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Why I Support Accountability, Continual Improvement and Community Empowerment in our Schools

My objective is to develop and continually improve our schools to be the best in the state.

Recently I stated I am open to exploring possibly moving to an elected school board echoing the same sentiments expressed by Mayor Glatt last year. Overall, I think we have an excellent Board of Education, but I agree school governance should be the subject of public discussion. We should always welcome new ideas that could lead to improvement. Community input is a critical step in maintaining, and increasing, the excellence of our schools.

Just a few days ago, A. Dennis White, my opponent in the race for Common Council in Ward 2 published an article criticizing my position based on his opinions summarized as follows: Our schools are good enough. Diversity is somehow a handicap from which we need to be protected by an appointed school board. Summit residents wouldn’t even really care as evidenced by low voter turnouts in school board elections of other communities and, even worse, a discussion of school governance and the expenditure of more than $60 million of our tax dollars is a distraction that doesn’t warrant time and attention from our elected leaders. Further, he indicated his discomfort with the political process that would be essential to ensuring accountability and, although it may be distasteful for him, would also help to establish a political consensus that would move Summit forward.

I disagree. Along with the safety and security of our town I can’t think of anything more important on which to spend my time if elected to council. I want our schools to be the best, not just good enough. I consider diversity a strength to be encouraged and promoted, not a problem that needs to be overcome. I want the city to be directly accountable to the taxpayers for the largest part (more than 50%) of our tax burden. I think Summit residents do care and care very much. I want residents to feel they are empowered to speak up, have input and can make a difference. And, I am not uncomfortable with politics nor am I afraid of the complex debate on making our schools the best they can be. 

Our world and community have changed dramatically over the past few years. As we look to a better future it’s clear we need leaders to move us ahead and not settle for going back to the way things were. As a member of council I will always be open to discuss, and lead the implementation of, innovative ideas the residents of Summit decide are best for our children’s education - including an appointed school board, an elected school board or, perhaps, something in between.

Pat Hurley

Candidate for Summit Common Council Ward 2

summitdude September 18, 2011 at 01:04 AM
An elected school board and voting the school budget up or down puts more controls in the hands of parents and taxpayers. All the school systems that have surpassed us in the last ten years have elected school boards. We shouldn't fear exploring change.
Elizabeth Bennet September 18, 2011 at 08:32 PM
Although it is true that many excellent schools have elected school boards, the reverse is also true. As an example, read about latest evidence of abuse of power by the Elizabeth school board in the Star Ledger. An elected school board is no guarantee of excellence. Summit's school board reflects the diversity of Summit's population. Would an elected school board be as diverse? There are many advantages to an appointed board. Many of those who have served had to be actively recruited to donate their time and expertise because they are too modest to step forward. These board members have worked for the good of the community. Tom O'Rourke is an excellent example. Do we want to replace these selfless public servants with people who run for election because of some personal and selfish agenda? The appointed board has served us well for decades. Should we mess with this just because a few naysayers feel that the Summit schools are declining? Should Summit citizens be able to vote on the school budget? Yes, but that is different from having an elected board.
Max-M September 20, 2011 at 12:09 PM
Pat - I think everyone can get behind your stated objective above, we all want better schools. The issue of an elected or appointed BOE is rather non-trivial though and will take time and discussion to address. There are certainly pros and cons to both. What I think everyone can also get behind is your public apology to Mr. Lyness and the BOE for your vicious personal attacks on them. Your attacks were so mean spirited and ultimately embarrassing to yourself that you removed them from this forum perhaps out of fear of your own employment (or as explained by you "deleted solely for professional reasons")? We all know you have strong opinions on an elected BOE, Planned Parenthood, Helipad etc. but this election is as much about character as is it issues. I think it would go a long way to restoring your character if you publicly apologized for your offensive remarks to the previous BOE and its President. Please apologize.
why October 05, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Too much power resides within the BOE, with little accountability to the taxpayers who financially support it. Taxation without representation. Sound familiar?

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