Bayonne School District Faces Hundreds of Layoffs

By Michael Hill

The state Department of Education is sending a monitor to the Bayonne School District to see how the district spends and has spent the public’s money, heeding the call of state lawmakers.

“And that’s very important because we have a current fiscal crisis. But this is going to be a multi-year project and multi-year problem,” said Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti.

The Bayonne school administration referred NJTV News to the board president who did not respond to requests. Both have struggled with balancing the budget, leaving parents and the public to struggle with the notion of a $6 million to $12 million budget shortfall and questions about whether it’s due to overspending, mismanagement or fraud.

“When will central administration be held accountable for this mess?” asked parent Cheryl Jablonsky.

In April, the school board voted to lay off nearly 300 employees, including 261 teachers, June 30.

“This is extremely upsetting to me. Please believe me. This is not easy,” said Bayonne Superintendent Patricia McGeehan.

“We have 25 students in a classroom. The difference between having 18 to 25 to 35 students in the classroom, the data shows you can’t teach to 30, 35 kids in a class,” Chiaravalloti said.

Students staged a walkout in protest.

“And they marched down on City Hall and they said, ‘Help us save our teachers.’ I got the goosebumps because that’s wonderful,” said parent Alicia Losonczy.

Parent organizations have joined forces with a long list of demands.

The state auditor began a forensic audit a month ago and plans to complete it in September.

“It’s pretty scary,” said Mayor Jim Davis.

The mayor called for a financial review two years ago and welcomes this one while calling for a criminal investigation.

“Basically, what it comes down to, it’s covering everybody,” Davis said.

“In my heart, I’d rather assume incompetence than criminality,” Chiaravalloti said.

One board member tells NJTV News the administration has come up with a balanced budget approved by the state. How it did so will be revealed at a board meeting at 7:30 tonight.

The mayor says he understands the school board budget gap has been closed with some one-time measures that are good for now but not later.

“It’s like a one-hit wonder for music. You never see that person again. They play music, they get a great big hit song and then that’s it. You never see them again. They’re gone and then they become a Jeopardy question on who wrote that song,” Davis said.

One board member says the closing of the gap means the district likely will re-hire 100 teachers but to deal with other monetary issues it may seek an interest-free loan from the state.