Jeff Mattingly takes Belleville Education Association president Michael Mignone to task for his comments at Wednesday’s Board of Education reorganization meeting, in which Mignone claimed that teacher morale in the schools was at an all-time low.
Considering where the school district was in 2013-2014, and just how far it has come under the leadership of Dr. Richard Tomko in less than two years since he was appointed as superintendent, such a comparison is not only disingenuous, but absolutely outrageous.
For one thing, Mignone’s comment is a gross insult to the many people – teachers, administrators, and parents alike – who have been working tirelessly to turn this troubled school district around after years of harmful political manipulation, greed, and exploitation nearly collapsed the school system financially in 2014. As a result of that fiasco, the State DOE appointed a monitor to oversee the district’s mismanaged finances, but the damage was already done.
Belleville taxpayers were left with a staggering $4 million dollar budget deficit that they must repay out of their own pockets for several more years to come, because the State had to bail out the school district.
In the two years since that disgraceful scandal unraveled (and the matter is still under investigation), the district has been making progress that is remarkable in every conceivable way. While there is of course much more work to be done, the difference is night-and-day, and it is plainly obvious for anyone in town to see.
Jeff Mattingly wasn’t the only member of the audience who balked at such a wild and frankly insulting assertion by the highly political president of the teacher’s union.
Here is Jeff’s open letter to the community in response to Mignone’s comments:
Last night’s school district BoE reorganization meeting was well attended and encouraging, for the most part. The new members were well received by the public at large, as well as the returning BoE members and Dr. Tomko, our district superintendent.
Words of encouragement were also offered by the public to new and old BoE members alike to work together, and avoid caustic politics that have exacted a heavy toll in our recent past.
Particularly distressing to me were some of my friend Michael Mignone’s comments. Mike is the Belleville Education Association President, and was speaking as such.
I believe he stated that teacher morale is at an all time low. I find that extremely hard to believe, considering the state of affairs that brought all of us together in the fall of 2013, when the teachers were in a battle for their very livelihoods.
At that time, the previous superintendent was masquerading as a PhD, and lied to the teachers and to the public of her intentions to invest millions in our failing district, while at the same time starving it of the very resources with which to do it. And the then politically corrupt board, who awarded her that job as superintendent, was busy filing trumped-up tenure charges against Michael and pressuring many of the staff to retire and with involuntary relocations intended to destabilize them. While this was all happening, teachers were also being surveilled on video cameras, and were targeted by administrators bent on total control of the district.
There were many other factors – but there is absolutely no comparison to that all-too-recent past.
Furthermore, there have been many challenges that faced subsequent boards, staff and administrators since that catastrophic time.
State, Federal, and local taxpayer financial resources had been misused and diverted to the extreme point where the district ran out of money 2 months before the end of the 2013 school year. The Board Administrator that ran the district nearly bankrupt, Michael Vezza, submitted his resignation and never returned to the scene of the crime.
These deliberate corrupt actions brought Belleville a Financial Monitor, appointed by the New Jersey State Department of Education, in the form of Mr. Thomas Egan, who was nothing short of a prayer answered.
But no one knew to what extent the corruption went, until a lot of research and fact finding was done.
What Mr. Egan faced was a district that was in shambles. We were broke, with hundreds of thousands in outstanding bills from current suppliers, delinquent payroll withholdings for insurance and pension remittances, and crashed servers that stored all the staff and student records, and school data. All this, with no money left to pay anyone.
The district could not purchase sorely-needed basic necessities like pencils, paper, toner, text books – nothing, until outstanding bills were paid off by a district with no money. The district finances had to be rebuilt from the ground up.
Teachers were doing what they could out of their own pockets in an impossible situation. How can Michael suggest even for a moment that there is any comparison to what happened at that time?
The district has done so much in the ensuing time. Is there more to do? How could there not be, considering that degree of corruption, malfeasance and abdication of responsibility.
The parents and taxpayers want prosecution, as do many others who were directly harmed. But overall, there is no comparison, at all, anywhere. To complain of working conditions now other than to wholeheartedly try to work together with all of the board, Dr. Tomko our new superintendent, and Mr. Egan, puts the BEA in a bad light to the parents and taxpayers who have to pay for and absorb the consequences of ALL of this.