Roselle Park News received two anonymous tips that led to the discovery that Robert Gordon School principal Frances Kenny has had a relative attending Robert Gordon without the child’s parents/guardians having paid the required out-of-district tuition for five months. Only after the Roselle Park News submitted an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request on January 29th, asking for proof of payment, were copies of two (2) checks deposited on February 1st and 2nd presented to the newspaper.
A copy of an agreement for the out-of-district student stated that payments of $1,387.40 were to be made monthly starting in September of 2015. Section 3 of the agreement states that tuition is due the first day of each month with the exception of the first and last months’ payments which were to be made prior to the first day of enrollment. It also states that failure to make a scheduled payment would immediately terminate the contract. The section is cited below:
Attendance at the designated public school is conditioned upon the pupil (parent/guardian) paying a tuition fee of $13,874.00 in accordance with the following terms: Tuition shall be paid in monthly installments of $1,387.40 due the first day of each month, except that the first and last months [sic] payment shall be made prior to the first day of enrollment. Payments shall be made by check or money order. Cash shall not be accepted. Failure to make a scheduled payment or default on a check shall render this agreement terminated immediately.
The first check, deposited February 1st, was for $6,937.00 which is equivalent of five (5) payments of $1,387.40. The second check, deposited the next day, was for $1,387.40, for a total of six (6) monthly payments. Seven payments should have been made by February 1, 2016, leaving one payment missing.
When contacted for this article, Principal Kenny stated that she had no comment other than to say that all payments would be made by the end of the school year. Roselle Park School District (RPSD) Business Administrator Sue Guercio stated she had no comment when reached by phone. Board Of Education President Chris Miller was not able to be reached before publication.
Three questions arise from this situation:
The first is why were the payments not made until a request for proof of such was submitted by Roselle Park News. The second is who in the main office of the school district allowed a violation of the terms without a written amendment as spelled out in section 8.
This Agreement embodies the entire agreement between the parties hereto and cannot be varied except by written agreement by the undersigned parties.
These two questions lead to the third, more important question of how can such agreements between the school district and employees be kept out of the public spotlight? The fact that such questionable handling of this arrangement occurred without any internal checks and balances – consequences – for half a school year should be enough of a reason to re-evaluate such accommodations. How will the public know if any such other agreements exist and if they are being adhered to?
Keeping such matters quiet only leads to distrust and speculation on the effectiveness of a principal in implementing district policies while a relative of the principal was allowed to get by. All other out-of-town children who go to Roselle Park schools are immediately removed when their families fail to pay their tuition, while Principal Kenny’s relative was permitted to continue attendance despite the nonpayment.
Below are copies of the tuition agreement and deposited checks for reference and review.