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Oceanport Parents Find BOE Disputes 'Embarrassing'

Audience members spoke out at Thursday's board of education meeting that infighting stood in the way of a ratified teachers' contract.

Oceanport Parents Find BOE Disputes 'Embarrassing'

Prior to Thursday's vote by the Oceanport Board of Education to approve a , residents spoke out about recent disputes among board members that one parent called "embarrassing."

Geoff Brignola said he lived most of his life in the borough and had only known a "harmonious relationship" between the school district's administration, board and teachers.

"I don't see why we have to have this whole," he said, stopping to wave his hands around at the audience assembled in the cafetorium, "to do."

About 75 audience members had gathered for the Aug. 16 meeting — a large contingent of teachers wearing royal blue shirts — that also had a police officer stationed outside in the hallway.

"It's embarrassing having people come up to me and ask, 'What is going on in Oceanport?,' " Brignola added.

Even board member Ted Gammon said at one point during Thursday's meeting, "I'm embarassed to be on this board."

While the negotiations between the two sides seemed to go smoothly, with a  — well before the contract's June 30 expiration date — the contract's ratification got held up in disputes among members of the board of education.

The July 16 board meeting focused on the ratification of administrative contracts and devolved into a shouting match resulting in two members being restrained by colleagues.

At that meeting, board members who were not a part of the negotiating committee with the teachers' union said that they did not get answers to questions and did not feel they were able to make educated decisions on whether to support the tentative agreement.

Board member Joan Osgoodby reiterated that sentiment Thursday, and said, "We've been asking questions ... which were never answered and we're supposed to vote?"

The most recent issue was an allegation by board member Mark O'Neill, published as a letter in The Link, which is owned by a family member, that the administration erroneously forwarded a negotiating document to the education association and compromised the tentative agreement.

Board of education candidate Jay Coffey questioned the board and its attorney on Thursday about the steps of the negotiating process and whether negotiations were concluded upon the signing of the tentative agreement.

"I only care about the process," Coffey told the board.

Ed Barnwell, who has children in the district, said that the process was "holding the teachers in limbo."

"This town is not a retirement community," he said. "It's why we all come back here to live."

Parent Nicole Goldsmith said she was disappointed by "the level of disrespect and uncooperativeness" shown by board members.

"Work it out, take the vote and act like professionals," she said to the board, which went on to approve the contract 6-3.

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