Chatham Patch performed an informal poll of residents asking if they agreed with their school board's controversial November vote to approve a new three-year contract for Superintendent Jim O'Neill. The poll found the 50 Chatham residents we approached roughly split on the issue.
Reader softrain told us how he (she? we're not sure with that username) felt:
I would have voted against giving Mr.O'Neill a raise. Times are getting tougher and maybe Christie's approach is a little harsh,but something needs to be done to control these ever raising costs. It is a start in the right direction.
Your thoughts? Is O'Neill worth every penny he gets ... and that the board wants to give him? Or should he and other superintendents be subject to Christie's plan for salary caps? Let us know here.
By the way, several of our readers also took us to task, because the original wording of the story suggested the poll was more representative of Chatham as a whole than we intended. We know full well that a sampling of 50 people is far too small for anything other than an interesting, but totally non-scientific, peek into the minds of Chathamites. We apologize for any confusion, and thank our readers for keeping us on our toes.
Parsippany Patch performed a similar poll about their school board's vote to approve a five-year contract for Superintendent of Schools LeRoy Seitz.
The move gives Seitz raises that eventually get up to $234,000 a year–even though Gov. Chris Christie's implementing a cap that would prevent such high salaries for superintendents, and has pointed to the Parsippany contract as an example of what's wrong with New Jersey School systems.
Of those reached by Patch for the informal poll, 31 said the contract was a bad idea. Reader Hank Heller was on the same page as the 31:
That means that only 14% of the respondents believe that giving Mr. Seitz a new contract 9 months early at an increased rate is a good idea. That's probably about right, I guess. It is too bad that Parsippany's Board of Ed doesn't think that the voters and taxpayers should have a say in this. Those members of the Parsippany Board of Ed who voted for this outrage would do well to remember that the people will be heard, sooner or later. How is it possible that while the teachers and other school employees are asked to forgo raises and benefits, their leader is made richer? Mr. Seitz is clearly a selfish leader and the members of the Board of Ed in Parsippany who voted for this contract are poor managers and bad public servants.
Strong words. Do you agree? Is this an example of selfishness–or is it just what's needed to keep real talent running our schools? Head over to the story and let us know what you think in the comments.
If you've ever got something to share with the community, tell Patch by leaving a comment on one of our stories, "shouting" it on our front page (just look for the box that asks "What do you have to say?"), submitting an announcement, or asking or answering a question in our Q&A section.
Governor's Vacation Comes Under Fire
Gov. Chris Christie came under fire from several groups for being on vacation at the same time as his lieutenant governor, when the season's first major snowstorm hit. But Christie responded that his vacation was planned well in advance, and the lieutenant governor planned a vacation with her gravely ill father.
"I was not going to rescind my daughters' Christmas gift,'' Christie said (see video and read more at this link to Basking Ridge Patch) "I believe my first responsibility is my responsibility as a husband and a father.''
But briefly named Basking Ridge Patch reader "n" was far from satisfied with that answer:
No, your first responsibility is to the State of NJ! If you aren't willing to make that sacrifice, then you should've never taken the job. Try to remember that little fact if you ever decide to run for another office!
Did Christie let the state down, or was he justified in being away? Tell us how you feel here.
Turf Battle Continues in Montville
We're still getting comments on Montville Patch's Dec. 23 story about the Montville School Board's decision to cancel a referendum vote regarding turfing the athletic field at Montville High School. The board learned the project would cost taxpayers more than expected.
Truscha Quatrone wrote:
I am pleased the BOE was able to figure out the cost of this project. I guess what is surprising is they hadn't done any of that investigation before planning a special election. This issue was put to the voters in 2005 and it was rejected by the voters. Why would this be put to another vote? The residents have already spoken they don't want the expense. Additionally, the Turf the Valley group took up the task of trying to raise the funds and in 5 years have been unable to accomplish task. Even with all of the hard work and fund raisers conducted they have not been able to get donations from residents for this project. I would think that means the people don't want it. Please let's not wait until no is watching and try to get this passed, except the fact that the majority of the residents do not feel the need for this expense.
Some other readers, though, thought it was penny-wise and pound-foolish to hold off a project that could help the school system's kids. What do you think? In these tough times, can schools afford major (but non-essential) facilities improvements? Head over to the story to let us know.
A Tail With a Happy Ending
We told you recently about how several residents offered to help look for Madison resident Violaine Rice's missing dog. Well, Violane shared some great news with Madison Patch this week. She found the box on the front page asking "What do you have to say?" and typed in for all to see:
To all of you who called to tell me you had seen my lost dog Ike, THANK YOU! Ike came home on his own last night after being gone for 10 days. He was often spotted in the Great Swamp and at the Fairmount Country club. Somehow, he found his way home!
Glad to hear it, Violane, and glad to help get the word out. If you see Madison Patch editor Stuart Chirls around town, make sure he gets a chance to pet Ike; after all this suspense, we're sure they'd love to meet each other!
Playing Politics, or Picking Best People for The Job?
Several of those in attendance at Bloomingdale's reorganization meeting were upset when borough council members chose to replace Mayor Jon Dunleavy's nominations for borough commissions with their own appointments, Kinnelon-Buter Patch (which also covers Bloomingdale) reported.
One of the council members, Linda Shortman, said that the council's appointments were not a reflection of poor work performed by those who were not reappointed, and that she is thankful for their dedication. But she got a response from one of those former commission members who wouldn't be returning to her role: "I would have appreciated it by honoring my request to be reappointed to my seat," departing recreation commission member Meg Gray said.
Some of our commenters were far from thrilled with Shortman's response. P. Nostrand wrote:
I wonder how Ms. Shortman can square her comments at this meeting with what she said during her swearing in just two days before. This was what a previous article reported: "Politics will not enter any of my decisions," Shortman said, in response to a portion of Dunleavy's remarks where he recommended the council put politics aside to achieve more for the people of Bloomingdale. "With your support, I think we can get a great job done."
How do you feel? Does it seem like a matter of playing politics, or just finding the best people for the job? Read the article and let us know what you think. We invite the mayor and any council members to jump into the discussion here as well.
Are Turkey Vultures the Unwanted Guests, or Are We?
Residents of Beverly Drive and Ardsley Road in Hillsborough are distressed, and a little confused, that a flock of flock turkey vultures has taken up residence in the trees near their houses, Hillsborough Patch reports. The residents say they don't know why the birds like the spot so much, and are a little bothered by their strong presence.
But some of our readers had more sympathy for the birds than the homeowners. Veritas writes:
I'm not a tree-hugger or a green-freak but, lets face it...we, as a species, want everything to cave-in to us and we have no tolerance or acceptance of the different facets of Nature when they decide to do what is necessary for THEIR survival. These birds are only doing what comes natural to them...They are looking for living space and the food necessary to survive...And it's not as if you are dealing with rattlesnakes or grizzly bears...they are birds...So deal with it.
That's a powerful opinion. What do you think? Could you deal with 50 or so turkey vultures in your neighborhood? Leave us a comment and let us know.
A Dramatic Rally Behind Fifth-Grader
Bridgewater Patch recently reported on how fifth-grader Shannon Schulz–told that there was once a drama club at Eisenhower Intermediate School, but it was eliminated with the budget cuts at the end of the 2009-10 school year–wouldn't let the matter rest. Shannon instead put together a petition asking for the club to be reinstated.
Adam Liss, for instance, wrote:
It seems that, even without the drama club, Shannon's found a way to express herself in a positive, inspiring way. She's discovered that the powers that be aren't always right--and she's found a respectful, powerful way to disagree with them, not simply by complaining, but by offering her own viable solution. How ironic that, by researching the facts and using logic and sense, she's engaged both children and adults, moving them to action without the drama you'd expect from many adults!
Let's hope the BoE recognizes the valuable lesson Shannon and her parents have brought to us all. Thank you, Shannon, and thanks to everyone who's encouraged such a mature response from an apparently not-so-young lady.
Liz Pollard wrote:
Shannon did a fantastic job! I was there at the School Board meeting and was actually quite gratified to see how the board members took her seriously, and took the time to come out of the meeting and thank her afterward. As the parent of 3 children at Eisenhower, 2 of whom would dearly love to be in a drama program and helped to circulate Shannon's petition, my family is especially effected by the cuts made at the Intermediate School level. I truly hope we can find some creative way to bring back what we've lost.
If you'd like to offer your own congratulations to Shannon for taking the issue in hand, or have anything else to contribute, check out the Bridgewater Patch post.
Shred That Idea, Long Valley Has An Alternative
It's a comment about our comment about a comment.
Last week, in Long Valley Patch's Comments of the Week roundup, we noted that when Chatham Patch reader Elaine Johnson suggested her borough buy a shredder to help residents get rid of sensitive documents, Mayor V. Nelson Vaughan, III was quick to answer that Johnson had an interesting idea.
Our Clean Communities Coordinator ran our first municipal "shredding day event" several weeks ago. Dozens of residents and our Police Department took advantage of the program. Instead of buying a commercial grade shredder, in a time of tight municipal budgets, we had a commercial recycling firm come into our location with a truck mounted commercial shredder.
Tobin also explained the service will be expanded to help local schools, and another shredding day will take place in the Spring. As always, we're glad to keep communication flowing.
Snow Good Deed Goes Unappreciated
Hopatcong Patch editor Brendan Kuty had the chance to ride along with a DPW truck and see just what goes into clearing out a community's roads after a rough storm. Several readers commented to say they thought their DPW did a great job, like Gregory Fennell, who offered:
I moved to town in 2006 and have been impressed with the snow removal here since day 1.
But 35-year Morris County Road Department worker Kevin DeVine said he doesn't always feel the love.
Yeah everybody loves the road dept when it snows. Don't hear the same comments when you have to stop traffic to fix a pothole. Thats when we are just in your way.
Fair point. Though we can't promise not to start tapping the steering wheel pretty hard next time we're stuck in traffic, whether it's for a legitimate reason or not ...
Kathy to the Rescue
Jefferson Patch recently let readers know about Kathy Jacoby, an 11-year veteran emergency medical technician (EMT) who has just begun her two-year term as chief of the Jefferson Rescue Squad.
Someone very close to Kathy, mom and reader Patricia Carroll, used our shout feature (as we said, just go to the front page and look for the box asking "What do you have to say?" to try it yourself), to show Kathy some appreciation for her volunteer work:
Kathy your dedication and commitments to the health and welfare of Jefferson Township is amazing. I know you will do well:) Your father and I are so proud of you!
Always nice when family shows it cares. If you want to wish Kathy well, head over to the story.
A Fresh Take on Constructive Criticism
Morristown Patch editor John Dunphy had a mixed experience at the Healthe Shoppe Deli recently–in part because he got there right at closing, when it stands to reason some ingredients might be running low and not at their freshest.
But what was fresh (or at least refreshing) was owner Brant Shapiro's response.
On first reading your 30 December review “Closing Time or Not, a Little More Expected From Health Shoppe Deli,” I became very defensive. Point by point I had a rebuttal for every critique you had. I was furious that you had chosen to write about an experience you had at 8pm after being cooped up in a snow storm.
Thankfully, after a few hours, I reread your review. And then I read it a third time. And then I saw that for the most part, you were dead on. Your review provided us a list of things we need to improve on which include customer service, presentation and quality control.
Brant went on to explain some of the factors that played into John's experience–and how he hopes to address them to make John's (or anyone's) next visit more consistent and pleasant.
Thanks very much for seeing the criticism in the constructive context that was intended, Brandt. We'll stop in again soon.
A View on the Death Penalty
The site noted a Jan. 1 column in the Winston-Salem Journal that advocates life in prison for convicted murderers, and cites the case of a slain longtime Morris Township woman in making its argument. Timothy Hartford Jr. was sentenced to death late last year for killing former Morris Township woman Ann Magness, who moved to North Carolina in recent years. But Hartford also killed Magness' Meals on Wheels client, Bob Denning, for which he received a sentence of life in prison without parole. The column argues that inconsistent application is one reason to abolish the death penalty (which New Jersey did under the Corzine administration).
As the way the death penalty stood in NJ, it would cost more to have a murderer on death row (for years and years, while appeals went on and on), than to have a life sentence. NJ should bring back the death penalty under these lines: murderers convicted and sentenced to the death penalty would be allowed THREE appeals in FIVE years. If, at the end of the five-year period, the death penalty still stands, then the murderer would be executed. No exceptions.
What do you think of the death penalty? Is it justified in the Magness case? Is it the best route at all? Head over to the story and tell us how you feel.