By Chris Rotolo |
OCEANPORT – Board member Meghan Walker was moved to tears at the most recent Oceanport Board of Education meeting.
Her emotional display was not due to the board’s decision to remove the facility at 2 Crescent Place from consideration as the site of a new district school, but rather the taxing path she and her eight fellow volunteer board members took to reach that resolution.
“I do not wish to reiterate any of the harsh words or comments that have been exchanged over social media over the past month,” Walker said to those assembled at the Feb. 21 gathering at Maple Place School. She strained to speak the words with tears welling in her eyes.
“Rude behavior, name calling and questioning board members’ motives are certainly disappointing, but people are able to own all of the words they’ve written online for all the public to see. But I what I do want to be clear about are the boundaries that should be adhered to, to protect our board members and paid professionals.”
Walker, who chairs the buildings and grounds committee, said she was speaking on behalf of herself, as well as several of her fellow board members, while describing troubling scenes of unsolicited materials being left at their doorsteps, anonymous calls and text messages to board members’ cell phones – including that of Oceanport Superintendent Thomas Farrell – and further private messages requesting one-on-one time to discuss private school board matters.
Walker also spoke about the drafting and distribution of an anonymous letter that contained “erroneous personnel information” in an attempt to damage the superintendent’s reputation.
Walker said the actions showed a complete lack of respect for the process of school board deliberation and, what’s more, set a disturbing if not dangerous precedent.
“As a community we all need to have respect for this process, and the rules and ethics that this board and our professionals adhere to. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for you to not show up at our homes, or call or text us if we don’t know you,” she said.
Superintendent Farrell said school board-related comments, questions and concerns are normally directed to the superintendent of schools via phone call or email, and further discussions of those matters are to be had in the forum of a public school board meeting.
Oceanport resident Chris Macioch, who supported the choice of the Commvault facility, said he was disappointed by recent public discourse. “I have a real bad taste in my mouth tonight. Name calling, accusing, accosting, attempting to humiliate and harassing neighbors; it’s disgusting. And I just want to thank the board because I don’t know if I could have stayed as professional as you guys if I was in your shoes. I don’t think I would have had the strength.”
“There’s a town divided now,” Macioch added. “And based upon some of my beliefs on the topic, some of you made me feel like I was a bad person. You made me feel ashamed because of my opinion. People played on emotions and you see the result. I just hope this town can come together and we can be a community and stick to not playing with people’s emotions.”
With the Crescent Place site now off the table, district students and teachers are expected to remain in their Wolf Hill Elementary School and Maple Place School facilities for the next two to three years, despite the recent revelations that the buildings – which are 107 and 52 years old, respectively – both lack proper fire safety and security standards.
This article was first published in the March 1-8, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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