Windfall from the state

School district collects $2.6 million from 1997 school projects

The old saying “better late than never” applied very well to a debt for school construction the State of New Jersey has owed Bayonne since 1997.
The district was able to collect this month the state’s portion for construction work done on three schools in Bayonne prior to 1997.
As part of a construction grants program, the state was supposed to reimburse the district $630,565 for $1.6 million in construction at John M. Bailey School; $831,052 for $2.1 million in construction at Mary J. Donohoe School; and $1.2 million for $3 million in construction costs at Washington Community School.
School Business Administrator Leo Smith said the problem in collecting the money had to do with the nearly constantly changing state governors and the change of personnel that came with each change.
“When we started this, Christie Whitman was governor,” Smith said. “We sent all the paperwork into the person she had in charge. Then she went to work for the federal government, and Donald DiFrancesco became governor. He brought in his own people. So we submitted the paperwork again.”

“We’ve sent the paperwork in again and again, but this is the first time we were successful.” — Dr. Patricia McGeehan
Before the state could make payment, Jim McGreevey was elected governor, and the staff in the Department of Education changed once more, and once more Bayonne submitted paperwork to get its portion of money for the construction projects.
But before the district could collect, McGreevey resigned and state Senator Richard Codey became acting governor. He was soon replaced by Gov. Jon Corzine. Finally, with the election of Gov. Christopher Christie, the state was able to process the request and sent the $2.6 million to cover its share of the work.
“We finally got a steady person, Kathy Alexander, to deal with this, and she told us to send the paperwork in and we did,” Smith said.
“We’ve sent the paperwork in again and again, but this is the first time we were successful,” said Schools Superintendent Dr. Patricia McGeehan.
Smith said that this is only the first of several requests for repayment on construction that Bayonne will be making.
“We’re working on the paperwork for 2004 next,” Smith said. “Overall, the state still owes us more than $11 million.”

National TV spot filmed at Bayonne High School

Bayonne High School is being featured on an education promotional video being aired nationwide on NBC network, Smith said.
Called “26 Seconds,” the promotional video deals with the fact that a high school student drops out of school every 26 seconds.
Smith said Jordan Brothers Entertainment paid the district $7,000 to film the segment, which was filmed at the high school during the last week in August.
Bayonne High School has been featured in a number of movies and commercials over the years, including a 2009 film starring Bruce Willis and the 1995 film “Grosse Point Blank,” starring John Cusack.
Smith said the district receives numerous requests from film companies and that the district – using the talents of student photographers – has posted about 90 photos in a slide show on the high school Web site to allow film companies to look at aspects of the school for possible future productions.

Bounty for reporting illegal students renewed

The Board of Education renewed its bounty program offering $200 for information leading to the removal of students who are illegally attending Bayonne schools.
Assistant Superintendent Robert Craig said the school district increased the bounty from $100 last year, but that most people who report illegal students opted not to collect the reward. He said last year, the school responded to 35 complaints.
Smith said the district has received a $92,000 safety grant from the State of New Jersey, the highest amount awarded to any school district this year. This is the third consecutive year Bayonne has received safety grants from the state.
Smith said this year’s grant will be used to upgrade security throughout the high school, including new cameras and a swipe card system.
The district has officially opened its new maintenance garage on Juliette Street, Smith said, which will allow for the closing of the Ninth Street building, which they had been using for some operations.
“We will probably have to knock down the building on Ninth Street,” he said, “and we’ll sell the property.”
The Ninth Street property had served for some functions, but repair of vehicles often required the district to use the city garage or for a time, buildings located on the former Military Ocean Terminal. In many cases, repairs had been done outside in a parking lot when no other accommodations could be found.
The Juliet Street building is a former factory located in the industrial area near Avenue A.
Al Sullivan may be reached at

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