Trenton Schools Address Lead Contamination and Ethics at Board Meeting

In a recent Trenton Board of Education meeting, one notable issue discussed was the lead contamination found at Grant Intermediate School and the broader implications for the East Trenton area. The meeting also delved into the intricacies of board members’ ethics, conflict of interest concerns, and the importance of adhering to ethical guidelines.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented alarming findings of lead contamination in the soil at Grant Intermediate School, particularly in high-use areas such as the playground and athletic fields. This revelation prompted discussions on the immediate need for remediation measures. The EPA disclosed that while one school site had acceptable lead levels, the other demonstrated multiple areas of lead contamination. To address this, the EPA proposed protective measures, including the installation of soil and sod caps or potentially utilizing artificial turf options, to mitigate the risk to students and the community. The urgency of this situation was underscored by board members’ inquiries about the timeline for remediation work and the potential health impact on students and staff.

The discussion about lead did not end at the school’s premises. The EPA also discussed the LH Mitchell site, a former lead solder facility in Trenton, which was referred for EPA investigation due to soil samples revealing high lead levels. The investigation extended to the historical context of the pottery industry in East Trenton, which had been a significant source of airborne lead releases for over 70 years. An attribution study confirmed that ceramic materials from local potteries were present in residential soils, ruling out other sources such as lead-based paint and gasoline. The EPA’s super fund program was presented as a means to either mandate cleanups or seek reimbursements for EPA-led remediation efforts. The potential placement of the historic pottery site on the national priorities list for long-term cleanup strategies was discussed, along with a focus on community engagement.

Amidst the environmental concerns, the board meeting also placed emphasis on ethics and conflict of interest policies. An ethics presentation highlighted the need for board members to adhere to the School Ethics Act, which includes mandates such as upholding laws and regulations, making decisions with children’s best interests in mind, and refraining from micromanaging. The presentation stressed transparency and the avoidance of conflicts of interest in decision-making. Specific cases were discussed where board members were advised to recuse themselves from voting on matters directly related to family members employed within the district. Additionally, guidelines for volunteering in schools and the use of social media by board members were addressed, emphasizing caution in online activities and the perception of board representation.

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During the meeting, the State Ethics Commission found that board members with relatives working in the district should not select committee chairs or members if related to their family member’s employment. A recent censure of a board president for attending discussions on matters involving their spouse without informing other board members illustrated the critical nature of these guidelines. The discussion also extended to the impact of Teachers Association endorsements on board members’ participation in negotiations.

Public participation reflected community concerns on issues ranging from grievances and language accessibility to lead exposure. Speakers advocated for timely decision-making, equitable access to information, and addressing health and safety concerns. Suggestions for Spanish subtitles and translation services during meetings were brought forth to benefit non-English speaking parents. Additionally, concerns about the cleanliness and safety of sidewalks around schools were raised.

The meeting also touched on various other subjects such as the need to make up school days missed due to snow, plans for a community conversation about technology, and the proposal to rebrand Daylight Twilight High School to offer workforce development services. Updates from the policy, family and community engagement, human resources, facilities, and curriculum committees were provided, covering topics such as policy goals, facility usage, school event planning, and educational program updates.

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Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Superintendent:
James Earle
School Board Officials:
Yolanda Marrero-Lopez, Gerald Truehart, Gene Bouie, Addie Daniels-Lane, Deniece Johnson, Jeannie Weakliem, Austin Edwards, Esq. (Board Member), Sasa Olessi Montaño, Larry Traylor

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