In a recent Oradell School Board meeting that drew impassioned speeches, probing questions, and fervent discussions, the most contentious issue was the board’s hiring of a new business administrator. The decision has sparked significant controversy, with several participants expressing profound concern about the new hire’s alleged past incidents and potential implications on student safety.
The meeting, which primarily focused on the departure of Mr. Marmora, the former business administrator, and updates on school events and programs, took a turn when the board announced the replacement for Mr. Marmora: Peter Iapelli. Criticism mounted as the public discovered the new hire’s alleged history of harm to children. Iapelli first found himself embroiled in controversy following allegations of verbally berating and physically accosting a teenage coach during a peewee flag football game in Westwood in September 2017. There have also been allegations of a possible DUI/DWI incident, and expunged court records.
The board defended its decision, citing their understanding of “extenuating circumstances” and faith in redemption.
One attendee stated, “I don’t know why you made your decision but I don’t think it was a good one.” Another participant emphasized, “Violence against children is unacceptable,” expressing disappointment in the board’s actions and urging members who voted in favor of the hire to reconsider their positions.
Separately, a parent and educator, Jen Allen, used the public forum to draw attention to the existing methodology for teaching reading in the district. Arguing that the current approach often leaves students struggling due to insufficient or confusing instruction, she urged the board to reform the curriculum accordingly.
Allen underscored the importance of a rigorous and systematic reading program based on the “science of reading,” which includes phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. She criticized the current approach, saying it often leaves students struggling due to insufficient or confusing instruction.
The board acknowledged the concerns but did not appear poised to take action based on the complaints. The board attempted to pass the buck by explaining that their primary roles are hiring the superintendent and setting school policies.
Finally, the board also discussed other issues, including a breakdown of funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), with a portion allocated to pay for salaries and money divided into “pots” for learning and mental health. Confusion over the figures listed in the funding breakdown prompted a decision to improve clarity in future reports, with future documents including a “locally funded” section for better transparency.
The meeting concluded on a note of anticipation and expectation, as the community waits to see the impact of the new hire and the board’s response to the reading curriculum criticism and concerns raised. With issues around transparency, community engagement, and curriculum development on the table, the board’s future actions will be under close scrutiny.