Erroneous Accusations

Jan 17, 2018

Voters of Surf City:

I must respond to the political commentary in John McMenamin’s letter (“Uphold School Mandate,” 1/10) as it is incorrect and confrontational. These erroneous and detrimental accusations must be addressed to allow the voters of Surf City to make an informed decision as they enter the voting booth on Jan. 23 in the special LBI Consolidated school board election of Surf City.

To address Mr. McMenamin’s first assertion, maintenance on buildings and buses has been and continues to be ongoing. Unfortunately, the board of education is constantly maintaining old buildings and aging buses. Due to budgetary constraints caused by the expenses of shoring up the decaying LBI Grade School building, a newer bus was not able to be purchased.

The board contracts with a local provider for bus maintenance, and we have already addressed the state of our buses with them. None of the current issues could put LBI students at risk, which is the board’s utmost concern. As for buses being declared unfit, the buses were already being worked on when state inspectors moved their inspection up by two weeks (before the repairs could be completed) with no notice.

There are charges that the buildings have not been maintained. That is not correct. Again, the safety and welfare of students and staff are always the primary concern. The LBI Grade School building is not an “excellent structure”; it is a crumbling structure that the board has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to shore up to maintain until a resolution can be voted on.

As far back as the 1990s, when the LBI building was found to have scouring of the pilings (piles), the board has tried, in vain, to prevent Mother Nature from completely destroying the building. There were major renovations done at that time, but the board was told in the future the same problems would reappear due to the riparian river that runs under the school.

In 2010 the board voted to consolidate both the E.J. and LBI buildings, thereby closing the LBI building. As a result, any long-term plans to spend millions of dollars to maintain the structure were put aside. Although no major permanent repairs have been completed, the building has been maintained to ensure structural integrity for the safety of the students until the consolidation of the two schools is complete. No one anticipated that the move to E.J. would still not be completed by 2018.

Mr. McMenamin also perpetuates the misconception that the Choice program costs the LBI School District money. It does not. The state pays the district $12,000 per student to attend the district. Our class sizes have always been lower to ensure a quality education for our students. Class sizes remain on the low side even with the addition of Choice students. Forty-two Choice students spread out over seven grade levels (with two classes per grade level) equals an average of only three Choice students per class.

There is no increase in cost of accepting the students since the same nurses, teachers, superintendent, principal, secretaries, cafeteria workers, instructional aides, contracted professionals, maintenance staff/costs, board of education personnel, utilities, instructional materials all remain the same. The statistic that is the “per pupil cost” of the LBI District would be even higher if the 42 Choice students were not included.

We are a small district so the collective, mostly mandated costs seem high due to the small number of students in the equation. Frankly, I believe the LBI District school tax paid by all of us in the district is proof of the fiscal responsibility of the district. The Choice Program, when properly administered, can only enhance our district and safeguard against having our district become too small to properly ensure a quality education for our students.

On a personal level, I must correct Mr. McMenamin in his claims following “a special word to those parents who have students in the LBI District …”

1) I am one member on a board of nine people. We held numerous votes and meetings on what actions to take regarding the referendum. I was never personally in favor of the final referendum as it went to the voters. Most of the time during these meetings I was in the minority not to move forward with the final referendum.

2) I am a school librarian. I fought a long and valiant fight to maintain the special position of school librarian. Unfortunately, this was one of the many positions/items that the Long Beach Island School District has had to cut back on due to the continual expenses of shoring up a decaying building for a small population of students.

I was instrumental in championing the TIPP program, which replaced the traditional school library. We do still maintain a separate library in each building, and TIPP includes many of the new experiences found in modern libraries that are keeping up with the technological changes of our age while still providing a literary experience.

3) I also fought to maintain school field trips, however when the school professionals indicated that the budget (2 percent cap and extra maintenance issues to correct) would not allow for the many trips the students had enjoyed over the years there was not much to vote on. I never voted against a field trip that I believed was educational and fundamental to the well-being of our students. As it stands, there is currently at least one field trip for each grade.

4) As to the charge “Who decided to delay the proper maintenance and repairs to the buildings and buses? My opponent” – that is a complete fabrication.

Perhaps if Mr. McMenamin had attended any board meetings since he submitted his petition to run in July (except for the Dec. 19 meeting he and his wife did attend) he would actually know how I voted on all maintenance issues that were brought to the board for a vote.

As to his close association with educators, (“I come from a family of educators”), this family includes his wife, who is a current teacher at Southern Regional High School. I only mention this to point out the fact that despite his previous assertions regarding his desire to cut teachers’ salaries, all committees/votes involving the teachers/contracts of LBI will not be able to have Mr. McMenamin’s input due to the Ethics Act, which oversees ethical conduct in government.

I am proud of my tenure on the Long Beach Island Board of Education and would like to continue to work for the district and taxpayers of Surf City. It appears that the district is in turmoil, but I believe now that the divisive referendum vote has passed, the board will be able to work together to come up with the solution that is needed for the Island. We have a precious responsibility and opportunity to maintain a quality education in our district, and I pledge to perpetuate a forward movement.

Please come out to vote on Jan. 23.

Allyn Kain

Surf City

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