GUEST OPINION: South Jersey School Seems to Have a Problem With Ethics
Saturday, January 07, 2023
DOWNE TOWNSHIP NJ (January 6, 2023)--School board members should have the school they represent and the children attending that school as their first priority. I believe two members of the Downe Township School District don’t think so.
A current member of the Downe Township School Board, Sean Pignatelli, did his due diligence before taking his seat on his local school board and found not one but two major discrepancies. The current Superintendent of the Downe Township School District just so happens to be the daughter of a long-time school board member, Marie Blizzard. However, you wouldn’t notice this at first because the Superintendent, Sherri Miller, used her married name. The head custodian, Ralph Gale, is also the brother-in-law to the long-time School Board President, Stultz Taylor. It seems to be a recurring theme that long-time school board members of this district have someone related to them working in a high position within the school, which goes against NJDOE’s Nepotism Policy.
This news comes after the January 3rd, 2023, Downe Township School Reorganization Meeting, where Mr. Pignatelli submitted a letter detailing an incident where School Board President Stultz Taylor allegedly lured him to his house, intimidated, bullied, and threatened Mr. Pignatelli for looking into these possible unethical practices. Mr. Taylor has resigned, and a new board president was elected during this meeting. The letter also explained the two long-time board members’ relationships with staff members. Copies of Mr. Pignatelli’s letter were available to the public during this meeting. (See attached)
Members of the Downe Township School Board:
On Monday, January 2nd, 2023, I received a phone call at 10:36am from your current School Board President, Mr. Stultz Taylor. He left me a voicemail asking me to call him back. I returned his call at 10:54am. He asked if I was available for a quick face-to-face meeting and that he wanted to go over the process of me becoming a newly elected school board member. Being so passionate about our school, I accepted his invitation to meet at his home at 1pm.
During this “meeting”, Mr Taylor attempted to intimidate and bully me and even threatened me with legal action if I continued to ask questions about our school-related policies. The reason I was asking questions was due to an HIB incident involving my son that was not reported by a witnessing staff member. This led to me consulting the NJDOE website, which raised more questions regarding other state policies posted there, including the nepotism policy. Relationships of concern included the Superintendent, Ms Miller, being the daughter of a board member, Ms Blizzard, as well as the relationship of School Board President, Mr Taylor being the brother-in-law to Head Custodian, Mr Gale. I had to turn to the state because Board related policies that are supposed to be available to the public have been password-locked on the Downe Township School Website, making them inaccessible to members of the public. I made numerous requests for the password but, at the time, no one in the District could provide it.
As a current parent, taxpayer, and non-board member of Downe Township School District, both Mr Taylor’s words and actions were deeply disturbing and upsetting. I ask that in the future no school board member puts out any invitations to their private residence to discuss any board related matters without other board members being present.
Anti-Nepotism Policies in New Jersey Public School Hiring