2 Letters: Letter from Mayor Wilda Diaz and Response to Mayor’s Letter from Board of Ed President

The Truth About The Perth Amboy Board Of Education

“The Board of Education’s Lack Of Action And Complete Abdication of Authority Astounds Me.” 

PERTH AMBOY – Dear Perth Amboy Parents:

The Perth Amboy Board of Education has been offered an unprecedented opportunity to build a much needed and much desired high school for our children and our teachers to enjoy. In a letter dated September 9, 2014, the New Jersey School Development Authority (NJSDA) wrote to the Board of Education telling them that they are prepared to make a $190 million investment in a new state-of-the-art high school, but time is of the essence. The Board of Education must act now. Otherwise, they will allow the only property that the SDA identified suitable to slip through their fingers and be sold to a private developer.

For the past two years the NJSDA has met with school officials, members of the Board of Education, City officials and I, Mayor Wilda Diaz to discuss the possibility of fully financing the construction of a new high school. They identified every possible parcel of land. After a thorough review of all possibilities, the NJSDA identified the property that is known as the Delaney Homes as the only property within the City that is suitable for the construction of the new high school.

The Delaney Homes property is owned by the Perth Amboy Housing Authority. Leading up to this point, the Housing Authority took steps to sell the property to a private developer for purposes of commercial development and is considering their options. This is why the NJSDA wrote their letter to the Board of Education explaining the urgency of the situation and asking them to take immediate action to acquire the property and stop it from being sold to private interests.

TODAY marks the 30th day since the NJSDA sent notice to the Perth Amboy Board of Education. The Board of Education has yet to take or schedule any public action that would allow our community to learn about and discuss the NJSDA’s proposal. The Board of Education’s lack of action and complete abdication of authority astounds me. How do they allow 30 days to pass without holding a special session so that the public has the opportunity to learn about the details of the NJSDA’s proposal?

Instead, Board President, Vice President, Finance Chair, Superintendent and School Business Administrator met privately, behind closed doors with the NJSDA on October 2. Even after that private meeting held one week ago they still have yet to schedule a public meeting.

I believe in a government that functions openly and with transparency. I believe that the public should have a say in the future of our City and in the future of our children. I believe that our students and our teachers deserve this opportunity. I call on the entire Board of Education to immediately schedule a special public session and invite the NJSDA to make a presentation to our entire community.

The Board of Education was elected to fulfill a responsibility to our community. It is time for them to step up and be leaders. I urge them to schedule a public hearing for the NJSDA to present their proposal and allow the public to comment. After that process, they should demonstrate leadership and take a vote.

Above all else, they should not let this opportunity pass us by.

Sincerely,

Wilda Diaz, Mayor

City of Perth Amboy

Response to Mayor Diaz’ letter:

Dear Perth Amboy,

LetterThis is my direct response to the open letter addressed to Perth Amboy parents by Mayor Wilda Diaz, which was published by The Home News Tribune on October 9, 2014, in an effort to influence the upcoming November 4, 2014 municipal election (City Council and Board of Education), openly questioning the actions of the current board members in relation to the building of a new high school. Please be advised that as President of the Perth Amboy Board of Education, I am compelled to accurately set forth the recent developments regarding the construction of a new high school. This is my personal response and not a statement or opinion of other members of the Board.

It is Mayor Diaz who has failed to take leadership in the current matter, and who chooses to misguide and misinform the parents of Perth Amboy with her letter. She cites she has had ongoing conversations with the Board of Education during the past two years. However, neither I nor other members of the present Board were parties to any conversations the Mayor has had with the State of New Jersey concerning the new high school. Mayor Diaz’ meetings were with our previous superintendent, a prior board president, and members of the past Board. As of this date, Mayor Diaz has made no efforts to communicate with me, the board president, or other current Board leadership on the topic of a new high school. There have been no phone calls, emails or scheduling of meetings directly with the current board to address the critical issues that will undoubtedly impact the entire community of Perth Amboy. Mr. Israel Varela, Chair of Buildings and Grounds Committee, and Mr. Samuel Lebreault, Board Liaison to the City of Perth Amboy, have also not been contacted by Mayor Diaz.

The Board of Education’s first indication of the ongoing discussions between the City/Mayor Diaz and the New Jersey School Development Authority (NJSDA) was the letter we received on September 9, 2014 from Charles McKenna, Chief Executive Officer of NJSDA. Prior to that date, there have been no discussions by any State or City officials with the current Board as to any new developments with regard to the funding of a new high school.

Unfortunately, Mayor Diaz has chosen to use a public platform to criticize and create an adversarial, rather than a collaborative, relationship with elected officials in charge of our school district. Mayor Diaz should demonstrate her leadership by making every effort in encouraging an ongoing and positive dialogue between the City and the Board, especially when our children’s future is at stake. The Board of Education is and has been aware of the pressing need for a new high school. Our current high school is severely overcrowded, as are our middle and elementary schools. Overcrowding and a high student to teacher ratio negatively impacts learning and instruction. Consequently, this is reflected in our graduation rates and standardized test scores. The goal is to build a state of the art high school that will be inspiring, challenging, and will address the needs of our growing diverse school population. A positive learning environment must connect the school to the community.

In 2004, the Board of Education lost the opportunity to build a new high school on the proposed 15.3 acre Delaney Home Site. Unfortunately, as a result of the delay of the decision made by the Board at that time, the State withdrew the funding set aside for Perth Amboy. Consequently, the Delaney Site has been significantly reduced. The site currently consists of only 11.7 acres due to the construction of affordable housing on 3.6 acres of the previous site.

Fortunately, Perth Amboy is being given another opportunity by the NJSDA to fund a new high school. However, a decision of this magnitude cannot be made with haste. As reported at the September 23 board meeting, the NJSDA letter was immediately addressed by me and Business Administrator Derek Jess. Subsequently, a meeting was scheduled for October 2nd. At that meeting the NJSDA acknowledged Perth Amboy was a top priority needs district and informed the Board that the State is allocating $190 million for the construction of a new high school. At the meeting with Mr. McKenna, our goal was to address the time constraints placed on the Board in the selection of a site. As a result of this meeting, all parties involved agreed a thirty day time limit would not allow sufficient time to research and review all viable options, and more importantly allow for public discussions on the subject. The Board was granted an extension of six months by the NJSDA. The Perth Amboy Housing Authority has also conceded to the extension of time to allow the Board to act with due diligence.

In the short time since our meeting with the NJSDA, I have met with the Housing Authority and toured the Delaney site along with the interim superintendent, the principal of the high school and additional Board members. Moreover, the environmental consultant contracted by the Board will be presenting the results of his study of all viable options. Immediately thereafter, a meeting will be scheduled so presentations can be made to the community for input. All Board meetings are public, and the agenda is posted prior to each meeting. I encourage parents and community members to attend and participate in this extremely important and exciting process. Board meetings are the appropriate venue for all discussions concerning this project. It is critical for parents, taxpayers, and the entire community to hear all sides, so they can assist the Board in making the best decision for our children.

At this time, the Perth Amboy community should be assured that the City is in no danger of losing the funding from the NJSDA. I feel that the Delaney site is a strong consideration, but the remaining 11.7 acres fall short of the need to accommodate our rapidly growing population.

Trust that I, as Board President, will make decisions based on a thorough investigation of all options, with integrity and with the best interest of the children of the City of Perth Amboy. I encourage Mayor Diaz to communicate directly with me, the Board, and all stakeholders, in an effort to provide our children with the best possible high school. Using public forums, such as her “open” letter, is counterproductive to making a dream of a new high school a reality.

Moving forward, I welcome the opportunity to meet with Mayor Diaz to discuss this important project.

Respectfully submitted,

Obdulia Gonzalez

Comments are closed.

Browse Current Issue - Click Here

Perth Amboy Calendar

WED. Sept. 27
• City Council, Regular,
7 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

THURS. Sept. 28
• Historic Preservation Commission,
7 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

MON. Oct. 10
• City Council, Caucus,
4:30 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

Stay informed! Attend public meetings. All are welcome!

South Amboy Calendar

WED. Oct. 4
• City Council, Business,
6 p.m.
City Hall, N. Broadway

Stay informed! Attend public meetings. All are welcome!