Over the last few years I’ve become increasingly aware that this is a township that leans heavily on politics. There are a lot of you that have known this for a long time, but rather than blindly jumping on the bandwagon I really needed to see for myself. Last month when a council seat opened I threw myself into the interview pool to see what it was all about. I posted about that experience HERE. I learned a lot in the process, but instead of it easing my concerns it only made me want to get more involved.
Last night I attended my first school board meeting. They were interviewing candidates for the board seat that was opened when Carolyn Grace moved up to Council. I debated on applying for that position, but I honestly felt that was better left for someone with an education background or someone with a child in the school system. My reason for going was to observe and see if the outcome was going to be what many predicted. It’s been said that you don’t just become a representative of the people in GT, you have to earn it through loyalty to the right people. I mean they don’t spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on candidates and then just give a position away to some nobody right?
The prediction was that someone connected to the mayor or the Democratic Committee was going to get this position. Unfortunately school board refused to release the names of the candidates so research on each candidate was impossible. That may be a violation of the Open Public Meetings Act, but someone will have to look into that. They didn’t release the names of the candidates until we were all in the building and luckily a few audience members came prepared. Jasmine Robinson was one of people named to be interviewed. She is not only a member of the Camden County Democratic Committee, but also worked as the Treasurer for the David Mayer Campaign back in 2017. She also held another position in GT which she relinquished 11 days prior to the interview. We knew at that point who was going to win the open seat. Well, to be honest I was giving them the benefit of the doubt so I was not 100% committed to the whole conspiracy.
None of the other names raised any concerns so a few members of the audience brought up that they thought electing yet another committee member was politicizing what is supposed to be a non political seat. The board members saw no issue with Jasmine interviewing so they proceeded with the interview process. All candidates were ushered to a private room so they could not hear the questions or answers from those who interviewed before them.
Without going into detail on each person that interviewed, I can tell you that there were clear favorites as far as the audience was concerned. We had former educators each with 25+ years experience and mothers of children in the school system who all gave outstanding answers on the spot with a little bit of thought behind each answer. When the Committee member interviewed last, things were a bit different. Her answers came without thought or hesitation as if she’d somehow already knew what was going to be asked. It was so obvious that I heard someone mumble the same thought to someone near them. When all of the interviews were completed the Board went back into deliberation.
While the Board was busy in the back room we were all free to roam around and discuss our thoughts on the candidates with each other. It was clear that we all thought the two educators nailed it. It was also clear to many that they had no chance at winning either. Not wanting to sink into conspiracy and pessimism I couldn’t wait for them to return to prove everyone wrong.
After 45 minutes the Board returned and before the nominations even started Tori Smith blurted out she was nominating Jasmine Robinson. There was a bit of a pause and then the rest of the board was able to catch up and make their second nomination. Their 2nd nomination was probably the best interview of evening. Unfortunately though, only Mary Ann Johnson and Jennifer O’Donnell were there for the kids as the rest of them voted for Jasmine who in all honesty probably had the 5th most appealing interview of the evening.
A few people stepped up to the mic from the crowd of shaking heads and spoke their displeasure. Some even asked if any members wanted to share why they made their decision and none of them chose to answer.
So I guess if you were to ask me if I’m sold on GT being owned by the mayor and the GT Dem Committee I’d have to say without a doubt. The whole thing just felt dirty and I truly felt bad for those who put themselves out there and never had a chance. I hope the majority of them come back and run for the board again, because they seemed like genuine people.