Education in the Media
Perth Amboy School Board Tries, Fails, to Quiet SuperintendentJuly 5, 2012
PERTH AMBOY — A resolution to prohibit embattled Perth Amboy School Superintendent Janine Caffrey from making public statements about the school board failed to pass by one vote tonight.
School board Vice President Kenneth Puccio proposed a measure outlining seven limitations on Caffrey, including publicly commenting on behalf of the board or on controversial issues involving the district.
Noting Caffrey has spoken with news reporters and even had an interview posted on YouTube disparaging the board, Puccio also called for the superintendent to be prohibited from seeking new educational programs for the district, taking any actions with “obvious” legal consequences or influencing district staff to file suit against the board.
He also wanted to forbid Caffrey from canceling or relocating extracurricular events, permitting outside organizations access to district information or resources or suspend any district staff member without written approval from the board president.
Five votes were needed to pass the resolution, but only four board members voted for approval, among them Puccio, board president Samuel LeBreault and member Israel Varela.
Two others, Mark Carvahol and Dianne Roman, said they had not seen the resolution before Puccio read it during the meeting. Roman and board member Kurt Rebovitch voted against the measure. Carvahol and two other members abstained.
Last spring, the board voted twice to place Caffrey on administrative leave and negotiate a settlement of the last two years of her contract, but each time acting state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf overturned the board action. The matter is now before a state administrative law judge.
Board members have outlined more than 20 charges against Caffrey, contending she made comments denigrating the board and the staff and destroyed morale in the district.
Caffrey called the charges baseless and said she had tried to improve the district.
In a separate action, the board reappointed 42 of 43 principals, vice principals and supervisors. Only Richardson School Principal Alvaro Cores was not reappointed.
The board votes in May on reappointments of administrators, but it failed to act this year. Any administrator not being reappointed is supposed to receive a notice before the May vote, according to state rules.
Cores has been embroiled in controversy over allegations that a secretary, Hector Muniz, sold dozen of bottles of an alcoholic beverage, coquito — a mixture of rum and coconut juice — at the school last November and December.
Caffrey said she investigated the claims and determined there was no alcohol in the school. Police conducted their own investigation last spring and issued Muniz a summons for having the beverage in a car trunk in the school parking lot.
However, last week, another school secretary, Susan Nieves, filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the district, Caffrey, Cores and others. Nieves says she reported the alcohol sales and was reprimanded, suspended and then transferred to another school.