The needler in the haystack.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mayor Mapp throws down gauntlet to Plainfield Board of Ed

Dr. Caryn Cooper (l.) and Dr. Inez Durham at Tuesday's Board of Ed
meeting. Dr. Cooper will become Acting Superintendent July 1.
(Photo courtesy Plainfield Education Association, via Facebook.)

The clock was approaching 9:30 PM when Plainfield Board of Ed president Emily Morgan announced that the next two members of the public at the microphone would be the last to speak in "Privilege of the floor."

When the young woman who was last got to the mike, she asked the Board to yield  her time so that Mayor Adrian O. Mapp could speak.

Taking the floor, the Mayor noted that Dr. Debra Sheard, who was made Acting Superintendent when Anna Belin Pyles agreed to step aside, was "a breath of fresh air" and, among other things, had begun to actively engage the community -- something he felt should be encouraged, not discouraged.

Mayor Mapp noted that as he campaigned door-to-door in the recent mayoral primary, residents all over town would ask "When are you going to do something about the school system?"

Noting that he does not have any legal authority over the Board of Ed, he said he nevertheless has worked over the past 18 months to identify individuals he believed would "do a good job" as Board members. (With Mayor Mapp's help, newest members Lynn Anderson, Dorien Hurtt (now VP), and Carmencita Pile were elected.)

But, he continued, he has been very disappointed over recent months and weeks to see the Board shift its position on Dr. Sheard -- whom the Board had welcomed with open arms last October -- to the point that it would not even "at a minimum" extend her contract as Assistant Superintendent of Schools.

Then he threw down the gauntlet:  "It is important for me to support candidates who are supportive of people like Dr. Sheard", pointedly reminding the Board there is an election in November in which three seats will be at stake.

As he closed his remarks, the room erupted in thunderous applause.

In other business, the Board voted to appoint Dr. Caryn Cooper, principal of Cook School, as Acting Superintendent of Schools, effective July 1. The next step in the process of finding a new Superintendent will be to name an Interim Superintendent of Schools.

Regarding the 2017 School Board elections, which take place at the same time as the November General Election, the deadline for filing a 2017 candidate petition is Monday, July 31, according to the NJ School Boards Association website (see here). Petitions must be turned in to the County Clerk's office no later than 4:00 PM that date.

The Plainfield Board of Ed is composed of nine elected members. They serve three-year terms, with three up for election each year. Those whose terms end in 2017 are: Terrence Bellamy, Carletta Jeffers, and David Rutherford.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Plainfield concludes LGBT Pride Month with staged reading of 'Five Husbands'

Playwright and Plainfield resident B. V. Marshall.

Plainfield will conclude its celebration of LGBT Pride Month this Friday (June 30) with a staged reading of the comedy Five Husbands, written and directed by award-winning playwright and Plainfield resident B.V. Marshall. The presentation is free and open to the community and takes place in the Theater Space at the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield (FUSP), getting under way at 7:30 PM

Five Husbands details the travails of Oliver, the owner of a small boutique who, despite being successful in other areas of his life, prefers to sleep with unavailable men. The new legality of marriage equality notwithstanding, Oliver rejects marriage and celebrates his independence with his best friend Sally, who is equally free–wheeling. When another man from their mutual past returns, it sets in motion a series of events that forces Oliver to examine his fear of commitment to a relationship, the men in his life and his own views towards commitment.

A member of the Dramatists Guild, playwright B.V. Marshall has received fellowships from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, the Victor Bumbalo/Robert Chesley award for LGBTQ playwriting and four playwriting awards from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. His full-length plays include The Red Train CafĂ© at Interact Theatre (Philadelphia) and Pride Film and Plays (Chicago), One Legged Race at Playwrights Theatre of NJ, The Balcony Goat (O’Neill Conference semi-finalist) at Luna Stage (NJ), and Henry’s Bridge at Theatre for a New City (NYC). Marshall’s short plays have been produced around the country. Most recently, his play, Incident at Willow Creek won the Bauer-Boucher award from Kean University and received its first professional reading at Writers Theatre of NJ.

“I am proud to support this event which not only showcases the immense talent to be found here in Plainfield, but also provides a platform for our LGBT community to be highlighted,” said Mayor Adrian O. Mapp. “We are committed to building a more unified Plainfield and events such as these serve to pull us closer together.”

This reading, hosted by Plainfield Council President Rebecca Williams, is being co-sponsored by the City Council and the Office of Community Development under the leadership of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, and is being produced by Yendor Productions. “I am very excited to be a part of this event for LGBT Pride Month,” stated Council President Williams, the only openly gay member of the City Council. “Plainfield has a large and very diverse LGBT population, and we are happy to celebrate our artists with events such as this.”

The staged reading will be followed by a reception with refreshments and conversation in the Parish Hall. This event is free and open to the public.

FUSP (First Unitarian Society of Plainfield) is at 724 Park Avenue.  Parking available on the street or in the public lot across Park Avenue.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Monday, June 26, 2017

Tuesday Board of Ed meeting could be contentious

There's a lot going on that may make
Tuesday's business meeting contentious.

With all the progress that Plainfield is making in economic development and quality of life issues, the Queen City is becoming an attractive proposition for those looking for reasonably priced housing in a state that has far too little of it.

The public schools are attracting attention because of the perception they are lagging the rest of the community in making Plainfield a more desirable place to live, work, shop and raise a family.

We desperately need to get beyond the current patch of rough road the school district is trying to navigate. Will Tuesday's business meeting bring any progress?

With two special meetings as well as the regular work/study session already this month, it seems the Board is trying. According to the Plainfield Education Association (PEA) Facebook page, tonight's special, closed meeting (June 26) is to interview six internal candidates for the Acting Superintendent position (see the page here).

Among concerns that the PEA is sharing with the public are --
  • The union is "devastated" that Dr. Sheard has not been rehired;

  • There are 120 employees anxiously waiting to be rehired; this is supposed to be a walk-on item at Tuesday's regular business meeting;

  • Concerns over Maxson Middle School if the Board does not support 'Project Lead The Way', a school-wide STEM program; and lastly,

  • Why is the Board seeking waivers for "background clearances/criminal checks" for substitute teachers?
Here are some thoughts and questions I have about the concerns the PEA raises --

In the first place, every resolution that comes before the Board begins with this statement: "The Acting Superintendent of Schools recommends and I (i.e., the Board President) move, adoption of the following:..."

It is the Superintendent's (or Acting Superintendent's) job to put forth the resolutions, so why blame the Board if the Superintendent does (or does not) put forth expected resolutions?

In the case of the 120 employees awaiting reappointment, it should be noted that the Acting Superintendent HAS PUT FORWARD 966 appointments and the hiring of 370 substitute teachers on Tuesday's agenda. Has she some reason for not putting forward the other 120? If so, it is the Acting Superintendent who should be asked the question -- not the Board.

The question of criminal background checks for substitute teachers is only part of the problem in that area. Plainfield, like many other cash-strapped districts, relies heavily on substitute teachers to fill out its teaching staff. Subs are paid on a per diem basis and are much less expensive to the district than full-time teachers. It would be a good thing to have a thorough public discussion of the reasons for using subs and what that does to leave our children shortchanged in the educational process.

As for the proposal to make Maxson Middle School the District's STEM school, I was somewhat mystified by the discussion at the June work/study session, where the Principal was pretty thoroughly questioned by some board members on the proposal.

I sat behind the Principal as she answered the Board's questions, and she seemed quite uncomfortable. Why wouldn't the question of Maxson becoming a STEM school have been worked out before this?

And certainly such a plan would need to be strategized, with a minimum three-to-five year plan laid out. There was no talk of a plan; it all seemed to be stitched together rather hastily.

Is Maxson under special pressure because of the State's view of its performance? Who gets to decide a school's focus will be on STEM? The principal? The Superintendent? The Board? Or some combination of all three?

There is no doubt the charter schools have focused in on a STEM approach (specifically UC TEAMS, Barack Obama Green HS and the College Achieve charter school), and they have been eating the Plainfield District's lunch for years now. I was not persuaded by the discussion that the District has a plan for recovering the initiative from the charter schools on this front. Am I wrong?

All stakeholders will want to come out for the Board of Ed business meeting at 8:00 PM, Tuesday, June 27, at the PHS cafeteria. The agenda (minus any walk-on resolution(s) is online here).

Best parking is the Kenyon Avenue lot, where you can enter the Cafeteria directly.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
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Saturday, June 24, 2017

This is an unabashed commercial

Header from the Mayor's summer activities email.

This is an unabashed commercial for the Mayor's Email Newsletter, which comes out every Friday to those who have subscribed (more on that below).

This week's issue -- Welcome to Summer!, Volume 4 - Issue 25 -- is a "keeper"

Just about every summer activity for Plainfield residents -- young and old alike -- is listed with dates, times, locations, and fees (where applicable).

Boys' soccer camp?

Got it.

Archery and Martial Arts at Washington School?

No problem.

Summer outdoor movies. Outdoor concert series. Rec Division programs. School District programs. YMCA programs. They're all here, plus more.

If you're not subscribed to the Mayor's newsletter, which also covers weekly updates from City divisions and departments, it's easy to do.

Sign up by calling (908) 753-3310 during business hours Monday to Friday, or send an email to If you want the full "Welcome to Summer" email, be sure to mention it.

You'll be glad to be up-to-date with Plainfield happenings and activities.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]
View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.