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Divided Pleasantville school board fails to appoint new solicitor

Divided Pleasantville school board fails to appoint new solicitor

Pleasantville School District file

Pleasantville High School

PLEASANTVILLE — After voting to fire its solicitor last month, the local school board will wait at least a week longer to appoint a replacement.

The Pleasantville Board of Education held a special meeting Monday night to appoint a new solicitor. Board members voted on several solicitor applicants, some multiple times over the course of the meeting. No applicant received the majority of votes of the members present, so no solicitor was appointed.

The board also failed to appoint a new labor relations specialist, as it was scheduled to do.

Board member Jerome Page was absent from the meeting, leaving the eight remaining board members to split 4-4 on several votes.

The chosen solicitor will hold the seat only for 60 days. The incoming school board determined by the November elections, which will include two new members, will vote to appoint another solicitor sometime after the new members are sworn in in January.

The board was split between a bloc that supported appointing Jim Carroll, of the Carroll Law Firm, to the vacant solicitor position, and those that did not. Those opposing Carroll included board President Julio Sanchez and Vice President Elysa Sanchez, as well as board members Richard Norris and Cassandra Clements. Those supporting Carroll included board members Alejandrina Alberto, Yadira Falcon, Anny Melo and Sharnell Morgan.

Carroll previously served as the solicitor for the board for several years. His opponents on the board, as well as several residents who spoke during the public comment section, were critical of his tenure. They maintained he did not support the district or its children. They also maintain he expressed disinterest in continuing as solicitor when he last left the position.

Votes held to reappoint the law firm of the previous solicitor, Lester Taylor, failed by a 4-3 vote against. Falcon did not vote as he hadn’t yet arrived at the meeting when that vote took place. Julio Sanchez, Elysa Sanchez and Norris voted in the affirmative.

The board was originally scheduled to appoint a new solicitor at the regularly scheduled meeting held last Tuesday, but efforts to appoint a new solicitor were scuttled when Julio Sanchez objected to the vote taking place. Sanchez noted that the members of the board had yet to be given the proposals of the law firms that had applied to be solicitor, and asked that the board be given time to review them.

After long, acerbic arguments between Sanchez and Page, the board voted to appoint a solicitor at the special meeting Monday. Residents offering public comment excoriated the board for what they believed was its petty concern for internal politics, and for not showing an interest in the well-being of the district’s children.

The board voted to dismiss its previous solicitor, Taylor, on Oct. 12, with his termination becoming effective Nov. 21.

The board took action against other school officials during the Oct. 12 meeting, putting Superintendent Natakie Chestnut-Lee on leave by a 5-2 vote. Interim Superintendent Karin Farkus was given a $150 per day stipend by a unanimous vote at last Tuesday’s meeting.

The board also voted Oct. 12 to remove Julio Sanchez as president, using a process Sanchez maintained was illegitimate under state law. Sanchez, who kept his seat as president, later told The Press that Atlantic County Executive Superintendent Robert Bumpus agreed that the attempt to oust Sanchez had been illegitimate.

Responding to a disgruntled caller, and reflecting on the board’s failure to appoint a solicitor, Julio Sanchez said Pleasantville residents should call the county or state for help.

“Write the (New Jersey) Department of Education, write the county superintendent, write your governor, let them know you’re tired of seeing what’s going on with the Pleasantville School District,” Sanchez said. “Maybe they’ll send help.”

The district had been subject to the supervision of a state monitor until October. After the monitor left, the board took action against Chestnut Lee, Julio Sanchez and Taylor.

“All this stuff happened the very day we lost our state monitor,” Julio Sanchez said.

The board voted to hold another special meeting next Monday to again vote for a new solicitor and labor relations specialist.

Contact Chris Doyle

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