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Brick BOE Policy Updates Spur Frustration Before Vote

Brick Township Board of Education/Schools (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Brick Township Board of Education/Schools (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The Brick Township school district is updating hundreds of policies – essentially, the school equivalent of ordinances that dictate how the school system operates – some of which have been on the books for decades, but the process has resulted in frustration for some members of the public and one board member.

“If you’re going to get the public involved in this stuff, you need to do a better job,” said resident Vic Fanelli at the Sept. 24 board meeting. “The way you’re doing it now doesn’t work.”

More than 100 policy changes – some several pages in length – were both introduced and adopted at the meeting. The update project has largely been spearheaded by board member Michael Conti and has involved significant input from board attorney Jack Sahradnik and Interim Superintendent Richard Caldes. Some of the policies contain language mandated under state law, while many others are on the books due to the preference of the Brick district. Updating the policies, which cover everything from the transfer of funds, to how petty cash is handled, to district governance and how a thorough and efficient education is maintained for students, is a task that takes many hours of work.

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That is precisely what has left some people so upset. Board member Karyn Cusanelli said she was sent hundreds of pages worth of policies just two nights before the board was set to meet. Though draft revisions had been sent out earlier, it was the first time the policies were distributed to board members (as well as the public) after they had been subject to a final review by Sahradnik’s office and placed on an agenda.

“What has happened, and why I had a problem last month and this month, is that we didn’t get that 3000 series until Tuesday night,” said Cusanelli, speaking at the Thursday night meeting. “That was not enough time to go through 72 policies and ask the questions.”

The same concerns were echoed by George Scott, a member of the public.

“It’s been worked on for months since the summer. We’re paying a consultant for help on this,” said Scott. “So to dump it all at one time isn’t fair to the public.”

Cusanelli abstained from voting on policies she said she did not have enough time to review. One series of policies – known as the 7000 series – was approved in a final vote and adopted. Three other series – the 2000, 3000 and 9000 – were introduced and are still subject to change before a final vote is taken, which could come at either the board’s October meeting or a later meeting.

“We, as a committee, decided, ‘let’s give the public the final version we’re going to vote on,'” said board member Susan Suter, rather than posting draft versions for review. “I understand that’s a lot to digest, but this is just the first reading. A lot of these policies were from 1983, and to do bits and pieces, you’re never going to get a good policy at all. I do apologize for dumping it on the public, as you say, but I don’t know any other way to do it.”

“What you’re seeing here is the scope of the board’s responsibility,” said board vice president John Barton, who stated at the meeting that he reviewed each policy “probably more than once” in the two days prior to the meeting.

Cusanelli said it was simply not enough time for board members to fully digest the documents.

“I can’t do due diligence in 48 hours, and that’s my responsibility to the public,” she said.

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