CARTERET–Mayor Daniel J. Reiman is asking the state Attorney General and the Department of Education investigate the improper access and distribution of confidential student records by members of the Board of Education and the Carteret Education Association.
According to a Dec. 14, 2012 letter to Gov. Chris Christie, Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf and Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa, sometime in late 2011, the borough learned that confidential student transcript records of Carteret High School students had been illegally accessed and transmitted to, at a minimum, one borough employee, numerous members of the general public, several Board of Education members and teacher union officials. Access to and release of student records is strictly controlled by state law in effort to ensure the privacy of individual students.
“Upon learning of the potentially unlawful access and dissemination of confidential student files and the potential involvement of a borough employee, I immediately ordered the borough’s legal department to conduct a full investigation regarding the borough employee.” Reiman said.
That investigation led to disciplinary charges being brought against a borough crossing guard and revealed the alleged involvement of a school guidance counselor, a Carteret Education Association executive board member and several members of the Carteret Board of Education. The crossing guard was terminated from employment with the Borough after a hearing and the information obtained detailing the involvement of school employees and Board of Education members was forwarded to the Carteret Board of Education for further action.
The Carteret Board of Education then conducted its own internal investigation and subsequently issued tenure charges against Guidance Counselor Bonita Baskay and Carteret Education Association president John Nartowitz. Those charges are now pending before the New Jersey Department of Education and are set to be heard within the next several months. Reiman expressed his satisfaction that the Board of Education followed the borough’s lead in seeking to hold accountable those responsible for the misuse of records but at the same time noted his concern that the recently elected board majority would seek to squash the charges for political reasons.
The Board of Education has scheduled an emergency meeting, at the request of the new board majority, at which time they are expected to vote to terminate the current board attorney who is responsible for the prosecution of the tenure charges against Baskay and Nartowitz, as well as, to discuss and potentially vote to drop the charges altogether.
“It is clear that those individuals who would violate the privacy of the children they are charged to protect must be held accountable. I am glad that the borough was able to provide the board with enough information to conduct an investigation resulting in charges seeking to do just that,” Reiman said. “My concern now is that the new board majority that was supported for election by Mr. Nartowitz and the Carteret Education Association and of which several members possessed the inappropriately accessed records, will seek to withdraw these charges or resolve them with little more than a slap on the wrist.”
“The new Board majority is not only seeking to eliminate the prosecutor but also to remove these extremely serious charges that have already been accepted by the Commissioner of Education. All of this is being done as a payback for the political support offered to them in the school election and in an emergency meeting under a veil of secrecy” Reiman added. “They have clearly forgotten who it is they were elected to fight for.
In his letter to the Governor, Reiman pointed out that several newly installed Board of Education members were recently honored at the Carteret Education Association Christmas Party by Nartowitz. Remian concluded “I wish to insure on behalf of the students involved and all students within the Borough, as well as my entire community, that this matter receive an independent and thorough investigation and that proper action be taken to prevent it from being inappropriately ignored.”