Problems for school board: Consultant Libera quits

Problems for school board
Consultant Libera quits after saying he couldn't get access
By: Tom Jennemann, Hoboken Reporter 

Former State Commissioner of Education William L. Librera, who was brought into the Hoboken schools as a consultant to help develop a long-term plan for the district, walked away from his $24,000 contract last week.

In a letter to the board, Librera charged that he was not given access to the schools and to the documents needed to complete his study of the district.

Mayor David Roberts had pushed Librera's arrival as a way to improve the schools, while Superintendent of Schools Patrick Gagliardi, whose contract is up in less than two years, found the move insulting and unnecessary.

In order to not further inflame an already tense relationship; Roberts declined to criticize Gagliardi's handling of the situation. But Librera's leaving could still intensity the rift that already exists between mayor and the superintendent and Roberts.

Mayor miffed

Gagliardi had said in the past that before hiring Librera, the Board of Education should have formed a task force made up of community members, board members, administrative staff, and teachers to complete a needs assessment. But instead, he said, the mayor unilaterally introduced Librera without consulting him or his staff.

Last week, Librera mailed the board a letter informing them that the board has not fulfilled several clauses of his contract and that he was officially walking away. The board members received the letter just before the beginning of Thursday's board meeting, and did not discuss it in open session.

Librera's contract specified that he was supposed to meet with teachers and administrators. One day before the meeting was to be held, Librera was informed that the meeting was canceled that Gagliardi would be out of the district that day.

Roberts issued a measured response Friday where he blamed Board of Education members, who voted 9-0 to approve the contract, for their failure to follow through.

"I'm very disappointed that this has reached a point that he felt that he wasn't getting the support and information that he needed," Roberts said. "At the end of the day, [the board members] are responsible, and owe the public an explanation why they failed to use the skills and talent of this highly regarded educator."

Differing stories about Garcia

Also last week, there were conflicting reports over whether or not the New Jersey School Ethics Commission had ruled on ethics charges against board member and former Board President Carmelo Garcia, who is also the city's high-ranking director of human services.

Garcia was accused of voting on his brother's promotion last year, and for also voting for the contract of FitzMedia, a public relations firm owned by county freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons. Garcia is a paid administrative aide to Fitzgibbons.

The case was filed by fellow board member Theresa Burns, who said that the ethics commission returned a "probable cause" verdict last week. Burns said that Garcia will be given the opportunity to write a brief to the ethics board to comment before the commission hands down a penalty.

But Garcia painted a very different story of the events Friday afternoon.

"They have not ruled and they have not given us anything in anything official in writing," Garcia said Friday afternoon. "These are just vicious rumors that are being spread to tarnish my name."

He said that the commission has asked for additional information, and that he doesn't expect a ruling for the next "three for four weeks."

He also said that rumors that he will be force to resign his post are "completely absurd."

He said that at the very worst, if found guilty, he will just be censured. He said that he has no intention of resigning from office.

Budget squeaks by

Also last week, the district's $51 million budget narrowly passed by four votes after the tally was counted from a missing cartridge that was accidentally left in a machine on election night.

With the additional 41 votes from the machine, the city's tax levy passed 1,105 to 1,101.

According to school Business Administrator Anthony Curko, the $32 million tax levy will not cause an increase in the school portion of the city's overall tax rate.

The district's six schools are anticipating 2,175 students next year, not including the two public charter schools. If that number is divided by $51.2 million, the amount of spending minus the money given to the charter schools, it costs an average of nearly $22,000 to educate each public school student. 

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