First, because legally I have to say this, I am writing this as an individual board of education member, and my views may not necessarily represent that of the entire board. This statement in itself demonstrates the unique nature of being on the board of education.
While being around politics and government-related activities for just about 20 years I never held an elected office until 2019. After being elected to the board of education in November 2018, I got to know firsthand the board of education members, and the process under which we operate.
Simply put, we have one job in our service: to see that the schools are run well and not to administer the schools; this is a mantra on which the New Jersey School Boards Association trains each and every one of New Jeresey’s school board members. When we overstep that role we do so to the detriment of our children that rely on our schools for a free appropriate education. In many ways, Trustee Victoria Fisher has failed to live up to the true role of a trustee, and with the most glaring example being August of 2020.
As COVID-19 presented challenges to our community, state and even our nation, some elected officials like our township council stepped up and led through the crisis offering solutions, not excuses. What did Ms. Fisher do as an elected official? Well, at a time when the state and our local hospital said it was safe to get back into the classroom, and our school administration said they could handle it, she single-handedly spearheaded a board motion to stop our schools from re-opening, only five days before it was supposed to start. This was a pure act of administering the schools. After all, the board doesn’t vote on a snow day or other school closure. This not only directly impacted my children but left so many of our children at a disadvantage for years to come, while districts around the county and many of our private schools operated the entire year without incident. This wasn’t leadership, this was inserting fear, not facts, into the dialog.
I have found there are two different types of politicians, those who speak of leadership and can lead. Then there are those who speak of leadership and can’t. Unfortunately, by the time you see this failure in leadership it may be too late. This was a failure to our community and a failure to the thousands of children who were left in the cold because someone didn’t want to detach themselves from the facts and choose to act on their emotions. Were there more trustees who voted with her? Yes, there were, and at least three of them are no longer on the board.
In closing, I care about our community, I care about your kids and my kids and I truly want to see everyone succeed to their ability. When our public schools excel, it means a stronger and brighter future for Teaneck, it means higher property values and it means a community working together; however, if they fail, the consequences compound exponentially and we may never recover. I believe our community and our schools have a bright future if we make the right choices as a community and elect new leadership. While many will tell you who to vote for, I write to implore you at minimum not to vote for Victoria Fisher, or the next test of leadership could even be more dire to our community.Gerald Reiner
Teaneck Board of Education