Monday, April 11, 2016

Mayor Mapp Squelches Misleading Board of Ed Election Rumors

Below is a letter that I sent to Plainfield Education Association (PEA) President Eric E. Jones in response to inaccurate and misleading rumors regarding the Board of Education election. The complete text is also readable below the original.

April 11, 2016

Dear Mr. Jones,

I want to write to you about two matters of concern to you and your members that have come up in the context of the current Board of Education election campaign. I am sorry I was unable to be with you at the PEA Candidate Forum on Wednesday evening. I was out of the city on business.

But first, I want to congratulate you on your recent election as president of the Plainfield Education Association (PEA). It has certainly been disconcerting in recent years to see the local unit languish under mediocre and dysfunctional leadership. I trust that your tenure will be marked by a new vigor on the part of the PEA in pursuit not only of equity and fairness for your members but in excellent educational outcomes for all our students, for whom the PEA is one of the first lines of defense.

The first matter I want to touch upon is that of union members' status and the question of outsourcing.

I have heard that some people are saying that I, as Mayor, want to privatize certain portions of the District's staff as a cost-saving measure.

This is ridiculous for two reasons. In the first place, I have always been a strong and consistent supporter of unions as protectors of workers' job rights, as well as their economic well-being. When I was a young man starting out in my career as a financial professional, being a member of a union saved my job when it was under attack. I have never forgotten that fact and will be eternally grateful for the support of the union for one of its members.

Secondly, the suggestion that the Mayor is in a position to decide on a question of outsourcing of ANY public school employees does not hold up when the facts are reviewed. In some communities, the Mayor appoints the Board of Education members. That used to be the case in Plainfield, but the practice was abolished in the late 1980s, when ELECTED school boards were decided upon for Plainfield by a public referendum.

Under our current system, the governance and management of the City and the School District are separate, with neither having any say (other than the public expression of opinions) on the operation of the other. These facts make a rumor that I, as Mayor, will make changes in staffing or governance laughable.

There is however, good reason to be concerned about the outsourcing of District jobs. I know that rumors were circulating among employees in the weeks leading up to the Superintendent's presentation of the proposed FY2017 budget to the Board that layoffs were likely and that the Superintendent was in consultation with Board President Campbell about outsourcing certain employee functions as a cost-saving measure. PEA members would be well-advised to be vigilant about this concern and to monitor the situation closely.

The second concern is the matter of Charter Schools.

I understand from several people who were in attendance at the Forum (one of whom is my wife Amelia), that Board President Campbell, under criticism from several candidates for appearing to have no plan of action for dealing with the surge of Charters in Plainfield, responded that "Mayor Mapp is a supporter of Charter Schools," citing my attendance at a ribbon-cutting for the College Achieve Charter School in support of her assertion.

Let's be perfectly frank. In the first place, Charter Schools have been a growing presence in Plainfield for fifteen years or so now. They are granted their charters by the state, which may also revoke them. I have been Mayor for less than three years. Board President Campbell has been on the school board for twelve years, and is seeking yet another three-year term. Her mandate covers all matters school-related. Mine does not. You tell me which one of us bears the responsibility for the Charter School situation in Plainfield.

As for my attending the ribbon-cutting for the College Achieve Charter School, it is my ceremonial duty as the chief executive of the City government to welcome new businesses and institutions. In fact, I would have been present at the ribbon-cutting for the recognition of the District's acceptance of the $25 million gift of the former National Starch property from the Schools Development Authority -- had my invitation not been last minute and had it not conflicted with a previously scheduled engagement. But I could not. I find it interesting that instead, Board President Campbell is pictured with the Republican Lt. Governor, Kim Guadagno, in that very ribbon-cutting, on the billboard currently on display over the Plainfield Donut Shop. And it is this billboard which has caused such public comment and outrage as an instance of the improper and unethical use of District funds to promote a candidate in a school board election.

All that being said, I do have a criticism concerning the Charter Schools. And that criticism is directed against the Superintendent and the Board President for not developing EVEN THE OUTLINE OF A PLAN to deal with the Charters' encroachment on the District.

Charter Schools certainly have had mixed outcomes in Plainfield, with some earning plaudits for being well-run, innovative and fostering student excellence. However, some are mediocre, barely or not even surpassing the performance levels of students in the District, with underpaid staffs, inexperienced and unaccountable boards and fiscal sloppiness. In fact, several Charters in Plainfield have been revoked by the State.

When Charter Schools were first proposed about twenty years ago, the big sales pitch was that they would be INNOVATIVE, that students would PERFORM BETTER, that parents would have MORE CHOICE, and that the host Districts would be able to appropriate those measures that would improve THEIR situations.

One scarcely hears about the innovativeness of Charter Schools any more. And records show that for the most part they are hardly different from the District in test scores. So, why haven't the Superintendent and the Board President demanded accountability on those counts alone? If the Charters have found certain innovations -- whether in curriculum or management -- to be beneficial, why hasn't the District culled those innovations and put them into practice to improve the situation in the District?

The answer seems to point to an unwillingness or inability on the Superintendent's and the Board President's parts to do the heavy lifting necessary to improve the educational environment for Plainfield's teachers and lay the groundwork for better outcomes for the District's students.

Decency demands that these concerns be addressed.

I am hopeful that the Plainfield Education Association's members will see fit to support candidates in the election who will demonstrate that they have the grit and determination to bring transparency and a welcoming spirit to the Board, as well as fairness, equity and accountability to the Superintendent's management of the District.

In closing, I must say that several people have spoken to me about how well run and thoughtfully planned out your Forum was on Tuesday. That is refreshing indeed, since some "forums" offered to Plainfield residents and voters seem little more than thinly disguised opportunities to promote selected candidates. This, of course, does not refer to the League of Women Voters, whose forums are considered the "gold standard" and have been for the last 95 years, since their inception in 1920. (Their candidate forum is next Wednesday, April 13 at 6:30 PM at the Plainfield Public Library; I am hopeful PEA members will attend and raise their concerns in this highly respected forum.)

Lastly, I want to wish you all the best in your tenure as president of the Plainfield Education Association. If there is any way that I or the City can be of help, please do not hesitate to contact me.

I hope you will feel free to share this letter with all your members. Since the topics herein are part of the ongoing public conversation in this election cycle, I am also going to post it to my personal blog at

With every best wish.


Adrian O. Mapp
City of Plainfield

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great letter Mayor Mapp