OPEN -- The road opened this week.
OPEN -- The road opened this week.
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Street connecting Weehawken and Hoboken repopens for drivers
Aug 14, 2018 | 435 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OPEN -- The road opened this week.
OPEN -- The road opened this week.
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WEEHAWKEN--South Harbor Boulevard, which links Harbor Boulevard and 19th Street in Weehawken to 16th Street and WIllow Avenue in Hoboken, reopened Aug. 13. It will be open to southbound traffic only, from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays. However, Mayor Richard Turner said the hours could extend to 9 p.m. after Labor Day. Officials closed the small road for a year, allowing for ongoing construction on an adjacent apartment building. Workers also realigned the street. One construction worker at the site estimated a few hundred drivers use South Harbor on a daily basis. The work comes as the nearby Route 495 begins a multi-year repair process, which closed a westbound entrance ramp on 31st Street and JFK Boulevard in North Bergen Friday, Aug. 10. This coming Friday, the 17th, the state DOT will close one lane on the freeway in both directions, 24/7. With the closures, it is likely more drivers will use the boulevard as a thru route to access the Holland Tunnel in Newport, into New York City.
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CONNOLLY, PAUL F.
Aug 12, 2018 | 964 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Funeral mass was offered Aug. 4 at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church for Paul F. Connolly, 61, of Lyndhurst. Mr. Connolly was a mechanic for Jersey City Parking Authority for over 25 years before retiring in 2016. He passed away peacefully at home on July 31. He was the husband of Elaine Connolly; father of Kaitlin and Erica Connolly; brother of Bernadette and her husband John Mulroe, Thomas Connolly, and Patricia and her husband John McGee, MD. Also survived by his brothers-in-law, sister-in-law, nieces, nephews and cousins. Services arranged by the Ippolito-Stellato Funeral Home, Lyndhurst.
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Jersey City may sue over school aid cuts
School board seeks okay to spend emergency reserves to offset loss
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Aug 12, 2018 | 4044 views | 0 0 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SCHOOL AID
BETWEEN A ROCK AND HARD PLACE – Already scrambling to fill a budget gap, the Jersey City Board of Education may be forced to lay off 25 employees to make up for lost state aid this year.
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The Board of Education is considering a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new state school aid formula. The district had anticipated a $3.5 million loss of state aid for 2018-19 due to the state’s new funding formula. But a surprise came when the district lost an additional $1.8 million promised by Gov. Phil Murphy last March. The loss of aid for the upcoming school year is only the first in a series of cuts the district expects over the next six years, reducing school aid to local schools by $175 million from the current aid of $410 million, something Board President Sudhan Thomas called unconstitutional. “These draconian cuts are anti-constitution and severely undermine the board’s ability to further thorough and efficient education to the 30,000 children of Jersey City,” he said. Faced with a choice between laying off as many as 71 people or possibly violating state budget mandates, the Board of Education voted on July 31 to seek permission from Hudson County Superintendent of Schools Melissa Pearce to spend emergency reserve funds to make up for a $5.3 million cut in state aid. This means that board will still have to lay off as many as 25 people. But none will be full time teachers. The board called the July 31 meeting to obey a state mandate to produce a plan to fill the budget gap by the end of July. Cuts target former Abbott Districts A revised state aid formula called S2 reallocates state school aid, taking massive amounts from what were previously called “Abbott Districts” – poor urban districts considered too inadequately financed to meet the mandate of a thorough and efficient education – distribute funding more widely among other districts. Thomas said Jersey City may have to seek legal action to restore funding to satisfy a number of state Supreme Court orders to meet the “thorough and efficient education” mandate the state constitution requires. In a series of rulings that date back to the late 1960s, the state Supreme Court said some urban districts did not provide the same level of education as wealthier districts. This resulted in a funding formula designed to help improve education for those urban districts. In the 1990s, the state tried to satisfy the court mandate by establishing core curriculum standards. But the court continued to require the state to provide school aid and other programs. Earlier this year, Gov. Murphy agreed to modify the formula under pressure from state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who claimed the formula was unfair to non-Abbott districts. This is the most drastic change to the state aid formula since the first court ruling, and Thomas indicated, the district will likely go to court to challenge it.
_____________ “These draconian cuts are anti-constitution and severely undermine the board’s ability to further thorough and efficient education to the 30,000 children of Jersey City.” – Sudhan Thomas
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Meeting current cuts first The board choice of the least layoffs to meet the $5.3 million loss of state aid, however, will require approval by the county superintendant of schools, since it will reduce the emergency fund by half the amount required by the state. Regina Robinson, business administrator for Jersey City schools, said the district has been in discussions with the county superintendent and has laid out various options. Robinson said the district could be allowed to reduce the emergency fund – called a fund balance – in the case of an emergency. “The reduction in state aid could be considered an emergency,” she said. This is the second year Jersey City has seen last minute cuts to in state aid. Last year, the state cut $8.3 million. But the most severe cuts are expected to come over the next six years, with a cut of $25 million to $30 million expected for the 2019-2020 school year. But he noted next year’s cuts will be worse because the district will face the same $75 million short fall in revenue that it faced this year. The district scrambled to fill the gap this year through a number of cost-cutting measures, averting a potential layoff of more than 300 employees. “Next year, combined with the loss of state aid, we’re going to have to find a way to fill a shortfall of more than $100 million,” Thomas said. Payroll tax could help offset future cuts Legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Murphy will allow Jersey City to establish a payroll tax for companies with more than 25 employees to help fund the schools. This could help offset some of the negative impact of the state aid cuts, if the city council introduces and adopts the ordinance. Two members of the city council, Richard Boggiano and Michael Yun, spoke at the school board meeting, saying they supported schools, but did not specifically say they supported the payroll tax. Board Trustee Matt Schapiro said the payroll tax is needed and hoped that the council would implement the full one percent tax on payroll that state law allows. The council is expected to introduce the ordinance on at its Aug. 15 meeting. Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.
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The battle over Berckes
Parents, teachers criticize board over suspended principal
by Hannington Dia
Reporter Staff Writer
Aug 12, 2018 | 922 views | 0 0 comments | 112 112 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Local parent Christine DeIasi asks the Secaucus Board of Education when the problems with Secaucus High School Principal Bob Berckes will end.
Local parent Christine DeIasi asks the Secaucus Board of Education when the problems with Secaucus High School Principal Bob Berckes will end.
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The controversy over suspended Secaucus High School Principal Bob Berckes shows no sign of stopping. At Board of Education meetings, parents and concerned citizens approach the podium to demand answers, defend or criticize Berckes, and/or rip into board members and Superintendent Jennifer Montesano (though a minority have defended the super). After news broke last month that Superintendent Montesano recommended tenure charges against Berckes, two residents at the most recent meeting on July 26 took aim at Board Attorney Stephen Fogarty and members who haven’t spoken up for Berckes. Montesano first suspended Berckes with pay in April over how he handled a student who allegedly brought a knife and marijuana into the high school. But the board has not gotten into detail, claiming they cannot legally disclose the reason why Berckes was suspended. In June, the board approved a districtwide principal transfer and moved Berckes to Clarendon School. It came around the time he filed a notice of intent to sue the district for $5 million over his suspension. At a May board meeting, Berckes claimed a school resource officer recommended the marijuana be flushed down a toilet, and that he and Montesano agreed on a few days suspension for the student. Afterwards, Berckes said, Montesano tried to get the officer to say he did not follow proper protocol in dealing with the incident. Local resident Donna Barabas, a former teacher at Jersey City’s Dickinson High School, has been one of the most outspoken residents against Berckes’ suspension. At the June 28 board meeting, Barabas asked Fogarty what charges there were against Berckes after the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office declined to press charges after an investigation. Fogarty told her to file an Open Public Records Act request for them. She did, but found nothing. “That was a misdirection,” Barabas told Fogarty to his face during their latest encounter. “And you, as an attorney, should have and could have answered that there were no charges, only an investigation. You should’ve known that there was no criminality involved.” Barabas then asked Fogarty if he advised Board President Jack McStowe and Montesano that the incident could’ve been handled “in-house.” Fogarty refused to answer. “If you advised this course of action of suspension, you participated in a charade,” Barabas told Fogarty. She also had strong words against Montesano, noting her lack of secondary school experience. Montesano was the former superintendent of schools for the Haworth School District, which only features a grade K-8 school, “After only six months here, she suspended the two administrators in our high school,” Barabas said. “Only someone who is unfamiliar with the operation of a high school could remove the two top administrators for two and a half months at the end of the year.” Parent Christine DeIasi was also critical. She said she respected the principal transfers and believed that the district was moving on from the incident. But: “I feel like we’ve kind of gotten caught in this big black hole of principals and suspensions. When I go around and I see all my friends in different communities, all they know about Secaucus is that our principal is suspended, and now, tenure charges.” She asked, “How much father are we going to go? I’m very concerned about where we’re going. Should I keep my son in the school district?”
_____________ “You should’ve known that there was no criminality involved.” – Donna Barabas
____________

Board comments Board member Sharon Dellafave said at the July board meeting that the board deliberately did not disclose the tenure charges at their June meeting. She sympathized with residents’ anger at the meeting. “I understand from your point of view perhaps the board was not forthcoming, last month,” she said. “But I have to say that confidentially is a right for all district personnel, and it’s a right that the Board of Education is legally and duty-bound to protect.” Because of those restrictions, Dellafave said, the board was tight-lipped on the tenure charges. “Whether these charges are warranted or not, it remains to be explored,” she said. “Although it isn’t the case, I hoped that matters regarding the status of Dr. Bob would’ve been resolved before the onset of the new school year,” Board member Kathleen McFarlane said. “This has been an extremely lengthy and stressful process for everyone involved.” Board member Lou Giele, who has sharply opposed the suspension, said he was “overwhelmed’ by the passion shown from speakers over the past few months. “I myself am frustrated by this process,” he said. He said he was worried about what the action could mean for other administrators. “If we go through with what is desired, we are going to put a dark cloud over every faculty member in this district, by saying that if the Board of Education can do this to Dr. Berckes, they can do it to anybody. That’s a very uneasy environment for faculty.” Ann Marie Grecco, Montesano’s administrative assistant, directed all comments on the Berckes situation to Fogarty’s office, which did not return requests for comment on the matter. Hannington Dia can be reached at hd@hudsonreporter.com
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