SOUTH AMBOY– Even the current mayor does not believe children or taxpayers would be well served by a school board appointed by the mayor instead of elected by the public.
School board members contacted by the Citizen say they don’t like politician Mary O’Connor’s proposal to give the mayor power to appoint the Board of Education.
The issue came up during a debate at the Sacred Heart Memorial Hall, when O’Connor suggested that she would stop electing school board members and having citizens vote on the school budget.
Currently, only 20 municipalities in New Jersey have a school board appointed by the mayor. In those districts, budgets are determined by the Board of Education and the tax levy is set by a board comprised of the mayor, two council members and two school board members.
“I would rather it be elected. I believe that (an appointed board) takes the power away from the public,” said Board of Education member Paula Taggart. “If it’s not an elected board, then that takes the people right out of the process.”
“I don’t think its a practical thing to do,” said Taggart, who noted that she does not know O’Connor.
“The only thing that I know about Mary is that she has a lot of signs about town and she had moved out of town for four years, moved to Paris, because that is where her husband’s job took her,” said Taggart. “If she walked up to me, I wouldn’t know who she is, unfortunately.”
“It’s a bad idea,” said Mayor John T. O’Leary, the incumbent who is not seeking re-election after 24 years in the office. “It’s a political power grab.”
At the debate, another school board member who is one of four candidates for mayor, John Dragotta, said he would oppose having the body appointed by a political figure.
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