Residents, council members debate on need for Board of Education election
New Brunswick residents voiced their dissatisfaction at yesterday’s city council meeting over the state of the public school system and police behavior in reaction to violence in the city.
Residents can vote on Nov. 6 on whether Mayor James Cahill should continue appointing the New Brunswick Board of Education or allow residents to elect the board.
Councilman Glen Fleming said he does not support the idea of having the board up for elections because it creates an atmosphere of disagreement, in which no positive changes are made.
“You get people elected, no one agrees and nothing gets done ... I want to go on record now, I do not support it,” he said.
Tormel Pittman, a city resident, said the system is broken and he would be voting in favor of the measure, which he said would bring more community control into the school system.
“Are you comfortable with the current system we have now?” he asked Fleming after he voiced his opinion on the referendum question.
Fleming said he agreed the system is broken, but brought up a number of other issues, like parental involvement and poor standardized test scores, that he feels should be addressed over the school board election.
“[The students] have to pass these tests, and that’s not education,” he said.
Fleming said teachers end up having to tailor their curriculums to focus on areas covered on standardized tests, which causes students to suffer.
“In urban schools, the teachers have to be the social worker, the parent, the doctor — everything to everybody,” he said.
Fleming brought up a number of problems facing students in urban areas such as violence and the everyday stress of living in poorer areas.
He said while working in schools in Orange, N.J., he was aware of students that were robbed and even killed while walking to classes.
“I had a student who was stabbed on his way to school, and he tried to get to school because that was his sanctuary, but he didn’t make it,” he said.
Fleming said another potential problem that could arise from letting residents vote on the school board are those voters who do not have children in the system and therefore no interest in the board.
Pittman raised the question of why there are not more opportunities for residents of New Brunswick to attend the University.
“People come here from all over the country [to attend the University] ... why can’t our kids enjoy it also?” he said. “It seems like we’re closing the door to them.”
Residents also showed concern about police behavior following recent violence in the area.
New Brunswick resident Danielle Moore said police take too long to respond to calls. In some cases she said she waited up to 20 minutes after calling 9-1-1 for police to arrive.
She said something should be done about speeders on her street, Columbus Place, and asked specifically for a speed bump.
“In the past week we’ve had two hit-and-runs ... it’s scary, you can’t even sit in your yard,” she said.
Thomas Loughlin, a city administrator, said Moore has to create a petition for the speed bump and get residents to sign it before the city can take action.
Jadwiga Karanievski, a resident of the city, said not enough has been done about the large numbers of unruly patrons near Easton Avenue and Condict Street late at night. There are not enough police on the street at night, she said.
“Generally, it’s difficult to see cops anywhere,” she said.
Councilman Kevin Egan said the city is attempting to have a meeting with shop owners in the area to get them involved with security in front of their stores. He also said the city is considering hiring more officers to address the problems.
“The city is doing the best it can at the moment,” he said. “Police can’t be everywhere at all times.”
Councilwoman Elizabeth Garlatti brought up two specific issues for the public to be aware of, — the Rally Against Domestic Violence this Saturday and the city’s installation of bike lanes.
“Domestic violence is a critical issue, and those that can come out and walk,” she said.
Garlatti said the bike lanes are integral to public safety and reducing the number of cyclists struck by cars.
“I hope this is the beginning of many more such installations,” she said.