School board hires custodian in split vote

| 15 Feb 2012 | 11:28

    Disagreements, arguing right from the start of meeting WEST MILFORD — Disagreements started even before the West Milford Board of Education adopted its agenda at the Jan. 17 meeting. And, after a sometimes-heated exchange, the board hired a new head custodian for West Milford High School. Dean Monti started his new position on Jan. 25 as head custodian. The board voted 5-2 in favor of Interim Superintendent John Petrelli’s recommendation putting Monti in the job for the remainder of the school year. Trustee Jim Foody asked that the hiring of Monti, which was on the regular agenda, be discussed in executive session before the actual vote. However, since that issue was not included in the executive session topics, board attorney Joanne Butler said it couldn’t be added on the spot, noting that the comments “had not been identified as something that would be subject of discussion during the executive session. You have to be very specific in abiding by what is on the agenda for the executive session.” Trustee John Aiello said he would like to “hash some of these things out” in executive session. “Typically what the board would be allowed to discuss in executive session, as I said, is subject to what’s on the agenda,” said Butler, “and whether there is an ability to amend the agenda at this late date, is something that would have to be- I’d have to look at what your policies allow for in going into executive session whether you allow for a last minute addendum to the agenda going into executive session.” Heated words When Foody requested bringing the agenda item into executive session, he and Petrelli got into a heated discussion about the reasoning behind Foody's request. “I don’t understand what your problem is other than your discontent, but your discontent should not derail somebody who is deserving of the position to be able to be appointed to the position, so that the high school can become the place it should be,” said Petrelli. Petrelli said he believed that Foody’s issue was due to Foody’s own personal displeasure over Petrelli’s “authority to recommend to this board” the best possible candidate. He said Monti was put through a rigorous interview process before getting the nod. Foody said he wanted to discuss the other finalist for the job, William Touw, a 21-year employee of the district and the son of former school board president Midge Touw. Petrelli said he doesn’t believe Foody would vote in favor of any candidate he recommended. “Because it is not about the candidate, it’s about me sitting in this chair as the interim superintendent,” said Petrelli. “That’s what this is about. I know that and you know that. So I am the superintendent. I am making this recommendation based upon a rigorous interview process and the candidate being the unanimous choice of all parties concerned.” “I think you’re withholding information from this board,” said Foody referring to the recent hiring of a principal in the district. “In the past you’ve withheld information from other boards.” “You’re not going to call me a liar in public,” said Petrelli. “I’m not gonna call you a liar in public. Did I say that?” Foody responded. “Well that’s what you are alluding to,” Petrelli answered. Board President Dave Richards tried to stay on the agenda, banging his gavel several times. More discussion requested Foody requested more discussion before voting on the appointment. “There are important things we have to discuss here,” Foody said, but his motion to go into executive session was not seconded. Aiello didn’t second Foody’s motion because he said he was “in a bind” about whether it should be discussed in executive session or in public. Nine people in all applied for thecustodial job; four from within the district and five from outside. Trustees Matt Conlon, Wayne Gottleib, Donna Richards, Marilyn Schultz, and Dave Richards approved the appointment while Aiello and Foody voted not to. Trustees Barbara Carter and Greg Bailey were absent from the meeting. Monti was appointed head custodian at the high school at a prorated salary of $69,155, a longevity bonus of $500, head custodian $13,210, with health benefits. He is subject to a 180-day probationary period. “This is another example of certain people pontificating on dissension of opinions and this is not the appropriate forum for those conversations to be taking place,” said Conlon. “Those conversations, with all due respect to Mr. Foody and Mr. Aiello, should be taking place in Mr. Petrelli’s office behind closed doors between the two of you. Those conversations should not be taking place out here, beleaguering this audience to have to watch this childish display. That’s unacceptable; it’s an embarrassment, and it needs to stop.” Those conversations should not be taking place out here, beleaguering this audience to have to watch this childish display. That’s unacceptable; it’s an embarrassment, and it needs to stop.” Board of education Trustee Matt Conlon