TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblywoman Aura Dunn has been fighting to make the government process more transparent.
Most recently, a public relations debacle involving a school board in her district, and the ensuing public outcry, prompted Dunn to introduce legislation (A5932) that requires those boards to publicly post full agendas 48 hours before meetings. Currently, boards of education must only provide an annual notice with meeting dates and locations and not meeting agendas.
The Randolph Township Board of Education moved to rename “Columbus Day” to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” during its Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee report May 13. On the board’s website, the published agenda does not include this motion, nor mention that the topic would be discussed. The board reacted to the public outrage by eliminating all holiday names, replacing them with “day off” on the 2021-22 school calendar.
Dunn said the move smacks of cognitive dissonance, as the board still allows holidays to be taught about in the classroom.
“The Randolph Board of Education shortchanged the process, and instead of recognizing they may have acted hastily and made a mistake, doubled down out of pride. True leadership and the noble calling to serve the public requires humility,” Dunn (R-Morris) said. “As elected officials, we must always be willing to respectfully listen to the public, who entrusted us to serve the greater good, and allow ourselves to evolve. That does not mean we compromise our values. But what could possibly be the value in cleansing a calendar of our history, culture and appreciation for fellow mankind?”
The board reversed that decision and reinstated holiday names – including Columbus Day – during a special meeting Monday.
“School board meetings take place on weeknights after parents and other interested community members have commuted to work and back or sat in Zoom meetings all day. They’ve gotten the kids fed and shuttled around to extracurricular and community activities, never mind also getting homework done,” Dunn said. “Enabling them to see what a board plans to vote on will help keep them informed and also help them decide whether attending a meeting makes sense.”
Dunn not only wants boards of education to be more transparent. She introduced another bill (A5827) that would require public schools to post curriculum plans online and allow parents and legal guardians to inspect textbooks and other classroom learning materials.
“Allowing parents and guardians access to educational materials ensures greater transparency and collaboration between those families and school officials,” Dunn said.