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Caffrey vs. Lebrault

Tension High at Perth Amboy Board of Education Meeting 6-27-12 & 7-5-12

By Joseph L. Kuchie —

PERTH AMBOY – The tension between Superintendent Janine Caffrey and Board President Samuel Lebrault grew to a new level last Friday night at Perth Amboy High School.

The board had an issue agreeing on the reappointments of non-aligned staff for the 2012-2013 school year. Dr. Caffrey proposed to add the contracts of the Principal’s and Supervisor’s Association to the item, but after failing to reach an agreement the board went into the second private session of the night.

After a half hour of negotiations behind closed doors, the board returned to further discuss the matter. However, when the new item was motioned to include the PSA contracts, members of the board hesitated to second it and Caffrey attempted to withdraw her proposal.

“I suggest that we just remove the recommendation and go through with the item as is,” Caffrey said after the item was barely seconded. “There are pending legal questions surrounding this and the board does not have the information it needs to make a decision.”

Lebrault was against removing the proposal, especially after the board had already proposed the motion to pass it. He believed that if the board did not vote on the matter, those members of the district who were not tenured employees would no longer have contracts with the board after July 1st.

“I think we do have the information we need to pass this vote,” Lebrault said. “If the board does not approve this vote, it’s my understanding that those employees will no longer have contracts with the district.”

Caffrey made it clear that the board was getting conflicting legal advice from the board attorney in private session. She believed that the matter was too important to vote on without proper advice.

“The legal counsel we received prior to tonight’s meeting is a lot different than what we got in tonight’s private session,” Caffrey said. “This is too important of a topic to vote on if we don’t have the proper information.”

Lebrault continued to disagree with Caffrey about legal counsel, which sparked frustration until Caffrey nearly broke attorney / client privilege. The board attorney was stern toward Caffrey, advising her not to violate the privilege in a public session.

After the debate, Caffrey decided to put the item to a vote including the PSA contracts after all. However, the board either voted no to certain principals from the district or abstained due to personal conflict, which meant that the vote did not pass either way.

Due to this, after July 1st passes, those members of the school district included in this category will no longer have contracts with the Board of Education. It does not mean that they will lose their job or not be paid, but rather they will just no longer have a legal contract with the city of Perth Amboy.

Interestingly enough, this heated debate came just moments after Vice President Kenneth Puccio praised Dr. Caffrey and Board Secretary Derek Jess along with the rest of the PSA for reaching an agreement on the PSA contracts in a timely fashion. The contracts with the PSA were approved way before the board went into private session, but the other item with the non-aligned staff forced the board to take a step back.

There was also question about the future legal representation for the board, as the Machado group’s contract was set to expire at the end of this month. Many board members, including Mark Carvajal, were confused on the details of the matter.

“I just want to make sure that the district is getting what we paid for,” Carvajal said. “The fees are going up this year and I’d just like to see a snap shot of what we have in front of us. There should have been more discussion on this topic.”

The future of the Machado group was not even on the list of the Superintendent’s proposals for the 2012-2013 school year, but was rather a late addition to the night’s discussion. Caffrey explained that she would like to keep the contracts active until the end of July so the board has extra time to discuss it.

“I did not recommend to vote, I wanted to continue their contracts for another month until the board can have further discussion,” Caffrey said. “I recommended something completely different than this.”

With the conflicting legal advice that the board has received over the PSA contracts, it will be interesting to see whether or not the board decides to keep the Machado group as their legal representation.

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