My response to expansion plans for Clarendon/Huber Street Schools

Dear Editor: I am responding to a misstatement that appeared in your February 6 edition of The Secaucus Reporter in the front page article titled “Unveiled at last.” That article was written after your reporter covered the January 27 meeting of the Secaucus Board of Education, where expansion plans for both Clarendon and Huber Street Schools were unveiled. What I take exception to is your reporter’s statement: “Several board members are facing the uncomfortable prospect of having to run for re-election with the bond in April, fearing they might lose their seats if voters vote against the bond,” which he attributed to no board member. I am one of three trustees whose term will end in April, and I have already submitted my petition to seek another term on the school board. I attended the January 27 meeting, but I was never asked whether I had a problem seeking re-election on the same ballot as a school expansion bond question. For your reporter to have assumed what my response would have been is inexcusable. He had the opportunity to ask the question, and I should have been afforded the opportunity to answer it and speak for myself. Since I was denied that courtesy at the meeting, I’ll take this opportunity to answer it now. For the record, I will seek re-election to another term on the school board on April 18 and will be proud to run on the same ballot as a question that asks voters to support a very much needed, “no frills” expansion plan for our two elementary schools. In addition to believing in the need for the expansion, I totally agree with the cost-saving measure of putting the bond question on the same ballot as the vote for board members. To run a separate election, at the cost of about $25,000, would be just wasting taxpayers’s money. It would be hypocritical, on my part, to say I support the referendum, but not enough to run for re-election with it on the same ballot. I fully support expansion of both Clarendon and Huber Street Schools because it is needed to give the children of Secaucus adequate facilities to receive the education they deserve. A perusal of the expansion plans will show that the board is proposing to increase classroom and library/media center space for the students, while the relocation of the principal’s office at Huber Street School is a security move long overdue. These are not ideas or plans that we came up with overnight. They are the result of a year of meetings, discussions among committees and the full board, and talks with our architect and the administrators. Board trustees did not “rubber stamp” all the requests of the principals or the superintendent. We cut many things they asked for that we felt were not a necessity at this time because we know we have a responsibility to the taxpayers to hold the line on spending as tight as we can. However, we also have a responsibility to the children. This board moved the administration offices to a town-owned building to make more classroom space for students. We presently hold a pre-kindergarten class in the town’s recreation center. We’re using renovated closet and storage space for one-on-one instruction. The children need more classrooms. I’ve been a resident-taxpayer of Secaucus for 31 years, and I was a teacher and administrator in this district 27 years before I retired in 1995. I know how much a sound educational system that is respected throughout Hudson County promotes property values. And I know the people of Secaucus are proud of their schools and the accomplishments of their graduates. I also know that a bond referendum that will increase taxes is never welcome, but sometimes there is no other choice. It’s a double-edged sword. If we let our schools continue to be overcrowded and some of our children receive instruction in sub-standard classrooms, our school district’s reputation will be diminished and we’ll all lose. That’s the answer I would have willingly given to your reporter, if only he had taken the time to ask me. Edward Rittberg School Board Trustee


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