At workshop, feathers fly
New BBOED trustee introduces slew of unpopular resolutions
by Rory Pasquariello
Reporter staff writer
Feb 07, 2018 | 2194 views | 0 0 comments | 154 154 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BBOE
Michael Alonso
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The Bayonne Board of Education was thrown into confusion and frustration at its first workshop meeting since electing two new trustees in November. One of those newcomers, Michael Alonso, introduced six resolutions at the workshop on Feb. 1 that call for hiring his unofficial campaign manager as a grant writer, renaming the school’s ice rink and tennis court, exempting seniors from paying some property taxes, and conducting another audit of the board’s finances.

“I don’t understand it,” said Bayonne resident Barry Dugan of the proposal to conduct another audit. “Why would you consider going out for bid to find out what happened when you’ve been told over and over again? It would be foolhardy and wasteful of school money to move forward on this particular resolution. It’s absurd that I even have to say this.”

Alonso’s proposal to hire someone who worked on his campaign, John “Jack” Butchko, as a grant writer met with opposition.

“At this point in time, we think it’s redundant [to hire a grant writer] because there are other people doing it,” said Trustee Mary Jane Desmond, adding that she welcomes alternative methods of raising money, but that there are “ways that don’t employ another person.”

Added Trustee Carol Cruden, “Plus, we’re not hiring new people.”

Butchko spoke to his experience as a grant writer. “Why you wouldn’t want to bring in millions more for a nominal fee, I am flabbergasted,” Butchko said. “Especially considering the financial condition you are in.”

Alonso concluded, “If you want to put out a bid for a grant writer, I’m all for that.”

Tennis anyone?

Alonso’s resolution to rename the tennis courts was met with vehement opposition. They are currently named for well-known and beloved Bayonne High School tennis coach Bill Broderick. Alonso’s resolution calls for them to be named for Dick Savitt, a Bayonne native who won both the Australian and Wimbledon singles championships in 1951. “I don’t want to diminish Dick Savitt, but I’d like to ask what impact he left on these students or the educational community in this city,” said Trustee Ava Finnerty, who did not attend Bayonne High School. That the workshop ended in a standing ovation for Bill Broderick reflects where the public stands on the issue.

Bill Broderick is the brother of Bayonne Board of Education President Joseph Broderick. Alonso noted in the resolution, “Any hint of nepotism and/or political collusion sends the wrong message to students, parents and taxpayers.”

“I think Mr. Alonso’s suggestion of hiring his own [alleged] campaign manager defines political collusion,” countered Stacy Casais, a parent in the district.

Butchko claimed he did not work as a campaign manager for Alonso. (Alonso said it was an unofficial position.)

In a scathing a letter to the editor about the board’s budget crisis in The Bayonne Community News on January 31, Alonso charged Joseph Broderick with “sweeping it all under the rug.” He wrote, “Mr. Broderick … you watched the house burn down instead of getting water. ... It is only proper for Mr. Broderick … to testify under oath, before appropriate state committees and panels, as to what he knew and when he first knew it … Come clean Mr. Broderick.”

The tennis courts were dedicated before Joseph Broderick became a trustee.

The Ice Rink is currently named for Richard Korpi, who was director of community education programs in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The rink opened in 1986; it was named for him when he died of cancer sometime in the ‘90s. Joseph Broderick also worked in the community education program, which basically functioned as the physical education program.

Alonso’s resolution calls for the rink to be named for Tara Lipinski, an Olympic figure skater from Bayonne, “so as to ensure that the Bayonne ice facility is always thought of as a scandal-free sports arena,” Alonso wrote in the resolution.

Alonso told The Bayonne Community News that the rink is scandalous because of its association with a recent incident in which a hockey coach handled a weapon that belonged to an off-duty police officer working part time as a coach in the presence of a student.

‘Someone doesn’t understand the concept of municipal taxation’

“Some of these [resolutions] are not even under the board purview,” said Trustee Christopher Munoz of Alonso’s proposal to exempt seniors from paying the most recent property tax levy. The city council, not the Board of Education, has the power to implement a “tax freeze” for seniors that would exempt them from increases in property taxes. “Apparently, someone doesn’t understand the concept of municipal taxation,” Munoz said.

After the workshop, Munoz told the Bayonne Community News, “When we should be worrying about improving the district, settling the teachers’ contract, we obviously have to spend time on frivolous things like renaming the tennis courts. I have reservations about his [Alonso’s] commitment to the board. It’s clear to me that he plans to use his presence on the board as a platform for a mayoral run.”

Alonso said he is currently considering a run for mayor.

Trustee Mary Jane Desmond at one point during the workshop told Alonso, “The point is, frankly, [being a trustee is about] working with your colleagues and having dialogue during committee. So, if you have thoughts and ideas, the committee meetings are where we start talking.”

“[The trustees] are getting their feathers ruffled because the workshop is right before the regular meeting,” said Alonso. “We should have the workshop on a different day or start the process in committee.”

The board is now considering amending its bylaws to require trustees to begin the resolution drafting process in committee.

Alonso said he considers himself an “activist trustee.”

Rory Pasquariello can be reached at roryp@hudsonreporter.com.

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