"You know, so much of the time we're just lost. We say, "Please, God, tell us what is right; tell us what is true." And there is no justice: the rich win, the poor are powerless. We become tired of hearing people lie. And after a time, we become dead... a little dead. We think of ourselves as victims... and we become victims. We become... we become weak. We doubt ourselves, we doubt our beliefs. We doubt our institutions. And we doubt the law. But today you are the law. You ARE the law. Not some book... not the lawyers... not the, a marble statue... or the trappings of the court. See those are just symbols of our desire to be just. They are... they are, in fact, a prayer: a fervent and a frightened prayer. In my religion, they say, "Act as if ye had faith... and faith will be given to you." IF... if we are to have faith in justice, we need only to believe in ourselves. And ACT with justice. See, I believe there is justice in our hearts."....from the movie "The Verdict"
Last night, eight members of the Roxbury Township Board of Education voted to censure me. The following are the links to related news story on the matter and the statement I made during the hearing:
CENSURE HEARING ROXBURY BOARD OF EDUCATION
MAY 24, 2010
Firstly, I firmly and without reservation deny all the allegations of wrongdoing that have been made in what is a campaign to malign my character and to fetter my speech. As a member of the Roxbury Twp. Board of Education, I have not taken any actions which are inconsistent with my obligations as a Board Member or detrimental to the best interest of the district students, the Superintendent, the high school principal, and the Board of Education as a whole nor have I exposed the Board of Education to potential legal liability. As a Board member, I have been responsible to the State Board of Education for complying with state laws and regulations and, within the bounds established by Roxbury school board policy, to the voters of the district for carrying out their wishes in matters of public education.
In fact, I ask that the record show, that the Board has not submitted a single question to me to ascertain the facts prior to holding this hearing.
I will now state the facts that took place on April 27, 2010:
During the evening of April 26, media sources reported a statewide high school student walkout to protest school state aid cuts would be taking place on April 27 on school grounds during school hours. A community member also called me the morning of April 27 who had heard that our high school students would be taking part in the walkout and expressed concern about whether this would be allowed. This demonstration followed the student demonstration that took place before school hours on April 15th. The Board did not receive any communication from Dr. Rossi or John Moschella that a student walkout would be taking place, nor did I expect them to answer my questions, as they had never responded to my emails regarding the demonstration that had occurred on April 14th.
In any case, since the state aid cuts, the school budget election, and the ultimate defeat of the Roxbury school budget had been matters of profound public concern in Roxbury and state-wide, I drove to the high school the morning of April 27th and parked in the student parking lot at approximately 9:30 a.m. to see if the walkout would actually take place.
After I parked, I stood at my car. I observed the presence of news reporters. When the class buzzer sounded at approximately 9:40 a.m., I observed several hundred students filing out the high school’s front entrance into the roadway in front of the school. I immediately called Dr. Rossi’s office because I did not know if he was aware of the walkout and thought I should tell him. A secretary in the office answered and I asked her if Dr. Rossi was there. She said he was not so I told her I was at the high school and there appeared to be a student demonstration going on. She said Dr. Rossi was on his way over to the high school and I said ok, I’d talked to him when he arrived. From the parking lot, I then observed Principal Swanson, on or near a grassy median near the roadway in front of the school. I approached Mr. Swanson from behind and asked him why the walkout was being allowed to take place. He said it was because he could not accommodate the discipline for the number of students involved in the walkout. I asked if he knew about the walkout ahead of time and he said yes and I asked how he knew about the walkout and then ended my conversation with Mr. Swanson, and moved back to the parking lot area. At no time during my conversation with Mr. Swanson did I raise my voice to him, criticize or berate him, give any directives, or seek to involve students in my conversation with him. Moreover, at no time did Mr. Swanson tell me I have to leave the school grounds.
Shortly after speaking to Mr. Swanson, I observed a small group of students rushing towards the parking lot and Mr. Swanson instructing them to go back to the area in front of the school. I also saw a small number of students carrying anti-Christie signs chanting slogans and another small group yelling “Let’s Grill” while most of the other students milled around and talked with each other. I then noticed Dr. Rossi and Mr. Swanson talking with each other near the grassy median and approached them from behind. I said Mike, but Dr. Rossi didn’t appear to hear me so I said his name again. Dr. Rossi then turned his head but not his body and I asked him what was going on. He replied “This is not your business” in a nasty tone and turned his head away. I said, “what do you mean it’s not my business?” and he again turned his head towards me and said “You’re trespassing” again in a very nasty tone. I was upset and incredulous that Dr. Rossi was so antagonistic and confrontational and told him I was not trespassing, that I was a school board member, a long-time taxpayer and resident of Roxbury and my children went through the school system. I asked him who he was to tell me this was not my business and that I was trespassing. Dr. Rossi replied, “I am the Superintendent of Schools”. I then walked away from Dr. Rossi and Mr. Swanson. I stepped back to the parking lot and then observed Dr. Rossi walk away towards the high school. I never gave Dr. Rossi any directives or sought to involve students in my exchange with him.
When Mr. Swanson walked away, I moved forward again to the grassy median and stood and observed the students, the central office assistant superintendents standing near the far entrance of the school, the h.s. vice-principals monitoring the students, and a police officer near a police truck. While the group of students with signs gathered together and chanted slogans, they were video-taped by a newsman and the news reporter interviewed students. Another group of students sat on the curb in front of the school and one student periodically yelled out “I like Christie”. I then saw a student I knew since he was a small child and also whose family I knew well hanging out an upstairs window holding a small sign. I waved up to him and said hello. I then moved towards him and asked him if there’s any classes going on and he said yes. I then moved away and stood in the roadway near the group sitting on the curb and stood there for about 5-10 minutes.
I then moved back to the grassy median and I spoke to the reporter briefly before he left. I said hello and he said he would call me later. As time passed, I observed a Domino’s Pizza vehicle arrive and the police officer stopped it from entering. I saw a group of students attempting to go towards the parking lot to the vehicle but Mr. Swanson stopped them and said they could not accept the delivery. I did see one student walking back with what appear to be a pizza box and other food. I then saw the Domino’s pizza driver come over to talk to Mr. Swanson. She said she had orders to deliver but Mr. Swanson waved her off and said she couldn’t deliver them and not to take any more orders.
Not long after, most of the students went inside the building except for the students demonstrating and chanting .At approximately 10:46 a.m., the last of the students went back into the school building with the exception of a few who were cleaning up the litter that was left behind. I then entered my car and left the high school premises. At no time did I enter the high school building as a visitor from the time I arrived on the high school grounds until the time I left and therefore, did not violate any district policy or procedure and at no time did my behavior contribute in a negative fashion to the proper operation of the school and to student safety.
When I arrived home, I opened an email sent from the Governor’s Press Secretary with a statement that said “students belong in the classroom and we hope all efforts were made to curtail student walkouts”. It also included a statement from Department of Education Commissioner Bret Schundler that said, “Schools should enforce their attendance policies. They should not be permitting students out of class.”
Sometime afterwards, the reporter from the Daily Record who was present at the Roxbury high school walk out called to ask me my opinion of the walkout. I told him, as I always do when giving my opinion about school matters, that I was speaking on my own behalf and not that of the school board. I then stated my opinion, as an elected state official, about the student walkout because it was a genuine issue of public concern. This was also the case when I gave my opinion about the student walkout in subsequent interviews with another reporter from the Daily Record and with Fios news. At no time, when giving my opinion, did I publicly state that the administrators should be reprimanded for sanctioning the event and violating policy. I gave my opinion that the school board should review the matter and decide if school policy was violated and disciplinary action was required.
In closing, I want to again emphatically deny the accusations made against me as stated in in the Resolution of Censure by the Roxbury Board of Education. They are false and malicious, an attempt to violate my constitutional rights, and clearly in retaliation for my viewpoints on the student walkout which they simply did not want to hear.