The Pleasantville Board of Education meets Tuesday, April 17, at Pleasantville High School. From left are state-appointed fiscal monitor Constance Bauer, Superintendent Clarence Alston, Board President Carla Thomas, board attorney James Carroll and board Secretary and Business Administrator Elisha Thompkins.

PLEASANTVILLE — Citing a “strong” difference of opinion, school board members and the administration are again challenging the authority of the district’s state-appointed fiscal monitor.

The city’s Board of Education on Tuesday authorized board attorney James Carroll to ne-gotiate the role of monitor Constance Bauer with her attorney. Carroll said there is a dispute from the administration over Bauer’s responsibility in the day-to-day operations of the district.

“We believe the administration does have the right to run the district on a day-to-day basis,” Carroll said.

This is the second such dispute with Bauer in the past 12 months. Last year, an Atlantic County Superior Court judge ruled Bauer overstepped her authority in refusing to approve Clarence Alston as the new district superintendent because her decision was not based on financial criteria as required by law.

Carroll said after the meeting Tuesday it wasn’t personal against Bauer.

“In the past, the monitor wanted specific authorization before we got involved with any projects. The board has authorized our firm to contact the monitor’s attorney to see if it can be resolved informally; if not, to go back to the court for a determination of the judge,” Carroll said.

Carroll said the action resulted from several disagreements over the past year but was not directly related to a specific action.

Pleasantville’s state monitor has been in place since 2007, although the district had extra state oversight for several years prior.

According to state law, monitors are assigned by the state commissioner of education if the required annual audit of district finances receives an adverse opinion from the auditor or if the audit finds a combination of deficiencies in the budget or operations. State monitors oversee fiscal management of the district’s funds and have the ability to hire, promote and fire employees. They also can override an action or vote by the board of education or chief school administrator on certain occasions.

Ten monitors are in place in districts across the state: Elmwood Park, Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Trenton, Lakewood, Hi-Nella, Belleville, Pleasantville, Woodbine and Ridgefield Park.

According to Press archives, a state audit of the Pleasantville school district in 2013 found the district engaged in gross overspending and lacked sufficient oversight.

In August, Bauer presented financial goals for the district as part of an exit plan that included eliminating the food-service deficit and reducing legal expenses. The plan also expressed a lack of strategic planning on the part of the administration.

Bauer’s contract was last renewed in June, just days after the Superior Court ruled in Alston’s favor. She is paid $96 per hour by the school district and receives no benefits. Bauer rarely speaks at public meetings and issues her guidance to the board and administration on paper that is also rarely publicly shared.

Contact: 609-272-7251 CLowe@pressofac.com Twitter @clairelowe

Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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