Stasi loses RBCS seat; supporters resign

Search committee will seek candidates to fill vacated posts


Staff Writer

The fallout continued at the Red Bank Charter School (RBCS) last week as the entire board of the Red Bank Charter School Foundation resigned at a special meeting.

The action follows the ouster of school board President Michael Stasi last week and the resignation of three members of the school’s board of trustees.

Isabelle Hertz, president of the Red Bank Charter School Foundation, the school’s main fund-raising entity, read two letters aloud at the meeting on Tuesday.

The first was from Lawrence Fuchs, president of the Zobel Foundation, the school’s largest donor.

Fuchs, an attorney, said he had decided to suspend funding of the school by the Zobel Foundation, which donates more than $18,000 quarterly to the school’s foundation.

In the letter, Fuchs cited the change in the board as his reason.

Fuchs has also lent the foundation money through his company, Short Term Loans.

Hertz then read a letter from the entire board of the Red Bank Charter School Foundation.

“We, as a united body,” read Hertz, “are tendering our resignations.”

Hertz then handed the two letters to trustee Barbara O’Hern, and walked out of the meeting.

The actions were precipitated by a June 28 special meeting of the school board at which elections for several board seats were held.

Stasi did not garner enough votes for reappointment to the position he has held for eight years, in a vote of five to four.

After the vote was taken, Gayle Horvath, Darrell Jackson and Debra Lock resigned.

For followers of the internal strife at RBCS, the vote was split along predictable lines, with Stasi and board members Horvath, Jackson and Lock voting for Stasi to remain on the board as president.

Voting against Stasi’s reappointment were Darryl Hughes, Vincent Crapelli, Barbara O’Hern, Ellen Herman and Josephine Lee.

In another vote, Crapelli and Hughes were reinstated as full board members, after the completion of a one-year probationary period. Both were appointed unanimously to terms that will end June 30, 2007.

The latter group of trustees had challenged Stasi’s leadership by questioning school finances. O’Hern, Herman and Lee had asked the state to investigate concerns that the school’s debt burden was too high.

At the meeting last Tuesday, O’Hern was elected to succeed Stasi as board president, with Lee remaining as vice president, and Herman being voted in as board secretary.

Herman and Lee were also reappointed to three-year terms ending June 30, 2008.

Stasi’s term as a board member was supposed to continue until June 30 or until a replacement was found, according to Malachi Kenney, attorney for the board.

Stasi continued to run the meeting until after the public comment portion, when he offered his resignation, effective immediately.

“I don’t need to hold onto two days,” he said.

At this week’s meeting, Michael Moore, one of the founders of the school and a retired Air Force veteran, was elected to the board to fill Stasi’s seat, which was for a full three-year term.

Moore said that the reason he had not been more involved in the past six years is because of traveling required for his job.

He said he is interested in getting the full picture of the situation at the charter school.

“I’m not coming in here to be partisan one way or the other,” Moore said. “I have to be objective.”

Horvath, who attended the Tuesday meeting as a member of the public, asked Moore about his view of the need for the charter school in the borough.

“The charter school will always have a place,” replied Moore, “even with the public schools. My personal opinion is that it will always be necessary to keep the charter school in Red Bank.”

The state Department of Education released a report May 3 about the finances of the charter school and its foundation.

The investigation by the Office of Compliance Investigation (OCI) found that the two were actually a single organization with the school sharing the debt of the foundation. That meant the school’s debt level of $3.9 million exceeded state regulations that limit the school’s debt to 100 percent of the value of its property, or $3.7 million.

In a corrective action plan, the charter school board accepted all of the state’s recommendations except that it repay $1 million in state aid.

Recommendations in the report called for the RBCS not to assume more debt, to hire a business administrator, and to have the board vote on all expenditures.

The state asked for a $1 million refund because it said the school failed to comply with state regulations requiring public bidding for construction projects.

The investigation was initiated after Crapelli, Hughes, Herman, O’Hern and Lee requested documents pertaining to school finances from Stasi and Horvath, both also members of the board of the school’s foundation.

Herman said at the June 28 meeting that she wished the vote removing Stasi from the board would not have been necessary.

“I wish he would have just resigned,” she said, “but unfortunately nothing has changed. We still have not received the financial documents for the foundation.

“He has put a lot of work into the school,” Herman continued, “but he is not single-handedly responsible for making this school a place you want to have your kids.

“It’s sad that it happened this way, but tonight was the night to vote, to decide whether or not to give people new terms on the board.”

The remaining board members at the meeting announced that O’Hern and Hughes would make up the new search committee.

In an interview after last Tuesday’s meeting, Stasi said that he did not expect the vote to go against him.

“In the end,” he said, “I was surprised. I did not expect to be removed at that time, although I have heard other board members say that they could not work with me on the board. I was not too surprised because there were conversations about removing me.”

Stasi was the only member of the board with a child in the school and he said he will remain active as a parent.

Herman attempted to ease the concerns of parents after the June 28 vote.

“The philosophy of the school didn’t change,” she said. “The staff didn’t change. The administration didn’t change. All of you who came to this school in the first place took a leap of faith. I hope you will all take a leap of faith again.”

Kathleen West, a parent, said that she believes in the current board.

“I took a leap of faith nine years ago,” she said. “I will take that leap of faith again.”