ROSELLE, NJ — The local school board was unable to approve a president or vice president after one member abruptly resigned, causing a split in votes for nearly every measure voted on at the board’s Jan. 8 reorganization meeting.
Arthur Rice, who served for one year, made his resignation effective Jan. 5, the day after the board’s originally scheduled reorganization meeting. But a “bomb cyclone” snowstorm that hit New Jersey on Jan. 4 forced the meeting to be postponed, throwing the school board into almost complete paralysis.
“It is with a heavy heart that I write you to inform you that I will be resigning from the Roselle school board effective January 5, 2018,” Rice wrote in an email to administrators and board members that was obtained by LocalSource. “I am resigning so that I may better position myself to put my family in the best position possible.”
Rice’s vacancy brought the nine-member board down to eight. Rice could not be reached for comment before press time this week.
Four measures were put to a vote at the meeting and the rest were pulled from the table, school board attorney Allan Roth told Local Source in a Jan. 11 phone interview. The resolutions that were pulled included the meeting schedule for the upcoming year and the readoption of the curriculum.
The school board approved Rice’s resignation and the date of its next meeting, Jan. 29, Roth said. The measures to approve a president and vice president both ended in a 4-4 split.
Board member Richard Villeda first nominated Patricia Fabrizio for president, according to school board Secretary Dorian Timmons. The vote split 4-4, Timmons said.
Keyanna Jones then nominated Archange Antoine for the position, but again the members were split, Timmons said.
Similarly, Antoine first nominated Angela Alvey-Wimbush for vice president but the members were split on a vote. Fabrizio then nominated Donna Eleazer for vice president, but she did not win a majority of votes either, Timmons said.
The nominations for Antoine and Alvey Wimbush were voted in favor by themselves and by Jones and Jonathan Davis. In contrast, the nominations for Fabrizio and Eleazer were approved by themselves and Sherise Pollard and Villeda.
Roth said that Timmons, who took on the role of board president since one was not chosen, pulled all the remaining items on the agenda.
The vote to decide who will serve as president and vice president has now moved out of the local school board’s hands. Board members interested in either position had to submit letters of intent and resumes by Jan. 10 to county Superintendent Juan Torres, who will make the final decision.
No decision has been made yet, Timmons said Jan. 11.
There will continue to be an eight-member board after a president and vice president are selected, which creates the possibility of a split in votes to fill the vacant seat.
Those interested in taking over the seat vacated by Rice are advised to contact Timmons. School board members will vote from the pool of applicants to fill the seat, Roth said.
The county superintendent will appoint a new board member under certain circumstances, such as if the board doesn’t fill the vacancy within 65 days, said state Department of Education spokesman David Saenz.
“N.J.S.A. 18A:12-15 does not explicitly state what happens when a board is unable to pass the vote to elect a member to fill the vacancy,” Saenz wrote in an email. “However, in light of the fact that the statute requires the Executive County Superintendent to appoint a board member when the board does not fill the vacancy within 65 days, the vacancy must eventually be filled.”
The turmoil comes as the board is being sued by a former member, Anthony Esposito, over a proposed $59 million school, library and recreation facility — the Mind and Body Complex — that it has negotiated with the borough government to share costs.
Esposito claims the agreements between the two are invalid because the bonds guaranteed by Union County to finance the school were obtained after the agreements expired.
The school board has held multiple special meetings to amend the lease agreement to get the school and recreation project started.
An Oct. 30 special meeting last year dissolved into a back-and-forth between Antoine and the former school board President Candida Young about the public notices for the gathering. Young’s term expired this year.
Antoine and two other newcomers who ran on his ticket, Jones and Jonathan Davis, secured seats on the board after the Nov. 7 election. Jones said she and her ticket would would take a step back to evaluate the impact the project would have on taxpayers, but did not come out in favor of or against the project.
Esposito, meanwhile, said he would not seek the vacant seat on the school board.
“I do not think so because I have a pending lawsuit,” Esposito said in a phone call Jan. 12. “So that wouldn’t be good form to be on the board that I’m suing.”