Following Non-Residency Petition, Franklin Turner Resigns From Montclair Board of Education

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Not long after being named in a non-residency appeal petition that questioned whether he lived in Montclair, Franklin Turner, a member of the Montclair Board of Education, has resigned, effective September 7, 2018.

Franklin Turner
In May 2018, Montclair resident and local activist David Herron filed a complaint with the New Jersey Commissioner of Education alleging that Franklin Turner, a member of the Montclair BOE since May 2016, is not a resident of Montclair. Herron sought to have Turner removed from the school board in a State Administrative Court proceeding. In June 2018, the NJ State Department of Education rejected an attempt by Montclair Board of Education to remove itself as a named party in the non-residency appeal petition hearing filed by Herron against board member Franklin Turner and the Montclair Board of Education.

Herron, in a press release Tuesday, continues to assert that Turner, when appointed to the board, allegedly misled the Mayor about his residency, which required at least one year of local residency prior to board appointment.

Herron says he has also filed a separate 100-page lawsuit in State Superior Court, citing what he believes to be BOE president Laura Hertzog’s alleged improper operating procedures, including wrongly scheduling a board meeting and voting on the hire of a new school superintendent, and violations of (OPMA), Open Public Meeting Act. Herron, in that suit, alleges that Hertzog scheduled a board meeting when all members could not be in attendance, and failed to properly advertise meetings. The aforementioned lawsuit was then voluntarily dismissed with prejudice late Tuesday.

At an April 11 special BOE Meeting, Herron took issue with the meeting itself, saying it was called too quickly and publicized too late, and questioning the process by which it was scheduled. Hertzog responded to this complaint, saying the notice was “communicated” to both newspapers designated by the board 48 hours in advance but did not have to be published 48 hours in advance. Business Administrator Emidio D’Andrea confirmed that the policy of advance notice was properly adhered to. At that meeting, Hertzog reminded residents that she was a lawyer and, that as a lawyer, “one of the things I’m actually good at is following the rules.”

During that April 11 special meeting, the BOE, with only four members in attendance — Hertzog, Jevon Caldwell-Gross, Joe Kavesh, and Franklin Turner — voted to approve the hiring of new Montclair Schools Superintendent Kendra Johnson.

Montclair Schools Superintendent Kendra Johnson and Montclair BoE President Laura Hertzog

At the May 2 meeting, BOE member Eve Robinson said she was not “afforded the chance to take part in the important selection of superintendent” due to the scheduling of the special meeting on a day when she was attending a previously scheduled work meeting.

Hertzog responded to Robinson, stating that she properly notified all BOE members of the special meeting.

Turner made a statement addressing his residency at a May 16 BOE meeting. Turner maintained that he does, in fact, live in Montclair, but said he would not provide an address to a Montclair Times reporter unless the reporter would guarantee that no story would be written.

As part of the non-residency petition proceeding, Herron said he had asked for documentation in discovery from Turner including addresses on bills, and other documents, but says these were never supplied. Subsequently, he learned that Turner had decided to resign.

Mayor Jackson announced in April that he planned to nominate Montclair resident Priscilla Church to fill the next vacancy on the Board. Jackson said Church, a Montclair State graduate and former Principal of Fort Lee High School, had “elevated Fort Lee High to one of the top schools in the country and achieved extraordinary success improving the performance of children with special needs in the district.”

On Tuesday, Mayor Jackson gave the following statement: “I thank Dr. Turner for his service and wish him well in his future endeavors. As I indicated, Ms. Priscilla Church will complete his unexpired term. I am confident that Ms. Church will be an outstanding BOE member.”

Hertzog said in an email Tuesday that “Dr. Turner has advised Mayor Jackson and me that he is purchasing a home in another town and stepping down from the Montclair Board of Education. I am grateful for his service and dedication to the students in our district, and will miss his many valuable contributions. I welcome and look forward to working with our new colleague, Ms. Priscilla Church.”

Robinson said Tuesday she was surprised by the news of Turner’s resignation and that the board had lost two members in a very short period of time. “I welcome the new board member,” said Robinson, adding that Church was a longtime resident of Montclair and that she, along with Latifah Jannah, are “two very good people to have on the board.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. Seems like a lot more behind this story than actually reported. Regardless, it does puncture big holes in the arrogance presented by BOE President Laura Hertzog namely; that Mr. Turner did live in Montclair, that it was not her or her Board’s concern to oversee and further — that she knows best because she follows all the rules meticulously and is a lawyer.

    Now that Ms. Hertzog just lost her majority voting support on this appointed school board, which seems to run roughshod over other members who have sometimes different educational or operating views, she will learn a lesson. Namely, that maintaining open process and being fair is as important as getting results you want. In fact, when process is transparent and conflicts aired openly instead of trying to over manage or suppress real debate, those with opposing positions can actually respect results much more. Even when they lose votes. Why? Because the process was handled fairly and everyone given the right to fully air their views -– regardless of result.

    That’s the take-away lesson maybe some really need to learn.

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