CONNOLLY, PAUL F.
Aug 12, 2018 | 875 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.
Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
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 | 3482 views | 0 0 comments | 38 38 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.
view slideshow (6 images)
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
____________

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.
Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
The battle over Berckes
Parents, teachers criticize board over suspended principal
by Hannington Dia
Reporter Staff Writer
Aug 12, 2018 | 784 views | 0 0 comments | 74 74 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.
slideshow
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
Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
City officials battle ethics allegations
Also at meeting: Council opposes ICE contract, talks dog park
by Marilyn Baer
Reporter Staff Writer
Aug 12, 2018 | 1070 views | 0 0 comments | 77 77 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The council approved a new temporary dog park on the corner of Park Avenue and 15th Street.
The council approved a new temporary dog park on the corner of Park Avenue and 15th Street.
slideshow
Ethics complaints against town officials were a hot topic at a five-hour Hoboken City Council meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 1. At the meeting, a resident who has already lodged a local complaint against three council people said he had filed another with the town clerk, and the nine-member council voted 7-2 to terminate lawyers who have been defending the mayor over an alleged violation that’s been going back and forth in court for eight years. Also at the meeting, the council unanimously passed a resolution urging the county to cancel its recently approved $10 million contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), approved a dog park at 1500 Park Ave., and officially designated a block of Adams Street as a two-way street (see sidebars). Resident files ethics complaints At the meeting, resident Michael Donnelly filed an ethics complaint with the City Clerk against Councilman Michael DeFusco. He said he was bringing up the matter in anticipation of the council creating a municipal ethics board, which they have discussed at recent meetings. Donnelly’s complaint stems from finance contributions made by labor unions and political action committees to DeFusco’s mayoral campaign last year. Donnelly argued that DeFusco received funds in excess of the city’s political contribution limits and pay-to-play limits. DeFusco responded to Donnelly, stating that he can “throw whatever you like at me,” but that he was unaware of any charges against him as he had not received any official notice from the city clerk alerting him to improprieties. This follows a previous complaint filed by Donnelley on July 11 against DeFusco, Councilwoman Jen Giattino, and Councilman Ruben Ramos for alleged campaign or other violations. In a previous complaint filed with the city clerk, he states Ramos also received funds in excess of the $500 limit, according to state ELEC reports filed in February of 2018. The complaint filed in July also states that Giattino, who is a licensed real-estate agent, should have recused herself from creating or voting on rent control ordinances as this is a “conflict of interest.” Most recently, Giattino sponsored an ordinance during the Aug 1. meeting, which the council passed, that protected tenants from receiving a tax surcharge during the term of a lease. Instead those surcharges are imposed only at the beginning of a lease or during a lease renewal. Council terminates legal contract The council voted 7-2 at Wednesday’s meeting to cancel a contract for a law firm that had been representing Mayor Ravi Bhalla in his appeal of an alleged ethics violation going back eight years, to when he was a councilman. The ethics complaint was originally filed against Bhalla by resident Perry Belfiore in 2010 after then-Councilman Bhalla voted on city contract for an attorney with whom Bhalla shared a lease for an office in Hoboken. The matter has been adjudicated back and forth, with judges ruling for and against Bhalla. In September 2013, a summary decision by administrative law Judge James Geraghty found that Bhalla’s joint lease -- and shared receptionist -- with attorney Paul Condon did not create a conflict of interest that precluded Bhalla from voting to renew Condon’s contract with the city in 2010. However, in November of 2017 the state Local Finance Board issued notice of a violation stating that the shared space with a professional appointed by the council is not a substantial conflict, but, “cosigning a lease agreement is considered a shared business relationship and would appear to constitute a direct/indirect financial involvement that might reasonably be expected to impair one’s objectivity.” According to city spokesperson Santiago Melli-Huber, there are currently two appeals pending on the 2017 notice: “one in the Office of Administrative Law, where it was thrown out the first time in 2014, and one in the Appellate Division, where it was thrown out the second time in 2016.” When the council voted 7-2 to cancel the contract with the Buzak Law Group of Montville, who has been representing Bhalla, the resolution estimated that $10,000 had been spent to appeal the alleged ethics violation. DeFusco and Ramos released a joint statement the following day stating that the vote protected taxpayers by preventing Bhalla from “continuing to use city resources to defend himself against a personal ethical violation,” and that the council is “a watchdog on the administration.” According to Melli-Huber, “A press release put out by a campaign spokesperson does not change the fact that the meritless ethics complaint in question was adjudicated twice and thrown out, with Judge Geraghty, in his decision, calling the filer of the complaint a ‘bigoted, malicious crackpot with a personal grudge against Bhalla’.” He added, “This act of political grandstanding sets a bad precedent, as elected officials should have the ability to do their jobs without fear of frivolous lawsuits.” The city generally does pay for representation for officials sued in connection with their actions on the job. The resolution attempted to relieve the city of this duty by claiming Bhalla was not forthcoming enough in the matter. Other business Also at the meeting, resident Brian Murray asked the council about a new traffic pattern near Eleventh and Adams streets, which the council later approved. The resolution states that the circulation patterns at the intersection of Eleventh and Adams streets “currently present hazards for all modes of transportation,” and that the department of transportation and parking recommend striping and signage in the area. He said he was concerned about getting to work on the west side of town from his home on the east side. The council responded that passing the resolution was a matter of bookkeeping as the 1000 block of Adams Street is already used as a two-way street, and the resolution simply designates it as such legally. The 1000 block of Adams Street can be a bit confusing, as it dead ends against JFK Stadium. Some vehicles use it in both directions flowing south and north. The rest of Adams Street remains one way and flows north. Council opposes County’s ICE contract The Hoboken City Council unanimously approved a last-minute resolution on Wednesday urging the county Board of Freeholders to terminate their recently renewed $10 million, 10-year contact with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). On July 12 the freeholders renewed the ICE contract in a 5-2 vote. It allows federal immigration officials to house immigrant detainees at the county jail in Kearny. Many of the 800 detainees held at the jail are not there because of crimes or immigration violations, but because they’re being detained by ICE for confirmation or legal status or other matters. The jail also has approximately 400 traditional prisoners held on criminal charges. Under the new contract, the county will receive $120 per day per detainee held at the Hudson County Correctional Facility in Kearny. This is a $10 increase from the previous contract. Councilwoman Emily Jabbour proposed the resolution that states that the county did not provide the public with any “meaningful open dialogue” about the contract before it was voted on at the last-minute at a 1 p.m. weekday meeting. The resolution also cites six deaths that had occurred at the Hudson County Correction facility in the past two years, including four suicides. It also mentions visits and detainee interviews conducted by nonprofit Human Rights First that labeled the facility “inhumane.” New dog run, and return of the dog DNA testing At the meeting, the council passed a resolution for a temporary dog park on a portion of the lawn at 1500 Park Ave. near the city’s north border. Six of the neighboring residential buildings allow tenants to keep dogs, the resolution says, yet there is no “convenient” dog park. An adjacent field will be separated by a fence. It’s used during the school year by Elysian Charter School, at 1460 Garden St., and Hoboken Montessori at 158 Fourteenth St. for outside recreational activities. The president of Elysian Charter School, Eduardo Gonzalez, spoke against the temporary dog run, stating that space is already limited on the field and that other dog runs are in the area. He said the area will transform into a space littered with dog waste. There is a dog run underneath the viaduct at 13th and Jefferson streets, several blocks west, and another at 1600 Park Ave., which is often run down. Resident Laura Miani spoke in favor of the dog run, stating that there needs to be more places in town for dogs. She said 20 percent of the field is not enough space. Councilman Peter Cunningham said the biggest issue is enforcement, as people do not pick up after their dogs. He said at the next council meeting, he would like to see a resolution or contract to have dog waste DNA tested. Councilman Michael Russo said the council should be ashamed that they are approving another dog park before an exclusive park for children with disabilities. Russo had suggested this during the last council meeting in July and stated that he feels that certain special interest groups such as dog owners are being “pandered to” while disabled children are ignored. He said parents should have an exclusive park where disabled children can play without worrying that they will be “trampled on.” But this has not been placed on the agenda. Marilyn Baer can be reached at marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.
Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
HYNES, ANNE
Aug 12, 2018 | 201 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Funeral mass took place July 31 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Jersey City, for Anne Hynes of Jersey City. She passed away July 27 at St Joseph’s Peace Care, Jersey City. Born in Jersey City, Anne was a lifelong resident. Sheworked as a secretary for the Board of Education for 31 years retiring in 2005. A feisty and fiercely independent woman, she fought off cancer three times before it returned a fourth time. She was the wife of the late John Hynes; mother of Doreen, Joanne, John and his wife Joann, and the late Thomas Hynes; daughter of the late Concetta and Salvatore Coniglio; sister of the late Louis, Frances, Charles, Marie, and Rosalie. Services arranged by the Greenville Memorial Home, Jersey City.
Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet