Thank you for highlighting that for the last 20 or more years the Lacey Township School District has maintained an openness with the press and public that is indeed the envy of many other towns in New Jersey.
While in many towns, including locally in Toms River, residents are fighting to have school board meetings televised, we have not only televised our meetings for over 20 years, we also make them available on our web site for those without access to Comcast. While many towns put restrictions on public comment, including requiring “pre-registration”, and setting time limits as short as three minutes, we do neither. And recently, implementing an initiative led by Dr. (Sandra) Brower, we began posting our board meeting Agendas and Minutes on our website.
Although Dr. Brower’s style may be different than Mr. (former superintendent Richard) Starodub’s, she has not only continued in the tradition of her predecessor by making herself available to meet with parents, residents, and the press, she has gone beyond.
Since coming on board in November she has met with reporters from all of the outlets that cover Lacey. She has met with the mayor, Township Committee members, police chief, recreation director, and the Lacey Municipal Alliance, among others. She has met with parents who have requested individual meetings in her office as well as with the PTAs, PTOs, and other parent groups. She has met with frequent board meeting attendees and has even followed school buses with one. She has held a number of open forums at a variety of local businesses both during the day and evening, and just recently met with a group of Lacey seniors at the Pheasant Run clubhouse.
You correctly state that the district is prohibited by law from releasing certain information regarding personnel matters. We comply with that law. Failure to do so would subject the district to legal action, costing the taxpayers money. In the instances you cited Elaine Piniat was provided the information that we are legally permitted to release, including salary and length of service. She requested other records that do not exist, hence the reply from Mr. (business administrator James) Savage in each case that the requested record “Does not exist”. Likewise, when official records are redacted it is to comply with the law.
We know that reporters sometimes find this frustrating, and believe it or not, we sympathize, as we too at times find it frustrating because we think in many instances it would be better to get all the facts out rather than to let the rumor mill churn. Unfortunately the law does not permit that.
To date I have received no negative feedback from any of the other media outlets that cover the Lacey School District, including those that have covered us for over 20 years, and it pains me that the article is obviously framed as a personal attack on the new Superintendent.
Perhaps what disappoints me the most is that given your long successful working relationship with the Lacey Township School District which you so eloquently described, you did not reach out to me in my role as Board President either to discuss your concerns or to afford me the opportunity to offer a comment for your article. Elaine Piniat has both my cell phone number and email address, and uses both often. I would be happy to meet with you to discuss district communication policy and practice, the sunshine law, and/or the changing world of new age media at your convenience.
President, Lacey Township Board of Education