Segments of Asbury Park High School Board are under fire for their strange choice in priorities. There has been a decline in enrollment from 440 to 390 over the last year and they’ve had to cut the number of teachers they employ. Yet, some members recently asked the board to spend an additional $45,000 to change the color of the turf on their new $716,000 field from green to blue. Asbury Park’s school colors are blue and black.
Former school board president Remond Palmer, one of the main forces behind the expensive new field was at the meeting on Wednesday, pushing for the proposed change that is supposedly desired by the students. Palmer has twice been president and was removed by the state both times. Current board President Gregory Hopson had to remind Palmer not to interject himself into the board’s proceedings.
One of the board members who had supported Palmer in the original decision to go ahead with the field project explained its importance:
“When our kids are not coming to school for education, we have to give them something,” Ahbez-Anderson said after criticizing the fiscal monitor. “Basketball and football is their life.”
The four board members remaining from Palmer’s previous majority wanted to use part of the field project money that hadn’t been spent yet, an action which was considered premature by other members:
“You don’t have enough money if there’s a change order,” said Lester Richens, the state fiscal monitor who keeps tight control over all district spending. “I really feel adding another $45,000 would be inappropriate at this time. I know it’s an emotional decision but the problem is you’re cutting yourselves extremely short. You should wait.”
Another of Palmer’s supporters on the board suggested that $45,000 should be found as the school had recently paid $75,000 to the city to provide extra patrol officers near the school. This had been done in response to an increase in local gun violence and the recent shooting of an 11 year old girl in her home. Richens had to point out that money spent saving a child’s life was somewhat more important than the color of a sports field.
The board rejected the color change proposal 5-4.