PLEASANTVILLE — Stephen Townsend will remain the district’s athletic director for the remainder of the year after public outcry regarding his possible transfer out of the position this week.
Reached by phone on Wednesday, Townsend said he had no comment about the board’s action but did say he had agreed to transfer prior to Tuesday's school board meeting.
Hearing displeasure about the transfer from students and staff, and even a representative from the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA), the Pleasantville Board of Education voted Tuesday to table two resolutions dealing with the move.
The first resolution would have transferred Townsend from the department of athletics to the department of curriculum and instruction. A second resolution would have transferred Nanette Stuart from the Decatur Avenue school to the department of athletics. Both resolutions had effective dates of April 23 through June 30.
Pleasantville High School junior and Greyhounds quarterback Sahmir Jones said Townsend was responsible for a lot of the improvement in the athletic teams in the district as well as student success.
“Mr. Townsend has also helped a lot of our athletes that have potential to go on and play their sport on the next level,” Jones told the board during public comment.
NJPSA field representative Amos “Chip” Kraybill said that Stuart had reached out to him about the transfer, which she did not want, and was “very concerned.”
“She has never been an athlete. She knows nothing about athletics,” Kraybill said. “She feels it would be a disservice to the children.”
Kraybill advised the board that there would be “better, more logical, ethical and transparent ways to achieve administrative goals than whirlwind transfer of staff at years’ end.”
Superintendent Clarence Alston said Tuesday after the meeting that the transfers would have only been temporary. He said that, regardless of experience, the principal’s role is management of programs and that Townsend had agreed to the transfer prior to the meeting.
“It was not something he had to do,” Alston said. “He understood my rationale behind it.”
Alston said the transfers were for financial reasons, which he could not get into during the school board meeting. He did not elaborate on the rationale.
Both Townsend and Stuart are classified as principals “on special assignment.” Alston said that he was unsure what the title meant and that it was already in place when he became the superintendent over the summer. Currently, Stuart serves as principal in the Decatur Avenue preschool.
Teachers continue show of force as fact-finding begins
In another heavily attended school board meeting, the Pleasantville Education Association (PEA) members again voiced their irritation on the lack of a contract.
PEA President Tim Newkirk said that he had asked the board to start negotiations a year before the union contract expired and was ignored. Newkirk said negotiations didn’t begin until after the contract expired in 2016.
“Judging from the proposals that you have came up with, it doesn’t seem like you want to negotiate,” Newkirk told the board Tuesday. “You’re asking us to give more back.”
The union, which represents professional and support staff in the district, has been without a contract for almost two years. On Tuesday, board attorney Jim Carroll said that a state-appointed fact-finder will meet with the union and the board on Thursday and a resolution is anticipated in 30 days.
“There’s no reluctance on the part of the board or the administration to conclude a contract,” Carroll said.
He said that the fact-finder will come up with a report and if no resolution is reached, the parties will be appointed a super conciliator by the state.
Newkirk criticized the negotiations committee of the board as “unprepared” and said that other union salaries have far surpassed the salaries of Pleasantville teachers since the mid-1980s.
“I hope you’ve done your homework for Thursday, because we’ve done ours,” Newkirk said.
Police increase presence at meeting
Pleasantville Police Chief Sean Riggin opened the meeting with a warning to attendees about their conduct after last month’s meeting became rowdy during public comment. At that meeting, Atlantic City resident Craig Callaway criticized the teachers in the district. Callaway is the uncle of new board member Hassan Callaway and of board president Carla Thomas. He said his interest in the district are his nieces, nephews and grandchildren, as well as being a state taxpayer.
During Callaway’s comments, the teachers began chanting and shouting, with someone from the audience throwing a pen in Callaway’s direction. Police had to intervene.
“We have no interest on one side or the other of your dispute,” Riggin said Tuesday, but noted that if the board president says a speaker’s time is up, they will be asked to leave the microphone.
In addition to increased police presence, the attendees were also funneled through a metal detector before they could enter the meeting.
“We’re going to maintain public safety,” Riggin said.