By "Jersey Strong"
The time has come for Middletown Residents to take a stand against high property taxes. We all know that 63% of our property taxes go toward the school system. Year after year we have less than 5000 people turn out to vote in the April School Election. They have been riding a wave of voter apathy. Our community is stronger than that! Every vote counts! You can not complain about high property taxes if you can’t take the time to vote. A strong message has to be sent by a vocal majority to get them to open their eyes.
Teachers send our children home every April with the message “a vote against the school budget is a vote against our kids”. A vote in favor of the school budget year after year is a vote for ever rising teachers salaries, premier health coverage, out of control pensions, and golden parachutes for retirees. If we vote no to these budgets they will get the message and start making the cuts where they should be made. A vote against the school budget is a vote against higher property taxes. They claim that if we vote against the school budget programs that benefit our children will be cut. If the teachers union cared about our children they would negotiate a fair contract that would not make the children suffer. They are holding our children hostage!
The Teacher’s Union is currently spending millions on media campaigns to maintain their “gravy train” when that money could be better spent to defer the costs of the teacher’s pension plans and health care. The “E” in the NJEA should stand for education, not extortion. Parents are asked to volunteer countless hours at the schools and give back to the community. When will the teacher’s union give back to the children they claim to care about? The Governor asked the union to take a one year pay freeze and contribute 1.5% to their health coverage to compensate for his budget cuts. A teacher who makes $100K a year would only have to pay $1500 for what is described as the best coverage in the nation. The union refused. The union would rather see their members get laid off and students suffer. No one wants to see any teacher lose their job or programs cut but the union can’t expect the homeowners to continue to pay for their greed! The state was offered $400 million from the federal government earlier this year but the teachers union rejected the funding because it was based on teachers being held more accountable. You can’t complain about funding cuts when you reject funds. Not one program would be cut or one teacher laid off if the union would agree to a one year pay freeze and a 1.5% contribution to their health coverage. The Executive Director of the NJEA made over $550K last year. The NJEA spends $5 million in advertising and $2.7 million on travel expenses annually. Teachers have no problem contributing union dues to pay for this salary and unnecessary expenses.
We do not blame the teachers. The union boss hogs are to blame for creating this problem. We are not anti-teacher. There are some excellent teachers in our district. Unfortunately, they are overshadowed by the ones that have lost the love of working with the children, recycle their lesson plans and hide behind their tenure. According to the district 72 teachers, 20 paraprofessionals, 16 secretaries and 7 administrators are going to be eliminated. What they are not telling you are that some of these positions will not be lay offs. Some will be due to attrition. Retirements that will not be replaced. If teacher’s salaries and benefits were not so high maybe some of these jobs could be saved. Other teachers who currently have little or no responsibilities will be reassigned to do what they were hired to do: TEACH! Are the tenured teachers willing to make concessions to save their fellow union members jobs? Of course not, their union solidarity ends when it comes to giving up one dime of their gravy train. Wait and see how many dedicated teachers that are only concerned about the children decide to retire before Christie makes changes to the pensions and accumulating of sick days.
Signs around town saying don’t balance the budget on our kid’s backs. Do not let them use guilt to sway your vote. They have done it for years and it is time that they operated like a business and eliminate the fat and streamline their operations. There are also signs asking us to save our schools. Our children equal our future. Our children will have no future in this state if the out of control spending is not stopped. Our children will not grow up where we did but will end up in another state which is more affordable.
School Board Elections give us an opportunity to bring in new faces with a new perspective. The same people run year after year and support the status quo. They have ties to the district, administrators and teachers. We have all seen how the teachers, staff and administrators fawn over the School Board members. They know who “butters their bread”. The teachers strike a couple of years ago was an embarrassment and a stain on Middletown. They gave into teacher demands instead of taking stand for the tax payers. Marlboro just approved 4.5% raises over 5 years for their teachers in this economy. In this economy, who is getting a guaranteed 20% raise over five years? Do you think Middletown teachers are going to ask for less when their contract expires next year?
We are not affiliated with any of the four new candidates. Could they be any worse? We can vote for three candidates. There are three new people running together: Chris Aveta, Vincent Brand and Michael Mascone. Gerald Wexelberg is also new but running with the incumbents so we can only assume that he will maintain the status quo of the existing board members he has chosen to run with. The three incumbents that are running are Lenora Caminiti, Dawn Diorio and Patricia Walsh. Only vote for the non-incumbents. Let’s try to get three existing members replaced by three new faces with fresh ideas. We have seen what the incumbents have done or not done over the years. If the new candidates maintain the status quo they will know that their days on the board will be numbered as well.
In the last two November elections the people said they wanted a change. A vocal majority was tired of 8 years of George Bush and voted in Barak Obama. A vocal majority was tired of 4 years of Jon Corzine and voted in Chris Christie. Regardless of your party affiliation the country has shown it is fed up with people that treat us like sheep. There is a “Tea Party Movement” and politicians are scrambling. Some are resigning because they know they will not get reelected. Others are willing to work across party lines to address the concerns of the people. Politicians are starting to feel the pressure of the wave of under represented voters.
We feel we represent the silent majority of voters. If we can make a stand and get three new people on the school board it will make the remaining School Board Members take notice and send a message to start representing the tax payers and start making the right choices or you will be voted out next time! If we do not take a stand and send a message we are telling them to give the teachers big raises, non-contribution pensions, premier heath care plans and golden parachute retirement plans. Show those not up for reelection they must change their ways. Make them accountable! There are nine School Board Members. We could have and entirely new board in just three years. Only vote no and only for the new members. This will show the unity we have for this cause.
Christie inherited a huge deficit. For years we had timid leadership and year-to-year stop gap measures to avoid dealing with a systemic fiscal crisis in the state. We now have a politician with a backbone. Christie made a tough decision to cut the schools budget and has placed the responsibility of getting our schools to be more fiscally prudent on the lower levels of government. He has told the local government to look at all cost cutting measures, renegotiate union contracts, and increase contributions to their benefits before raising property taxes. He took the surplus Middletown had and people are upset. Why weren’t we upset when they were over taxing us for years to build that surplus?
The mayor and the township committee will take notice of this and know that Middletown residents are not going to sit quietly while our tax dollars are misspent. We can make the people in charge see that we are not going to sit quietly while they misuse our tax dollars. Maybe they will start spending our tax dollars more wisely. If the budget is successfully voted down it will go to the township committee. They will then see what is needed and what can be trimmed. If they see that a strong majority voted no and ousted the incumbents they will get the idea we are fed up!
Go to www.datauniverse.com and look up the salaries of any public worker by inputting their name and see for yourself. Superintendent Bilbao ($176K) makes more than Governor Christie ($175K). Is it harder to run the Middletown schools than the entire state? The Middletown School District has 16 District Administrators, Directors, and Supervisors in total. There are too many layers of bureaucracy with high paying jobs. Four District Administrators (>$580K), two Business Office Administrators (>$173K), four District Directors (>$470K), four Directors (>$384), and two District Supervisors (>$156K). In total last year they made over $1.8 million of our tax dollars. Some teachers made close to $100K for a nine month job. For just 184 days worked that is over $500 a day or $10K a month. Last year our school budget was $144.3 million. 81%, $114 million, went to administrators and teacher salaries and benefits. Only 19% of the budget is left. This must get divided among facilities, utilities, transportation, building maintenance, legal, insurance, supplies, and lastly our children.
A strong voter turnout to say no and oust incumbent board members will give those who negotiate teacher contracts the leverage to take a stand against the teachers union. They will know the community is behind them and we are sick of big yearly raises, premier health care plans, non-contribution pension plans, and retirement packages that are out of touch with the private sector and the state of the economy. If you are lucky enough to have a job you have probably had to forgo a raise, make contributions to your health care plan, and save for your own retirement through a 401K plan. The current system of pay and benefits is unsustainable!
Those in charge claim to have a “going green initiative” but instead they cut busing causing more parents to drive their children to school. Does this make any sense to you? We have all driven by the schools or heard the horror stories of the school parking lots. Doesn’t matter if you go to an elementary school or a high school the traffic jams and rude behavior is the same. If they truly wanted to “Go Green” they would bus more children! We have seen how kids on one side of the street get bussing but the neighbor across the street doesn’t. Or half of a development gets bussing because they are past a certain mileage criteria but the other half does not. Are half full buses cost effective?
We have all seen the waste and misuse. Schools closed for teacher’s conventions and professional days. Excessive early dismissal days used to meet the minimum required time to be counted as a full day. Underestimating the number of snow days that would be needed. Unnecessary snow days declared when the rest of Monmouth Counties schools were open. Deciding to cancel spring break days to make up for those snow days three days prior to the vacation giving parents little time to change plans. Does it make sense for our children to make up days with substitute teachers because most staff is absent? Ask your children how much school work was made up those two days. Ask them if they played games and how many movies were shown during those two days. Money spent to install air conditioning in our elementary schools when they are in school three weeks of the summer season. Was this for the students or for the teachers? Cell phone towers, to be located on school property, voted on by the board without properly notifying the parents first. The mismanagement of HS North turf field was an embarrassment that we had to read about in the newspaper daily. School board members who get their children’s school to adjust the extra curricular activities to conform to their interests. School Board members have ties to teacher’s union. When there was a vacancy on the board due to an untimely death of a member the board happened to choose the retired Nut Swamp Principal’s husband, Daniel Skelton, to fill that position. Ironic how the board determined he was the most qualified candidate to fill that vacancy of all those who applied. It is time to have board members that have Middletown families’ best interests in mind not just their families.
Part of the historic $787 billion Federal Economic Stimulus Package included $11.3 billion for federal aid to enhance special education programs. Middletown used $1.3 million of the $2.7 million grant to expand the kindergartens to full day. They used a loop hole in the law to replace local tax dollars earmarked for special education. If you have a special needs child this really hits home!
Teachers benefit package has been described as the best in the nation so why don’t our schools rank better compared to other states? Our children used to get a standardized national exam annually. We could see how our children ranked across the nation. Now the district lets teachers give an informal assessment and a state test that lets us know if our children are “proficient”. Our children will not get a national standardized test until they take the SAT in their junior year of high school. Are we being given vague testing information to mask how our children are actually performing?
Getting a job as a teacher in Middletown has become not what you know but who you know. There is a waiting list of qualified candidates eager to grab the “golden ring” of benefits that the teachers are given. Shocking to find out that Thompson Middle School hired an influential local sports business owner who also works as an actor/comedian with no teaching experience to be a long term social studies substitute. Were there no qualified candidates with a background in history available? Don’t our children deserve the most qualified candidate that our tax dollars can buy? If we are going to give someone a job that has great benefits they should at least be the most qualified candidate available to educate our children in that subject area. Is the district looking for the most qualified teachers to educate our children?
I am sure that a teacher, administrator or school board member will eventually obtain a copy of this e-mail and use the districts resources or e-mail addresses to send out some propaganda to justify the truths contained in this e-mail. Consider the source. The rebuttal to this email will contain claims that our schools are “top rated”. Yes our schools are good but that is because we live in a middle class community where parents take an active role in their children’s education. We have all seen how parents are intimidated and afraid to voice any opposition because they fear that our children will suffer the retribution. The school board, administrators, and faculty should be respected, not feared. We should not have to live in fear of those we trust to educate our children! When you are inside the voting booth it is only you and our conscience.
We urge you to forward this e-mail to every Middletown resident you know. We all take the time to forward silly emails, jokes and links to UTube videos. As a conservative estimate; if this email is received by 100 frustrated families and they each forward it to 5 like minded families we will have reached 500 families. If those 500 families forward it to 5 like minded families we have reached 2500 families. If both parents vote no we have 5000 votes against higher property taxes. If you have an elderly neighbor print it out and give them a copy. Most importantly take the time and vote! A strong turn out will send an even stronger message!
If you do not vote or vote yes you are part of the problem. If we vote no and vote in new members we can be part of the solution!
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