The turnout for the April 19 school board election was only 2,112 voters, out of a possible 22,009 on the rolls as of April 1. That works out to 9.5 percent, if my math is correct. I suspect the Nov. 8 general election, with a presidential choice at the top of the ballot, will do a little better than that.
Please feel free to correct me on any of these points.
If in fact the cost of changing the election was $115,000, then based on the turnout, each voter's trip to the polls cost taxpayers $54.45.
Among other side effects of the change plus election results, Wilma Campbell's final term as president began on Jan. 5, but will end on May 3, when the Board of Education organizes with swearing-in of new members and selection of officers to serve for a year. Those who won in November 2015 will see eight months cut from their three-year terms, as they will end in April 2018 instead of Dec. 31, 2018.
Someone described Mayor Adrian O. Mapp's involvement as a power grab, but having observed mayors over the years, I know the quality of city schools has been a concern of many. Older residents recall the days when the Plainfield district excelled academically. For whatever reason, it has not recovered its former reputation and even school board members have chosen private or parochial schools for their children over the public schools.
Charter schools are being blamed for drawing off funds from district schools, but they are also public schools. Due to expansions, their portion of the budget increased from $6.5 million in 2007-2008 to $16.2 million in 2014-2015, with $19.6 anticipated for 2016-2017. All four charter schools in Union County are in Plainfield. They operate under the Office of Charter Schools in the state Department of Education, not the local Board of Education.
The new board members are expected to take training on their responsibilities and will also have to pledge to uphold the Code of Ethics for School Board Members. If all observe this part of the code, we should not have to worry about any mayor or politician having their way with board members:
I will refuse to surrender my independent judgment to special interest or partisan political groups or to use the schools for personal gain or for the gain of friends.