Trying to Make Sense of the School Board Turmoil

Trying to Make Sense of the School Board Turmoil

The Board of Education oversees Ocean City High School and two other public schools.

By Ken Wisnefski-Owner of the OCNJDaily

As a parent of three children that are all in the Ocean City School District, I have been disheartened to hear and read about the recent allegations that have been made by the Upper Township School District against the Ocean City School District. I think like a lot of people I have spoken to, most don’t fully understand what has created the turmoil. My hope is to provide facts that can help everyone understand what has brought us to this point.

The Allegation: Based on testimony given at the criminal trial of former district employee, Christine Lentz, the Upper Township Board of Education voted in November to initiate “a full and independent investigation” into what they believed were “shocking revelations” that the Ocean City School District had launched a “secret investigation” into the Upper Township board and superintendent. Last week, the Upper Township board upped the ante. They released a statement suggesting they would take legal action.

The Fact: There was no investigation. The accusation in question stems from a forensics investigation of Ocean City School District computers conducted by DFDR Consulting of Malvern, Pa. in May and June 2015. The report from that investigation led the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office to charge former Ocean City High School employee Christine Lentz with counts including alleged official misconduct and computer criminal activity. She was later found “not guilty” on all charges.

The Fact: At the time, the OCNJ Daily obtained the report from that forensics investigation as part of a records request in 2015. The analysis provided a stark reminder of the detailed footprints all computer users leave behind. It doesn’t provide any indication that investigators were looking at anyone related to the Upper Townships School Board.

The Fact: It appears that Upper Township’s accusations are based on a reference to such searches during the Lentz investigation. Mark Toscano of the Comegno Law Group representing Ocean City testified that search terms used by DFDR included both Upper Township and Ocean City’s Superintendents and board members from both Ocean City and Upper Township who may have been involved in any decision on contract negotiations.

The Fact: The investigation was designed to determine if there had been a breach of information related to the contract negotiations and if the breach extended beyond the superintendent’s email.

My opinion: This whole situation is upsetting to say the least. At a time when the school districts should be celebrating the accolades they have received, the focus has solely been on the disconnect that exists between the two boards.

My opinion: The Ocean City Board of Education did nothing to create the situation they were put in to. While I have no doubt it’s created a tense situation, ultimately Ocean City School District did nothing to warrant these allegations.

My opinion: As a parent, I commend the job both districts and school boards have done and I have full respect for the time and dedication that is put in to these roles. My wife and I moved to Ocean City a decade ago with a focus on the schools and we have been beyond pleased with that decision. With that said, I would like to implore both districts to agree to mediation immediately, void of the high cost of attorneys, and get back to placing the sole focus on what matters the most…the students.