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Letter: BOE Member: Just Vote. That's What Matters

Mitch Slater urges residents to vote on the facts.

Obviously there is a great deal of interest in next Monday's vote on the Bond Referendum. Since joining the BOE in 2010 I have been listening to many discussions about our need to fix the roofs. Though I was not part of the Facility Committee I was impressed with the hard work and long hours they put in to get all the facts straight and come up with the most financially prudent decisions for taxpayers as well as stakeholders. The decision to float a bond was not done in a vacuum. We tried going solar but without new roofs that was not feasible. And obviously our maintenance reserve did not come close to having the funds needed to undertake this massive project. (You can call that poor planning by previous boards or massive state aid cuts- but the facts are the facts.) Plus with historically low interest rates the time was right (just as it is in Princeton where they are also floating a similar referendum next week). That being said- these schools are old and need new roofs.

As you may know I with Mark Friedman and Gretchan Ohlig did not support having one bundled bond. But even though the majority voted differently, I still support the bond getting done now.  Facts are simple- we need these roofs to be replaced. And as for the Turf Field, I feel the brand of Westfield (the market values of our homes) will benefit in the long run by staying competitive with other districts in all aspects of what makes a town attractive. That is also why I fought so hard to push through our new Technology Initiative earlier this year.

But the bottom line –Just vote on the facts- not what anonymous bloggers want to throw out there. This decision is up to you. Just vote- That's what matters most in a democracy.

As Springsteen says, "So Walk Tall, or baby don't walk at all"…

Mitch Slater

Member, Westfield Board of Education

South Westfielder September 21, 2012 at 09:43 PM
That's right, Mr. Slater - cover your butt and highlight the disunity in the group. Fine job in dismissing valid comments, feedback and criticism from people like me who chose to be anonymous.
Westfield Parent September 22, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Mr. Mitch Slater, could you explain why we are not putting lights at Kehler Stadium instead, with the existing artificial field? Wouldn't that be the most logical, the most economical, and the most sensible thing to do?
Rich Mattessich September 22, 2012 at 01:21 AM
This question has been asked as a comment many times now – probably by the same person. More importantly, it has been answered many times now – by the same Board of Education. Please take some time to go back and look at the public responses. One obvious example is that the proposed field has two softball diamonds. This will allow the high school, middle school and others who play softball to have more playable field time during poor weather and at night. This is but ONE example. Moving the lights to Kehler is therefore not more logical, although if you believe lights are a problem, your suggestion effectively moves what you perceive to be a problem to another neighborhood. The cost per pole is presumably the same, although you simply state a conclusion that Kehler is more economical without providing a basis. Importantly, we are not proposing a field at the high school just to have lights – we are proposing a holistic solution to add capacity. And whether the lights at the high school are sensible is up to the voter – plain and simple. The Board of Education proposed a turf field to add capacity – lighting adds significant capacity. I would ask all voters to be informed and vote on facts – not distractions -- if you vote based on facts, no one can object to how you vote. Rich Mattessich, President, Board of Education
Luke September 22, 2012 at 03:07 AM
I dont think you will be elected next term Rich. What other districts have lights for baseball? The economics of the situation is that there already is a field with Turf where the cost of lights is far more economical than to install lights and install/maintain a brand new turf field. why not take the high school field and make it a parking lot. that way all of the residents around the HS wont have to be cleaning up after the kids who park on the streets and just havent learned to respect others property. you al can say oh no not my kid but we were all young and did it.
Scott September 22, 2012 at 03:46 AM
I would like to thank the board for all of their hard work, time and effort. Remember they are doing this voluntarily, putting in hours and hours weekly to better our town. They are not making decisons based on personal gain, I am aware of a few board members whose children are pretty much through the system and they will not benefit from a new field or roofs for that matter. Thanks for your professionalism and your true care and concern for our community. Objections and opinions are great, democratic and American but the ridicule I have been reading about them is total nonsense.
Proud to be Anonymous September 22, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Mr. Slater, as Billy Joel said "We didn't start this fire".
South Westfielder September 22, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Scott, we recognize that they are doing this voluntarily and they shoul dbe commended, but do not think for a moment that personal gain or self interest have nothing to do with their decisions or why they ran for the position. They may not be all of it, but they play a role in anyone who runs for an office whether it is paid or unpaid.
South Westfielder September 22, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Just like the Mayor, Mr. Mattessich, you have a responsibility to answer the question no matter how many times it comes up and the fact that you assume it is coming from the same person makes me wonder what other assumptions you make. It may or may not be true. Sounds like the pressure of the issue is getting to the BoE and even those who were elected as "change agents" are finding the role to be more difficult than they thought and that there are other opinions than their own.
South Westfielder September 22, 2012 at 01:13 PM
The fact that some of us remain anonymous should not devalue our opinions, our data or expressions. It is not cowardly, but it does make it difficult for the other party to direct a response to a specific individual - I respect that. There are any number of reasons why one would want to be anonymous - he/she sees the special treatment BoE members' children get (no matter who that member is), he/she may fear retaliation against his/her child in the school system by administrators, other BoE members, or teachers, retaliation from neighbors who do not like his/her stand on an issue, he/she may have a direct or indirect connection to someone else who may be affected by the expression of his/her opinion. The fact that Mr. Slater and others criticise and call those who are anonymous "cowards" do so to avoid facing the criticism or the feedback. It is narrow-minded, myopic, and evidence that he and any other person who wants to run for public office isn't quite ready for public service and policy making.
Kim S September 22, 2012 at 01:23 PM
South Westfielder - Care to share with everyone why you seem to jump on any comment ever made by Mr. Slater- Perhaps you have a "political" axe to grind - or feel responsible for a bad decision a few years ago? One has to wonder why you remain anonymous while Mr. Slater and Mr. Mattessich and other Board members and other citizens use their real names? Boggles the mind..
Wally Westfield September 22, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Kim, Don't know how long you have been a resident of out fine town, however not that long ago "actions" by those in charge were taken against those who objected to what those in charge were trying to accomplish (or ram through). Hence an ounce of prevention................
Rjohnston September 22, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Mitch, the Westfield "brand" would be much better served with things like: lower property taxes from not wasting money; improving our position in widely watched school ratings (despite their flaws), or; reinstating important education programs like BSIP that were cut a few years ago. The BOE has earned it's reputation for ignoring the opinions of important stakeholders in decision like this. I think the BOE does a lousy job of communicating how they reached the conclusions they did about many aspects of this issue.
Jeff B September 22, 2012 at 03:25 PM
John, Mr. Slater is presumably correct that these schools need new roofs. However, we can still get them two different ways even if we vote down this current "bundled" bond issue. It appears that we could vote for a "roofs-only" bond issue as early as November or replace them one or two per year out of future operating budgets. The former would saddle us with interest costs for 20 years; the latter would probably require a wage freeze for teachers, as you state. Given that, in my opinion, they got twice what they should have last time, that seems to be the correct result anyway.
South-side resident September 22, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Mr. Slater -- regarding preserving Westfield's brand by staying competitive in all aspects of what makes a town attractive -- I guess that would depend on what one considers attractive. There is not one town or school district rating system that I'm aware of that considers turf vs grass fields in it's rating system. Personally, what I find attractive in a town are green spaces and a fiscally responsible BOE and Town Council.
Time For Change September 22, 2012 at 05:49 PM
South side resident, when was the last time that you decided what town to move into? If you have been here for a long time, you cannot possibly look through the eyes of parents when they decide where to move to. In my field, we speak to people who are on the move, all the time. They talk about the schools, first and second, then they talk about the transportation. They talk about how committed the school district is to maintaining the quality of the education, the infrastructure and the extra-curricular activities that the district provides. Do they decide based on turf vs grass, of course not. However, the total package of investment is what they are looking for. Does the town support development within the schools, like building new early learning centers, adding to technology and maintaining fields. They look at how we maintain the programs for the arts. This field is just one in a long list of things that help the "brand" that Slater talks about. There will always be something else that the money can be spent on, at this point in time, the roofs and the field are good ones, in my opinion. If anyone has been reading the papers, you will also see the millions of dollars that the BOE spent this last summer. All of this money came from managing the expenses so projects that had been put off for years could be handled. How come nobody wants to talk about that? Had they not been done, the kiddies at Franklin would be sitting in their mittens inside this winter.
South Westfielder September 22, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Kim, just so you know, "Kim S" isn't exactly providing sufficient detail for us to know who you are, either.
South-side resident September 22, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Time For Change -- I moved into town over a decade ago, I do have children, so did indeed look through the eyes of a parent when deciding where to move. I agree with everything you said about what people find important when buying a home. However, I respectfully disagree that having a third turf field (vs having 2 turf + 1 grass) is even remotely related to the committment of the school district or the "total package of investment" Westfield has to offer. If the town had no fields at all, did not invest in a sports program at all, or was not willing to maintain the grass fields, then I would agree that would be impactful on Westfield's brand. I honestly don't understand the viewpoint that there is "always something else the money can be spent on". I believe that, just like individuals, districts work with limited resources, and must face the reality that sometimes one must delay consumption of a "want" vs a "need". My choice would be to not incur further debt (including interest payments) on something I don't view to be important in the current environment. Those interest and principal payments every year are REAL dollars, that are being directed away from either paying off existing debt, or from things which I feel would more directly impact my children's education and school experience. That's just my opinion, and I respect yours as being equally valuable. Which brings me back to my other point - if over 50% of voters wanted it, it would fairly pass on its own merits.
Walkin Westfield September 22, 2012 at 10:11 PM
the "westfield brand" is all about where WHS ranks in comparrison with other schools. WHS has been consistant in the test score results but other schools with comparable student populations have increased their test results. These schools include North Hunterdon RHS in Annandale, Montgomery HS in Skillman/Montgomery Township, and Basking Ridge HS. All Westfield residents want the BOE to succeed. It is about time the BOE got back to focusing on academics.
Westfield Parent September 23, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Mr. Rich Mattessich, Kehler stadium is the home field for varsity teams football, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, track and field. To put lights at Kehler would add playing time to all of our school sports. With lights at Kehler, problem solved! Kehler has established traffic patterns. Lights at Kehler is a lot less expensive than creating a whole new turf field and a new traffic pattern at high school. Therefore, lights at Kehler is the most logical, the most economical, and the most sensible thing to do! Why BOE and Ms. Mamary do not pursue this obvious, easier solution is unconscionable.
The Duke September 23, 2012 at 03:01 PM
I think lights at Kehler were nixed when the turf field was originally installed - they were intended but removed due to concerns raised by residents. I suppose the residents around the high school have a greater tolerance for Friday Night Lights. In spite of all responses from School Board members there does not seem to be a good response for why the projects are bundled into a massive school bond. The effort in researching forward-looking solutions is appreciated but this smacks of the earmarks that our legislators in Washington have used for pork projects - and Westfielders are no different from Americans that have grown tired of these wasteful strategies at the expense of taxpayers.
A.John Blake September 23, 2012 at 10:18 PM
To whomever is using my name, I was just skimming this site and saw my name. Wondering what I had written, I read the comment. While I concede the possibility of an early onset of senility, I decline to admit authorship of the above. One of the problems of anonymity is the ability to adopt a nom de plume another is using in reality. Kindly get another one. Try Elizabeth II Regina. Someone might believe it. To everyone else, the above is not mine. A.John Blake
A.John Blake September 23, 2012 at 10:21 PM
To Doppleganger, Kindly adopt a new identity, this one has been used for quite some time. A.JohnBlake
South-side resident September 23, 2012 at 10:28 PM
To the real A. John Blake -- report it to Patch. They will have the email address of the person using your name, so can probably figure out who it is. Maybe they can block them from using Patch in the future.

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