Schools Superintendent Anna Belin-Pyles made the charge on camera at Monday's City Council meeting and called it libelous. She said the summit needed to be held a day later because the district was making a change in class scheduling. Pressed by Councilwoman Gloria Taylor to respond, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said Belin-Pyles made an "executive decision" to cancel the Youth Summit.
Belin-Pyles spoke in public comment, saying she was "here to discuss a personal attack on my character and reputation" and "misuse of city equipment and resources." She said she had told City Administrator Rick Smiley that due to circumstances the Youth Summit could not take place on Nov. 12, and "respectfully asked" to have it take place on the 13th.
According to an event announcement, the scheduled date was Nov. 13:
On November 13th, Plainfield youth will unite for facilitated conversations among their peers about education and employment.
This youth summit is a collaborative effort of Mayor Adrian O. Mapp and The School District of Plainfield.
- Keynote: Dr. Marc Lamont Hill
- Boys Convocation: Felipe Luciano
- Performances by New Jersey's own DJ Lil Man
- To better understand youth's educational and employment needs and hopes
- To develop strategies for meeting youth's educational and employment needs
- To connect each youth to a youth-serving resource and organization
As for a special Board of Education meeting Belin-Pyles mentioned, that was held on Saturday, Oct. 31 - the weekend before the general election and the same day as a picnic for independent City Council candidate John Campbell, son of school board President Wilma Campbell and board member John C. Campbell. The board had given permission to use a park on Cook School grounds, but Mapp had allegedly ordered city staff not to issue an event permit for the picnic. As chairman of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee, Mapp was backing incumbent Democratic candidate Cory Storch for re-election.
While Belin-Pyles did not mention the politics, the now-disputed canceling of the summit was regarded by some as political retaliation.
Belin-Pyles insisted Monday the summit was not canceled and that she had only requested postponement for one day.
Mapp made no response Monday until Taylor, a retired school administrator herself, said she was very concerned about the superintendent's remarks. She called the dispute a "riff" and deplored the use of robo-calls "in a somewhat demeaning and political way."
"I really would like an explanation," she said, adding the city attorney could be consulted "about legalities."
"I'm not going to accuse the honorable, since he's here tonight," she said referring to Mapp.
Taylor said the robo-call "turned into .. I don't want to say." Looking at Mapp, she queried him by just saying, "Honorable?"
Mapp said the Youth Summit was canceled by the superintendent of schools by "her executive decision."
"Even if that was the case, why did you use the robo-calls as if you were angry?" Taylor said.
At that point, BOE President Wilma Campbell stepped up to the microphone, even though public comment had been closed.
"Why use an instrument of communication to get your feelings out?" Taylor said.
"We could spend a lot of time about what happened or what should have happened," he said, asking all parties to commit to positivity.
After a bit more rehashing from the board president, the meeting was adjourned, but on her way out Taylor stopped to keep talking to the mayor.
See the original Youth Summit flyer here. Mapp has announced it will now be held in early 2016.
Click to view David Rutherford's video on this topic.