Madness in Roxbury

As you probably have seen, the Roxbury school board Monday night censured dissident member Maureen Castriotta. This proves once again that democracy and school boards do not often go together.
Castriotta was accused of trespassing and intefering with the administration when she attended a student protest in April. The most amusing part of this circus was when board members said they were concerned about the safety of students — as if Castriotta was going to beat them up.
One of those making the pathetic student safety argument was board member Pat Miller. Some in town may recall that Miller was on the board when it was harshly criticized by the Morris County Prosecutor for its handling of a sexual assault in the high school.
So, as you can see, student safety, like democracy, with the Roxbury school board, tends to be a bit selective.


About fsnowflack
Fred Snowflack was editorial page editor and a political columnist for the Daily Record of Morristown for almost 12 years. He has won numerous awards for editorial and column writing from the New Jersey Press Association and has written a blog on county and state politics for the last three years. He lives in Ledgewood in Morris County.

17 Responses to Madness in Roxbury

  1. P says:

    This story proves that Roxbury has the worst BOE in the county.

    First – Multi-year 4.7% salary increases (get ready for cuts to people and programs again next year)

    Second – Super/principal/teachers encouraging student protests to support their outsized salaries and benefits (remind us, who doesn’t treat the kids like “drug mules?”)

    Third – And now, Censuring the only person at the HS who didn’t lose her mind that day!

    John Moschella, President (2013)
    Patricia Miller, Vice President (2011)
    Annette Brooks (2012)
    Theresa D’Agostino (2013)
    Jennifer Marchesi (2011)
    Carol Scheneck (2013)
    Gregory Somjen (2011)

    What A Bunch of Clowns

  2. Debi says:

    What distresses me the most about the Maureen Castriotta situation is the way in which the BOE trampled her Constitutional rights. Also, the Board members have now opened us up to a costly law suit because they acted as authority above the Constitution of the United States and can now be officially recalled according to the BOE bylaws.

    The town lawyer did not read the all of Section 0146. Here is the pertinent part that was omitted at last night’s meeting: Board members are entitled to express themselves publicly on any matter, including issues involving the Board and the school district. Individual Board members cannot, however, express the position of the Board except as expressly authorized, in accordance with the Board Policy No. 9120. A Board member shall not represent his/her personal opinion as the position of the Board and shall include in all formal expressions in which his/her Board affiliation is likely to be recognized, such as letters to government officials or newspapers, speeches to organizations and the like, a statement that the opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the board.

    She did not violate that part of the bylaws. According to the bylaws, she was free to express her opinion. It was malicious slander and nothing less.

    Regarding the “walk out”. First, it was authorized by Mr. Swanson and Dr. Rossi. They knew the day before that it was going to happen and they did nothing to discourage the students from doing it. This action, in itself, opens us up to any number of law suits. Most of those children were minors. As such, permission slips would be needed to excuse a student from class. I sincerely doubt that 600 permission slips were obtained. Secondly, a permit for lawful assembly was not issued to these students. Thirdly, the press was welcomed at the walk out which makes me believe that either Mr. Swanson or Dr. Rossi “invited” them to attend.

    Lastly, if the principal of the high school and the superintendent cannot MANAGE and exert their authority over their students, they are incompetent and should be DISMISSED immediately.

    Shame on Pat Miller who only stated the view point (and IMHO, a pack of lies) that Rossi and Swanson presented as truth etched in stone.

    Shame on those who voted to censure Ms. Castriotta. At the very least, she should start the recall procedure against the members of the board for trampling her rights.

  3. Maureen Castriotta says:

    Click on link to read the statement I made during the censure hearing:

    Maureen Castriotta, Roxbury Township School board member speaking on my own behalf and not that of the Roxbury school board

  4. Bob says:

    This brings to mind one of my favorite Mark Twain quotes: “In the first place, God made Idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.” Following the Equator; Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar

  5. Ken Bank says:

    I’ll be devil’s advocate. The Board was right, and I read Ms. Castriotta’s statement. By her own admission she was distracting the Principal and Suiperintendent from doing their job with questions that could have been asked at the appropriate time and place.

    As to the student safety issue, we had similar walkouts at the school my son goes to. The Principal and Vice-Principal had their hands full trying to prevent kids from leaving school property. In a few instances they had to chase and physically restrain some kids. Fortunately, I live in a school district where the board members do not show up to these events distracting the officials involved from doing their job. And yes, asking questions can be a distraction if it means the officials have to spend time answering questions from a school board member instead of keeping a constant watchful eye on the students.

    Finally, I commend the students for their political awareness, and I commend the Principal and Superintendent for exhibiting restraint and discretion, and the rest of the Roxbury School Board for letting the professionals do their job without literally looking over their shoulder and being a hindrance. I say this both as a parent and as an anti-Vietnam War, political radical who participated in many protests when I was in high school. Fortunately, as in Roxbury, the school officials and school board members in the school district I attended respected us as young adults, and we didn’t have political reporters around questioning the motives of our teachers and administrators in tolerating our actions.

    One other interesting item. In her statement Ms.Castriotta mentions emails she got from Governor Christie and Bret Schundler telling school districts how to handle the protests. This from the same Governor who claims he wants to give local officials more discretion and flexibility in handling their affairs. Of course, that doesn’t apply to issues that prove politically embarrassing to the Governor.

  6. Gee Ken, I thought you were a liberal … Which means you should not support the establishment, but those fighting it. In this case, the establishment is the education community and all of its tentacles — the NJEA, the superintendents and the school boards association, which strives to maintain the status quo. Maureen is not going along, and that is why she is being slapped down.

  7. Ken Bank says:

    “Lastly, if the principal of the high school and the superintendent cannot MANAGE and exert their authority over their students, they are incompetent and should be DISMISSED immediately.”

    And this comment is totally ridiculous. I won’t bring up the Kent State analogy (even though I just did) but from a practical standpoint I’d like to see how these armchair disciplinarians would restrain hundreds of high school students from exercising their first amendment rights, with or without permission, if they are determined to do so.

    And if its OK for political reporters, other interested parties, and even Governor Christie himself to accuse teachers and administrators of “selective” enforcement, I accuse those same armchair disciplinarians of selective outrage because I do not believe they would be this upset if the students had walked out of class to protest property taxes and demand teachers accept a pay freeze.

    In the end it’s all about the politics no matter which side you’re on.

  8. Steve says:

    Let us see..she violated her otah of elected office by representing herself as a school board official WITHOUT the offical sanction of the BOE, something she should be very aware of She refused to sign in as per rules ste for by the Roxbury BOE and refused to laeve when directed to by school administrators. Thus she is also guilty of trespass. As a BOE member she has no excuse for failure to comply with either first two. As is her usual MO she verbal accosts, slanders and defames school board officals and lastly, and the part as a parent I find ao abhorent of her, she has the nerve to verbally and from what I am reading in the complaint to be files, physically accosted severa students. She placed her hands on children other than her own in an attempt to forec them back into class (all caught on several cellphone videos)

    Go ahead Fred defend this person She had ZERO purpose to be at the protest other than to get her name and face nack in the papers

    As mentioned by a student editorial Come election time no way no how

  9. Steve:
    You are writing pure nonsense. She is an elected official and, as such, she can represent herself as one. You are also making things up, She accosted no students; she said hello to a student she knew. Saying she placed her hands on kids is a malicious lie, And really now, it’s pretty lame to bring up elections. There was one last year and she was the top votegetter.

  10. Ken Bank says:

    “Gee Ken, I thought you were a liberal … Which means you should not support the establishment, but those fighting it. In this case, the establishment is the education community and all of its tentacles — the NJEA, the superintendents and the school boards association, which strives to maintain the status quo. Maureen is not going along, and that is why she is being slapped down.”

    So if some TNut like Rand Paul wants to take on the “establishment” by eliminating social security, medicare, and civil rights that makes him a “liberal”. Was Steve Lonegan a “liberal” for taking on the GOP (ie RINO)bosses in New Jersey?

    And if supporting the status quo in my school district, which does a fantastic job educating my kids (and it is supposed to be about educating kids, isn’t it?), disqualifies me from being a “liberal” so be it.

    I also do not believe it is a liberal position to take crititicizing school officials for exercising discretion and restraint in dealing with these kinds of protests. For someone defending Ms. Castriotta to suggest that officials should be fired immediately because they didn’t lock the kids in their classroom to keep them from protesting is not my ideal of liberalism.

    I really think bringing up the NJEA is irrelevant to the point I was trying to make which is that as a parent I would have been upset if a school board member showed up at my son’s school while a protest was taking place and was distracting officials from doing their job by asking questions that could just as easily have been asked at the appropriate time and place.

  11. I really did not mean the likes of Rand Paul and Lonegan. we are talking about schools in New Jersey. School boards and the assortment of Kafka-like rules under which they operate are anything but liberal.

  12. Ken Bank says:

    “I really did not mean the likes of Rand Paul and Lonegan. we are talking about schools in New Jersey. School boards and the assortment of Kafka-like rules under which they operate are anything but liberal.”

    You may be right about other issues, but on the issue of school board members showing up in this kind of situation and distracting officials from doing their job, and IMHO from her own statement she was a distraction, there should be some kind of sanction to discourage others from the same conduct.

    On a side note, in my district we did have a “house-cleaning” of the school board two years ago. A new superintendent was hired (at much lower cost), and things were going pretty smoothly until Christie came along with his budget cuts. Now my kids have to walk two miles to get to school since they took away their school bus, and by the time they get there they’ll be too exhausted to learn anything!

  13. Tea Party voter says:

    Glad I am a conservaative! But the topic and discussion was lively. Imagine if the current primary election for Freeholder became a topic of of this blog? Mayabe 2 comments? Wonder what happened last night at the debate… no reports today. Did the DR cover it?

  14. dominospizza says:

    Reply to Ken – I read her statement too and you are not telling the truth. You don’t mention Castriotta said she did try to get her questions answered by the Superintendent but he didn’t respond to her. Why didn’t the Superintendent tell the board there was going to be something as major as a protest? Another thing, where in her statement is there an admission that she was distracting the Superintendent and Principal? That’s your spin. She asked them a few questions. Since when is that a crime? And even if it was a distraction, it’s pretty extreme for the principal to threaten to have her arrested for trespassing. Interesting,the administration didn’t think having the newspaper reporters around as distracting and didn’t have a problem taking the time to answer their questions and didn’t think that was interfering with their job. Why weren’t the reporters accused of trespassing or were they invited? If they were, then it would appear the administrators were using this demonstration for their own agenda.

    Another point, nowhere in the statement does Castriotta say she was against the student’s protest or say the students should be locked up in the classroom . She said she felt the walkout was a violation of policy – completely different. One last thing, nowhere in here statement does it say she wanted the administration immediately fired. She said she thought the board should decide if a school policy was violated and if the administration should be disciplined. Last thought, you say you support student protest – that’s fine. So why aren’t you asking yourself why the Superintendent simply didn’t recommend to the board that they rescind the policy that didn’t allow student protests? Policy is policy and it’s the Superintendent’s job to enforce it.

  15. Bob Grant says:

    Ken, your grasp of the obvious needs some improvement. The principal in Roxbury was participating in the demonstration and not controlling the kids. Check the Daily Record stories and photos, He wasn’t chasing after anyone. Your story about the administrators at your son’s school physically restraining kids is pure fabrication. No one is allowed to touch a child unless the child is in immediate danger or is threatening someone. If you want to be treated like a grownup, kindly don’t pee on my boots and tell me it is a rainstorm.

    The Board of Education which has refused to do anything, the Principal and the others who let these kids romp around the grounds on school time, should all be disciplined.

  16. SW says:

    I’m so sick of the lame argument that Rossi and Swanson couldn’t have kept the kids in class. That’s such B.S. If they really wanted to enforce the rules and prevent kids from walking out of school during school hours, they would have warned all the kids what the consequences would be if they participated, then sent Honeywell alerts to all the parents about it also, and had something on the website. It’s simple – you participate in this planned violation of school rules, and you will be suspended; barred from participation in any and all extra-curricular activities for the remainder of this school year; and if you’re a senior, you will not be allowed to attend graduation. With that, offer two choices for them to “express” themselves – protest for an hour either before school or after school on that day. Then, we’d see just how much these kids care about or even understand what the hell the issues are, or if they just thought this would be a fun waste of time and escape from class for a while.

    Rossi is a complete disgrace, a pompous, condescending moron. He’s also the last nail in the coffin as far as I’m concerned and has made my family’s decision to pull our kids out of this school system so much easier. In the end, we asked ourselves a simple question. If we were “shopping” for a school for our kids as we did back in pre-school, would we ever select Roxbury as the school system we’d like to them to be in? Nope, never, no way. We can do much better by our kids, so we’re out of here. It’s a shame, too because 20-30 years ago I actually got a pretty decent education in this same school system. My, how things have changed. Unfortunately, things won’t get any better until most of the current board is gone.

  17. Debi says:

    SW, you said it all. An announcement over the intercom defining the disciplinary actions that would be taken to any student who participated in the walk-out would have stopped it. Actually disciplining these students would prevent such action in the future.

    Ken, with all due respect, you are off base. Had the protest been prevented, the student’s first amendment rights would not have been violated. Ms. Castriotta’s first amendment rights, however, were violated when censure was issued. Read the bylaws.

    Ken, if you had a child in the high school and 600 students decided to protest Obama’s Health Care Bill, or Roe V Wade, and he/she went along with the crowd to get out of a class, would you be happy about it? Would you still support Rossi and Swanson’s lack of leadership?

    Before school or after school with the proper permits is fine; but just to willy nilly walk out and be allowed to do so by the administration is ludicrous.

    Our BOE is an excellent example of weak leadership. One Board member even said that he doesn’t know enough about education to make a decision and follows the expert, Dr. Rossi’s recommendations. Stinking thinking at it’s best: it’s like the CEO of a major corporation seeking advice from the maintenance staff on how to cut expenses in his company.

    Roxbury has a horrendous track record when it comes to hiring superintendents and its record continues with Dr. Rossi.

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