PERTH AMBOY – Dr. Caffrey commented to questions posed in an interview.
Amboy Guardian: In the beginning Sam Lebreault was your biggest cheerleader. When did you notice a change in his attitude toward you from positve to negative?
Janine Walker Caffrey: About September 21, 2011 an investigation of Sam Lebreault began in the Attorney General’s Office. Lebreault then started to bring a list of 14 allegations against me. After a lengthy process there was a special meeting on Saturday, October 29, 2011. That morning there was a snowstorm. At that meeting it was discussed about the issues at hand. I thought things were going well. I began to have discussions with every Board Member individually.
AG: When did Sam Lebreault approach you about hiring his friends for district jobs?
JWC: Sam Lebreault attempted to hire the individual in June after I was appointed but before I officially started to work as a superintendent.
AG: Is there any proof of Lebreault asking you to hire his friends for district jobs? How was this communicated? Phone? Email? Person? at a school or non-school function? Was there any witnesses?
JWC: I cannot get into specifics because of ongoing legal investigations.
AG: How do you feel about this meeting on Wednesday?
JWC: I fully intend and expect to keep this position and stay in Perth Amboy and do what I was hired to do. I am looking to ensure a positive outcome with the public relations with the students, parents and employees of the district.
AG: How are people reacting to your situation?
JWC: The outpouring of support from the community has been overwhelming. Rooting for us to get a quality education. This is not about me at all. This is about a few members of the Board putting personal power over education.”
AG: Why did you eliminate suspensions in the school system?
JWC: Students are still suspended if they pose a risk. If students have drug and alcohol issues or they are violent or have ongoing behavioral issues and pose a risk to the student body or others then the principal or vice principal must confer with me before a suspension happens. The principal, vice-principal and I will confer if a child is to be suspended. This way more thought is put into it. This power was turned over to me by the Board of Education. I am the only one authorized to make a suspension. When you suspend a child from school you are denying that child the right to a free education. If I know I am going to be absent I will designate someone to deal with disciplinary action. I only missed one day since starting this job.
AG: What do you feel you accomplished most in Perth Amboy?
JWC: Working with educators, teachers and administrators, having a real dialogue on where we want to go and how we are going to get there. It’s happening now with the teacher team meeting on Friday. We are having quality discussions with teachers and use each other as professional development resources. I am extremely optimistic.
PERTH AMBOY – Kurt Rebovich spoke in an interview.
KR: I am taking now as a citizen – not as a Board of Ed Member. Some news articles state that we were not looking out for the taxpayer’s money. The Board of Ed is for students, staff and taxpayers. We have to balance what is right for those three as a group to affect the education for the people of Perth Amboy. Students and education come first, welfare of the staff second, and the most economic way to serve the taxpayers of Perth Amboy third.
AG: Looking at other news sources it appears that you were actually there when other Board Members approached the Superintendant about placing their friends in positions within the district.
KR: What I meant is at one of the Board Meetings a fellow member questioned the Superintendent about how job vacancies are filled. There was an instance where an employee put in for an opening and was overlooked for someone who had less experience. The Board Member wanted to know why a new hiree was getting paid more money than someone that has been employed in the school system for a long time.
AG: What committees do you serve on?
KR: I am the chairperson of the Discipline Committee. I also serve on the technology, athletics and co-curricular and building and grounds.
AG: What are your thoughts on discipline?
KR: It is broad and challenging regarding the suspension policy. Dianne, Israel and Mark really had to get suspensions in line. In the previous year 38% of the student body was suspended for at least one infraction. When you suspend a student you are taking his/her right to a free education away from him/her. If students have violent physical contact with each other they should be arrested. I plan to sit down with the discipline committee and Dr. Caffrey and have an open meeting with the staff in regards to the suspension policy. The BOE changed the suspension policy this school year. We need to have a full school year to see if giving the superintendent the full power of suspension over students has been effective.
For other infractions students have Saturday detention or a.m. or p.m. detention. In Saturday detention the students do their schoolwork.
There have been 5 bomb threats over the past year. We could not have the buildings searched without the Perth Amboy Police Department. The police have acted very well with the security department. They have really stepped up and made safety an issue.
I am really blessed to have the Board attorney looking out for me. Since I have close relatives that are still employed in the district. I will not be a part of the voting process in determining the outcome of Dr. Caffrey’s employment. I fear if we let Dr. Caffrey go we will lose the new High School. The state will look upon the Board as wasting taxpayers dollars because we do not know how to manage our own money. Then the state will not give us a new High School.