Stevens director stands with victims in wake of former teacher’s sentencing on child porn charges
Sergio Alati, the head of the Stevens Cooperative School, a private school with campuses in Hoboken and Jersey City, said that he and the entire school community stood with the victims of a former school employee, Guy West, who on Wednesday was sentenced to 121 months in prison after pleading guilty to possession and distribution of child pornography.
“For educators, the safety and well-being of the children that we are entrusted to care for is our utmost priority, and we do everything possible to make sure that no one with ill intent can harm a child,” said Alati in a statement. “Mr. West’s actions were a blatant violation of everything that our school holds sacred. In the immediate aftermath of his arrest, we barred him from returning to school grounds, terminated his employment, and fully cooperated with all legal authorities. Our hearts go out to the victims that were affected by his crimes.”
West had pleaded guilty last month before U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan in Trenton federal court to one count of distribution of child pornography. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “West was working as a permanent substitute teacher who regularly taught and supervised children between the ages of 2 and 14 at the time of his January 2013 arrest. According to documents filed in the case and statements made during West’s guilty plea proceeding:
“West admitted that on Dec. 18, 2012, he made images and videos of child pornography available that were stored on his home computer for others to download via a peer-to-peer file-sharing network. On that date, an undercover law enforcement agent successfully downloaded 120 images and 24 videos of child sexual abuse from West via the file-sharing network.
“As part of his guilty plea, West agreed to forfeit the computers and computer accessories he used to commit the offense.
“The count of distributing child pornography to which West pleaded guilty carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.”
Last year, The Reporter published a story in response to West’s arrest about how local schools screen job applicants. In the story, Director of Communications for Stevens Cooperative School Wendy Eaton said that West worked a normal daily schedule and was in the classroom almost every day.
“Mr. West was used where he was needed, in the office, in classrooms when extra teacher help was needed and substituting for absent teachers,” Eaton said. “Many of our families felt warmly about him. There were never any reports from parents that he had acted inappropriately with students.”
Eaton said that although it is not required by law for independent or private schools to conduct criminal history background checks on employees, Stevens Cooperative School chooses to have the New Jersey Department of Education’s Criminal History Review Unit conduct them anyway. This, according to Eaton, is in addition to interviews with a variety of administrators and faculty. Applicants are also required to provide an array of references that are thoroughly checked.
West apparently had no prior record.
Hoboken youngster headed to National Spelling Bee
Edward Horan, a student at Hoboken’s Hudson School, is the newly-crowned champion of the 55th Annual Hudson County Spelling Bee, it was announced last week, and will travel later this year to Washington D.C. to compete in the National Spelling Bee.
Last week, he was awarded with a certificate of recognition by state Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia.
“Edward embodies perseverance, discipline, and diligence that best describes the residents of the 33rd legislative district,” said Garcia.
CarePoint Health ready to roll with mobile screening van
The hospitals of CarePoint Health – Bayonne Medical Center, Christ Hospital and Hoboken University Medical Center – this week announced the arrival of a state-of-the-art medical vehicle, designed to address the growing health care needs of patients and families in our communities. The mobile screening van will travel to various locations and features a fully equipped exam room, wheelchair lift and lavatory to accommodate screenings and spot medical services throughout Hudson County.
Several Hoboken officials on list of state’s top pension earners
More than two dozen ex-Hoboken officials receive public pensions in excess of $100,000 per year, according to a report released this week by New Jersey Watchdog. Among the biggest earners are retired Acting Police Chief Robert Lisa ($135,794), former Fire Chief John Cassesa ($144,195), and former Police Chief Carmen LaBruno ($147,429).
Former Jersey City Schools Superintendent Charles Epps is receiving $195,000 annual pension, leading scores of Hudson County officials who receive more than $100,000 annually, according to New Jersey Watchdog. The retirement funding is 75 percent of the average of a person’s last three years salary before retirement.
Of the nearly three dozen in Jersey City, former Police Chief Thomas Comey is receiving $131,062.
Former Freeholder and North Bergen football coach Vincent Ascolese was among about a dozen retired public officials to exceed $100,000. Ascolese receives $180,180 annually.
Retired North Bergen Superintendent of Schools Robert Dandorph receives $159,900, and Peter Fischbach, former North Bergen schools superintendent receives $156,677.
Of the dozen members of the North Hudson Regional Fire Department retirees on the list, Fire Chief Brion McEldowney receives $145,585.
Former Secaucus School Superintendent Constantino Scerbo receives $135,000 a year and is one of about a half dozen Secaucus people on the list.
Former Union City Police chief Brian Barrett is among about a dozen Union City officials on the list. Barrett receives $142,000. Former Police chief Charles Everett receives $146,852, and Police Captain Peter Cipoletta, $136,261. Former Union City Deputy Police Chief Joseph Blaettler receives $134,773.
Former Bayonne Police Chief Robert Kubert receives $155,530. Former Bayonne Fire Chief Thomas Lynch receives $124,081.
Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, a retired Deputy Police Chief, is the only elected public official on this list, receiving $107,683. Smith’s political opponent in Bayonne, Police Captain James Davis, would also qualify for more than $100,000 if he retired, records show.
The retirement packages are somewhat deceptive since police and fire fighters do not qualify to collect Social Security benefits unless they also accrue 40 quarters of full-time private-sector work. They also receive a slightly different form of Medicare than ordinary retirees.
“There is a misnomer that police and fire officials get lifetime health benefits,” said one public-safety official in response to this list. “This isn’t true. Health benefits stop when we retire. We get Medicare.”
This list of $100,000 recipients is the exception, this official said.
“Most police and fire retire with average pensions between $50,000 to $75,000, and they don’t get Social Security.”
Pulaski Skyway northbound lanes to close beginning April 12
After several delays, the State of New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) announced that the northbound lanes of the Pulaski Skyway will be closed beginning Saturday, April 12.
The $1 billion Pulaski Skyway rehabilitation project is expected to last approximately two years, during which time the Holland Tunnel-bound lanes will be closed to accommodate repairs to the 3.5-mile bridge.
Lanes traveling in the southbound direction (toward Newark) will remain open but will also be impacted by the closure.
The two northbound lanes of the Skyway will be rebuilt first, after which southbound traffic will be shifted to the renovated northbound bridge deck. This will allow repairs to start on the two southbound lanes.
Approximately 32,000 vehicles travel in the northbound direction each day; 9,600 of them during the morning rush hour from 6 to 9 a.m. All commuters who normally use the Skyway to head in that direction, whether to the tunnel, Jersey City, Hoboken, or other Hudson County locations, will need to find alternate routes.
The NJDOT has posted alternate routes and travel options, including carpooling, at www.pulaskiwkyway.com.