Check out the Star-Ledger’s expose on corruption within the Elizabeth Public Schools District. Elizabeth has a sordid reputation for nepotism (see this earlier post), and valuing politics over integrity. There’s multiple reports of staff members coerced into making campaign contributions and “volunteering” for political campaigns. Now, after a threat of litigation by the Star-Ledger, the Elizabeth School Board has released records that show that over the last five years it paid out at least $1.5 million in settlements to teachers and spent more on lawyers than any other district in the State. (Grand total: $5.6 million.) Settlements were approved behind closed doors, which is a violation of state law..
In one example of many, Juan Tenreiro was hired as Elizabeth’s custodial supervisor. Reports the Ledger,
In his lawsuit, Tenreiro said he was hired by [former Board President Rafael] Fajardo in 2007, despite the fact he did not have a boiler license — which he said was a prerequisite of the job — and claimed he was forced to spend most of the day "engaging in political activity to assist Fajardo’s political cause." When he raised questions, he claimed Fajardo told him, "Don’t worry about it. We have control of the union. We protect people that protect us."Question: Board presidents, or any single board member, for that matter, have no power to hire anyone. The way it works is that the district Superintendent recommends personnel for individual positions and the Board votes yea or nay. Where was the Elizabeth Superintendent Pablo Munoz during this episode of hiring an unqualified staff member at the whim of a board member? For an annual salary of $257,084 it's not unreasonable to expect a little more backbone.
Anyway, for a sense of Elizabeth's sentiments check out this page on the district's website entitled, "Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Board Member Rafael Fajardo." To a soundtrack of Mariah Carey crooning "There's a hero if you look inside your heart" and then Frank Sinatra's "I Did it My Way," the Elizabeth School District salutes the leader of their rat pack.