ROSELLE, NJ — The white school board president who was told by a black board member during an Aug. 16 board meeting that her “white privilege does not extend to this end of the table” claims it was just the latest episode of being “racially assaulted” by fellow board members.
Patricia Fabrizio, the only white member of the board, made the claim after an exchange in which Keyanna Jones responded with the remark when Fabrizio asked all board members to put away their cell phones. Shortly after Jones made the “white privilege” comment, board members Jones, Archange Antoine and Angela Alvey-Wimbush walked out of the meeting.
Fabrizio said she filed a formal complaint regarding remarks by Jones and the other members with board attorney Allan Roth between March and May, and that no action has been taken on it. She identified Jones and Antoine as two of the board members mentioned in the complaint.
ROSELLE SCHOOL BOARD – Below is an audio clip of the opening minutes of the Aug. 16 Roselle Board of Education meeting, recorded by Union County LocalSource, included a contentious exchange between board President Patricia Fabrizio and board member Keyanna Jones.
She is also calling on interim School Superintendent James Baker to act to stop Jones, Antoine and two other board members’ frequent alleged “racist remarks” made toward her, which she said began in 2017.
“This has been escalated to Allan Roth and this has been escalated to the superintendent of schools to take immediate action,” Fabrizio said.
“It is, in fact, a hate crime and it should be handled accordingly. That’s the bottom line here, this should be handled accordingly. If that means this needs to be reported to the state of New Jersey in any of its departments, then Allan and the superintendent now need to take charge of this and take care of the situation. You cannot have this in a public school and you cannot have this in politics.”
In an Aug. 18 phone interview, Jones said she has not directed any racial remarks toward Fabrizio and is unaware of any other board member doing so.
“I stand by my actions and my words,” she added.
Antoine said he has confronted Fabrizio about comments she has made to other board members that can be “perceived as racist,” but would not say what those comments were.
“I’m not willing to tell you because this would directly involve board members and not one board member. I’m talking about multiple board members who are affected by her comments,” Antoine said.
The Aug. 16 school board meeting turned contentious a few minutes after it began. As Baker was providing background on a resolution to approve a new teacher-evaluation tool, Fabrizio said, “I would like to ask the board members to put their phones away so that we could conduct board business this evening.”
Jones took umbrage, claiming she was using her phone to search the internet for information about the evaluation tool.
“I gotta Google so I can (inaudible) decision,” Jones said.
Fabrizio responded by saying: “You’re out of line.”
Jones shot back: “No, you are out of line. I don’t know who you think you are, but your white privilege does not extend to this end of the table.”
Fabrizio again demanded members, “Put the phones away.”
Jones replied: “I’m not putting anything away. I have three children at home and if I need to check on them, I will.”
Board members then argued with Fabrizio about their phone use before Antoine, Jones and Wimbush walked out of the meeting.
Fabrizio said after the meeting that she had noticed Jones and Wimbush looking at their phones and that phone use has been an ongoing distraction during meetings.
According to Fabrizio, animosity among board members has increased since the springtime dismissal of former business administrator Jason Jones and Jade Wilson, his assistant. Jason Jones was placed on administrative leave in January. He is not related to Keyanna Jones.
According to a letter Roth sent to the state Board of Education’s Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance in March, former superintendent Richard Corbett discovered purchase orders had been placed on school board agendas months after payments were made, with his signature forged on those purchases. A copy of this letter was provided to LocalSource.
Roth said the Union County Prosecutor’s Office received a copy of a forensic audit into the spending by the school district last year.
That audit, obtained by LocalSource, appears to show that district funds were used to purchase two vehicles, Apple watches and other items.
Roth said he has not been able to act on Fabrizio’s complaint because Jason Jones was the school board’s affirmative action officer, and the board has not chosen a new one since his dismissal.
Roth declined to give any further details about Fabrizio’s complaint.
When the board reconvenes Aug. 27, it will vote on Antoine’s removal from the board. Fabrizio announced the proposal to remove him at the Aug. 16 meeting based on district policy No. 145, which states that “a member who fails to attend three consecutive regular meetings of the board without good cause may be removed from the office on the affirmative votes of a majority of the remaining board members.” She also cited a state law allowing for his removal based on multiple absences. Business Administrator Anthony Juskiewicz said Antoine had missed five board meetings between May and June.
Antoine said he missed one regular meeting and four special meetings for various reasons, including: to attend the Haitian Flag Day celebration in the township, to attend a gun violence conference, and to travel with a delegation to meet with immigrant parents in California separated from their children at the Mexican border.
He believes the vote to remove him from the board is politically motivated because board members are in the process of putting together the vendor list.
“They could have done this a month ago,” Antoine said. “They could have done this two months ago. Why are they doing it now? Because vendors are up. It’s time to give millions of dollars away and they do not want me to give my input on the vendor system.”
Before board members vote on his dismissal, Antoine will have the opportunity to address them.
Jones said she will contest Antoine’s removal.
Five board members present after Jones, Antoine and Wimbush left: Fabrizio, Vice President Donna Eleazer and board members Courtney Washington, Sherice Pollard and Richard Villeda, who was present via cell phone from his vacation. They voted to take a recess.
According to Roth, the board took a recess and did not go into executive session. He said since he could not guarantee that Villeda was on the phone, Villeda could not be included in an executive session, where personnel matters closed to the public are typically discussed.
However, Villeda was on the phone again when the board reconvened after a break of more than two hours.
If Antoine remains on the board, he will no longer be on the Personnel Committee; Fabrizio asked Pollard to take his place since Antoine has missed multiple meetings. In addition, Fabrizio asked Washington to chair the Curriculum Committee and formed an ad-hoc committee consisting of Pollard, Washington and Villeda to work on the vendor-selection process.