cuts in teachers and programs or that it hurts the taxpayer because their taxes go up and up with no end in sight. But beyond those two extremes is the Borough and all its residents, which suffer.

Roselle Park is a small-knit community of about 13,000 and one of the reasons, if not the major reason, families move in is due to the educational system. If education suffers due to cuts and lack of input from the community, then Roselle Park will lose its main draw for new residents, new businesses, and long-term sustainability. People will not want to move to Roselle Park and it will be become a town that people have to move into.

So the blood shed is by all, not just the children or the teachers or the taxpayers. That leaves one final question – “Are we going to stop the hemorrhaging or are we going to keep yelling until we bleed out?”