Op Ed – An Open Letter to the City, Sounding the Alarm – By Gene Bouie

“Although I am a member of the Trenton Board of Education, the statements I am making today are not authorized by or being made on behalf of the Board but in my capacity as a private citizen, taxpayer and great-grandfather of a Trenton Public School student.”  

I am troubled again by the actions of the Trenton City Council President.  I will not sit idly by and allow Ms. McBride to harm our children.  She continues to attempt to use her position of authority in a manner that does harm to her constituents. This time, the target is the over 18,000 students that attend Trenton public schools.  Ms. McBride, who occupies the seat of the President of the City Council is ignorant of the law that governs Type I school districts and the authority of the Board of School Estimate. Her refusal to sign off on the tax levy for the upcoming school year, exemplifies her lack of knowledge. The law is clear. I would propose she and her colleagues read it carefully.  If someone in authority takes a position based solely on opinion, emotion, and vengefulness with no basis or grounding in fact, it can be viewed as an abuse of power and authority.   For me, clearly, there is ignorance. She lacks a clear understanding of issues, the subject matter, and the potential consequences of making this poor decision. The question that needs to be asked is, “What drives the decision making?”  Ms. McBride’s note to the members of the Board justifying her position stated, “As one of the lowest ranked and poorest performing districts in the state of New Jersey, my questions regarding a plan to improve the performance of the district remain unanswered”.  She goes on to say, “A prime example of this is the failure of our district to properly address the needs of our special education students, whom still lack the required individual education plans (IEP) that is key to their academic success”.  Let me admit that, yes, historically Trenton Public Schools has been classified as a low performing district.  Yes, there have been challenges in the area of Special Education. Yet, the district continues to make progress in this area.  

Ms. McBride is being disingenuous in her attempt to justify her actions. The District’s budget is in furtherance of its comprehensive 5-year strategic plan that ensures that students and student achievement is at the heart of all District initiatives and investments. The Trenton Public School District acknowledges the dedication of community members, teachers, administrators, and Board Members who volunteered their time in the development of the Strategic Plan for 2021-2026.  Additionally, the current District Goals provide significant insight as to the District priorities.  Lastly, simply by reviewing the 2022-2023 Budget Presentation with all its detail, any further questions are answered.  

By her questions, it is evident that she has not visited the Districtwebsite where answers to her questions are publicly available. It is also evident that she has not done any research, as all of her questions can be addressed through true dialogue with the District administration. Perhaps, if Ms. McBride bothered to attend the board’s budget presentation on March 28, 2022, or the Board of School Estimate’s meeting (of which she is a member) on March 29, 2022, she could have asked some of these important questions. Unfortunately, it is more likely true that she is aware of how to get the information she seeks, but she much more enjoys being deceptive and misleading the public about her true motives.  

To clear up any confusion that has come as a result of Ms. McBride’s deceptive practice, below is an itemized list of the 2022 – 2023 budget breakdown.

Itemized List of the 2022-2023 Budget Breakdown

I am very disappointed that Ms. McBride would put Trenton students, teachers, administrators and other staff at risk by intentionally delaying funding.  As she is aware, the district continues to be underfunded by millions of dollars, based on the state school funding formula.  This is a travesty and cannot go unchallenged. The district, in spite of the challenges brought on by COVID, continues to make progress. Lastly, Ms. McBride does not understand how school districts operates. So, her blaming the Trenton Board of Education is also disingenuous and further illustrates her lack of understanding.  Kathy McBride, do you exercise your authority in conformity with reason and truth, or do you just exercise it because you have it? 

I beg you to stop playing with the lives of our children.

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