Empty Chairs at the BoE?

GA just navigated through the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) voice mail Hell to speak with an investigator from their Criminal History Review Unit.

I asked the investigator for a status of the NJDOE's enforcement of Bill A-444,  requiring members to undergo criminal history background investigation.  (A444 became law 7 months ago with a compliance deadline of December 31.)

After all, the Star Ledger had reported that 350 NJ School Board members would be required to step down. 

But what if background checks were submitted late?

Here's what the investigator told me.

Board members who submitted their background checks in a timely manner have received approval letters which means they are eligible to keep their School Board seats.

Some who submitted late are currently being processed, so these Board members are 'in the system' but have NOT received approval letters.  This means they can sit in the meeting room, but are ineligible to sit on the dais (with the Board members) and are ineligible to vote.  Once their background checks are approved, the Board may choose whether or not to vote for their re-reinstatement.    That is elective.

So anyone who has NOT received an approval letter of from the state regarding their criminal background check is effectively OFF their respective School Board.

And of course, anyone who has not submitted a background check to the NJDOE is OFF their Board with no option for reinstatement.

The Superintendant for each district has been notified regarding any Board members who have not received approval letters.  Which means they cannot allow 'unapproved' members to take their seat on the dais.

Hoboken's BoE meeting is tomorrow night. 

Stay tuned.


  1. Not to play devil's advocate here, but.... Did you ask the person how the State defines "timely manner"? And was that timeline detailed to the applicant, when vetting notice was made by the State, under the new legislation?

    If the bureaucratic slowness of this Board member vetting process operates at the same snail's pace of some other State departments requiring criminal history background checks, it is conceivable that someone was fully compliant, but the State has not yet processed the paperwork. Did the bureaucrat mention anything about a provisional status that would allow Board participation, if the State might be back-logged with processing? It may not be the Board member's fault, but rather the State's.

    (Separate from any case where it's just some bad egg, avoiding their unsavory history coming to light.)

    Hypothetically, the Board member could make a good faith effort, but the backlog of fingerprint scheduling, for example, also had an impact. MBB understands this scenario, for some NJ health care providers (nurses, especially), prevented license-renewal & hence professional practice. Not because they were non-compliant, but b/c Sagem Morpho (referenced on the other GA thread) could not handle the volume of applicants.

    Just suggestin'....

  2. Seven months seems like ample time to me. I heard board members were sent several reminders. Background checks take generally 6 weeks to complete, sometimes shorter.

    It will be interesting to see who will be missing from the dais.

  3. sock: A 6-wk. turn-around? Private sector, perhaps. But not in the State of NJ, in most peoples' experiences. Was this your personal experience or heresay? If you or someone you may know had a 6-wk. turn-around with completed/documented clearance with the State of NJ, that's great good fortune!

    For some, it can take that long just to get scheduled with Sagem Morpho---and then, maybe having to travel to a farther-away site for the fingerprinting, in order to get the task scheduled more quickly. (And not all fingerprinting sites have easy public transportation access either.)

    It would be interesting to know if any additional staff (at either Sagem Morpho or the State Dept. of Education) were hired to handle the additional applicants covered under the legislation. Or if some already on staff were specifically dedicated for processing the 7-mo. compliance for this legislation.

    Somehow, I doubt it. We're talkin' NJ here.

    No way are my comments intended to excuse anyone not demonstrating the best effort for full compliance within the time frame. Just parsing out the possible real world, worst-case scenario, based on others' experiences. And with possible relevance to any good, competent Board members who made their best effort, but still might be negatively affected, vis a vis statutory compliance.

  4. Dear MBB, based on on traversing the voice mail labyrinth this morning, it seems a dedicated department was created and forces mobilized to handle the administration of the new law.

    I understand what you're saying, but based on the effort by both the NJDOE and our district made over the 7 months since the law was enacted (multiple notices/ warnings/ reminders) there really is no excuse for any Board member not to have met the deadline with ample time to spare.

  5. Your point is well taken, GA. Kudos to you, for making the time & effort to investigate, by calling the State.

    If the NJDOE demonstrated more than its usual standard operating procedure for this piece of legislation, that's good news, indeed! If only more folks navigating the State vetting process could have the same good fortune!

    My comments related to the State-wide process, not just Hoboken specifically. (And certainly not as a pass for the misguided, arrogant & cantankerous Ms. Sullivan, who appears to have deliberately ignored the requirement.)

    In the interest of competent, ethical governance of all NJ public school districts---for the sake of all NJ public school children---one can only hope that all Boards were also vigilant in mobilizing compliance by all members.


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