After attending a Middlesex County Freeholders meeting on Oct. 15, I felt compelled to write to describe a most disheartening situation. The Sayreville Board of Education has been pursuing for the past three years an effort to relocate the voting polls out of the elementary schools.
I went to this meeting to support the cause along with other senior citizens, including former poll workers – one who worked at the polls for over 50 years. The four elementary principals were also there, two who took the mike and expressed their concerns brilliantly.
Four board members attended, including President Mike Macagnone, and Phyllis Batko (who has been heading up the effort), who also spoke. Parents, PTO members, teachers, a cafeteria worker, a crossing guard, and even some students attended.
What had begun as a request from concerned parents about the safety of their children has now turned into a political football. Assemblyman John Wisniewski wrote a letter dated August 8, 2008 objecting to moving the polls with the exception of the Wilson school. Why should the assemblyman have a say in this matter? His only concern in his letter was “handicap accessibility”.
The board of education has unanimously supported the parents’ request. Didn’t we elect the board of education to ensure the safety of the children? The assemblyman’s children don’t even attend our public schools.
Before the meeting began, Mr. Dan Frankel, who is a commissioner appointed by the freeholders to the board of elections, told me that it’s their (the board of elections) decision and this was not going to happen. His suggestion is to close the schools on the three election days.
The school board does not feel that this is a good solution as it disrupts the education process, especially in November when the school is already closed for many days. Besides, why should that be necessary when other public buildings are available, are handicap accessible, and have ample parking? The schools do not have ample parking on election days.
I also attended the freeholders meeting back in April when the school board first appeared before them. The freeholders seemed receptive at the time but no progress was made. At the Oct. 15 meeting three of the freeholders were willing to publicly speak out and offer their comments. Freeholder Scott stated the situation should be reevaluated. Freeholder Valenti expressed concern about children’s safety.
However, I think Freeholder Polos was right and summed it up perfectly when he stated that the board of elections should not make the decision and that the decision should be up to the local community.
I would like to congratulate the school board for fighting the fight for the safety of the children and not giving up at the first sign of opposition. I would also like to thank them for seeking a solution that does not incur additional cost to the taxpayer. It’s refreshing to see a proactive approach to a problem instead of reacting to a tragedy. I think this is a win-win for all concerned.
Let’s just hope that the freeholder board realizes that safety of our children should be a priority. Politics should not supercede the safety of children.
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