LACEY – An elected school board member had criticism for the Lacey Board of Education, citing transparency issues, among other things at the January school board meeting.
“I’d like to offer my apologies to the voters of Lacey Township,” Regina Discenza, an often outspoken member of the Lacey Township School Board said at the January meeting. “While I was humbled to be elected to this positon in November, 2014, my 25 months on this board have only confirmed what I really knew prior to being elected,” she said.
“This board is still somewhat dysfunctional and it’s no one person’s fault. The real reason I think is because this is a very time consuming positon in order to provide proper oversight to the district. And if you hold a fulltime job, it truly becomes a juggling act.”
In 2014, Mrs. Discenza scored a victory amid a civil war between two factions of Lacey’s Republican party, which traditionally has dominated politics in the municipal government and school board, which is officially “nonpartisan.” The two factions – one loyal to Gary Quinn, and another to former mayor John Parker, who has backed the Lacey school board’s longtime incumbents – put up two rival sets of candidates in the 2014 school board election.
If the Quinn-backed faction were to have won in 2014, it was expected that then-Lacey School Board attorney Arthur Stein would have been replaced with rival Jerry Dasti as the new school board attorney, but that faction was never able to wrest control of the board from Parker-backed candidates. While Mr. Stein is no longer representing the board, his law partner, Chris Supsie – who has a wife employed by the very same school district – has taken over the school district’s legal representation.
On fiscal issues, Discenza, who was one of the first to criticize the school district’s ill-fated solar panel project, is often the only board member to ever utter the word “no” at Lacey school board meetings – as other members of the board’s majority routinely vote yes on all agenda items without questioning a thing. That has seen Discenza publicly clash with other past and current school board members, most notably Maureen Tirella, Linda Downing and David Bidwell.
“In 348 days I am looking forward to being a private citizen again,” she said at the board meeting. Discenza said that Lacey citizens have told her during her tenure on the school board that she has been more effective in holding Lacey’s local government accountable as a private citizen. In that capacity, she has been as a regular attendee at meetings of the Lacey Township Committee, MUA, planning and zoning boards.
Transparency remains an issue for the board of education, according to the school board member. Previously, Discenza filed a complaint with the New Jersey Government Records Council (GRC) alleging that the boards’ previous business administrator, Jim Savage, did not comply with the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) by failing to respond to her requests in time and claiming that no records existed when records she sought were identified on legal bills.
“If I, as a Board Member, had to use the Open Public Records Act to obtain documents, you can only imagine what I’ve been up against,” she said. Discenza indicated that the problems identified in her complaint were not necessarily a reflection of the current administration, but rather past officials, namely Savage & Stein.
“Someone once told me I was more effective as a private citizen, and I believe that now,” she concluded. “The only thing I’ve gained here is a little inside knowledge, but I did get a lot of training.”
No other board members chose to respond to Discenza’s remarks at the meeting.