A longtime critic of the Freehold Regional High School District school board was taken away in an ambulance after Monday night’s emotionally charged meeting. He claimed he was assaulted by a district-paid security guard.
Mark Rosenwald, husband of former school board member Bonnie Sue Rosenwald, was taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune and later released with pain medication, his wife said.
Rosenwald began screaming for help shortly after one security guard, Charles Meglio, told at least 10 lingering attendees to leave after the meeting and immediately turned the lights out.
Seconds later, the small red light on Rosenwald’s camera was the only thing that could be seen in the corner of the very dark room as the camera fell to the ground with a thud.
“Call an ambulance,” Rosenwald shouted. In about 10 seconds, Meglio turned the lights back on.
The incident culminated an ugly meeting as critics engaged in shouting matches with members of the school board, and one 32-year supervisor, Theresa Morales, tearfully proclaimed the district was dominated by a “culture of fear and intimidation.”
School board members halted the meeting at one point in an attempt to cool the crowd’s temper.
Tensions have intensified — and the school district has used more security guards for board meetings — ever since Asbury Park Press articles revealed that Superintendent H. James Wasser and one current and one former assistant superintendent gained invalid doctoral degrees from an apparent diploma mill at the expense of the public.
The public has been in an uproar since, but frustrations reached a peak Monday night.
The two security guards barred public and press access into the administration building until exactly 7:50 p.m., 10 minutes before the meeting began.
A 90-minute period of routine business was punctuated by catcalls from Rosenwald, who complained that he could not hear, partly because he had been ordered by the board previously to tape meetings from the back of the room.
As the public comments portion began, a Manalapan resident quizzed the board on the list of bills the board would accept that night.
After Kalman “Butch” Budai questioned three or four items on the list, one of them totaling more than $1 million, he chastised the board for not knowing the details of the items and said they should not vote on a bills list.
“I’m not here to respond to your questions,” board member Christopher M. Placitella said.
“Oh, yes you are!” someone shouted.
Placitella continued to say the board relies on the administration’s recommendations to pass the bills list.
The clamoring dissent from the public grew louder, and Board President Patricia Horvath had to call the meeting to order several times.
Then Morales, a supervisor of math at Manalapan High School, launched her impassioned plea.
Administrators’ intimidation tactics are keeping people from speaking their minds, Morales said.
“Is this not a democracy?” she asked. “Do we not have that right?” With tears streaming down her face, she said she was transferred to Manalapan High School against her will more than two years ago because she attended a school board meeting in which physical education supervisor positions were eliminated. Morales said that “hours before the meeting, word leaked out that any supervisor attending that meeting would be transferred,” which is why Morales said she believed she and two other math supervisors were later placed on such a list.
A fellow supervisor, who also attended that meeting with Morales, retired rather than face a forced transfer, Morales alleged.
“(During) that first year in Manalapan High School, various underhanded tactics were tried on me: the threat of a letter in my file, the threat of withholding my increment, and the threat of putting me between two schools,” she said, adding, “I’d like to see the students, teachers, and supervisors flourish in this district without the fear and disillusionment which I have currently witnessed.”
Then Michael Fishman of Marlboro asked Wasser why he deserves a partially district-financed trip to San Diego, Calif., for the National School Boards Association meeting. He said Wasser should have thought twice after spending district funds to get an unrecognized degree from Breyer State University.
Wasser’s answer was cut short by Fishman, who said Wasser was not answering the question when he said that he had been invited and is entitled to two national trips a year through the district.
“Don’t waste my time,” Fishman said.
“Don’t waste my time,” Wasser retorted. Wasser said he does not work for Fishman.
“Yes, you do,” someone shouted in the back.
“The arrogance,” shouted another.
After the meeting, participants grouped together and talked as they left the room. Then Meglio demanded that everyone leave, immediately flicked off the lights, and soon Rosenwald was calling for help.
Board of Education member Christopher Placitella, seeing Rosenwald on the ground, asserted his belief that Rosenwald fell on purpose.
But, Rosenwald said he had been pushed in the dark by another, larger, more muscular security guard, who had been in some proximity to him when the lights went off. Police would not release the name of the guard, as an investigation is ongoing.
Placitella called EMTs to come to the scene, and later remarked that Rosenwald was in pain.
Wasser came to the doorway and ordered that the police be called.
Police received the call at about 11:30 p.m. Two officers were on the scene within 5 minutes, and questioned witnesses. The security guard denied the allegations.
When EMTs arrived approximately 20 minutes later, they stabilized Rosenwald on a stretcher, which is standard practice when a patient has a suspected head, neck or back injury. He was taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune by ambulance.
Rosenwald was home early this morning, before sunrise, and had been given pain medication at the hospital, his wife said.
Editor’s note: The author of this article was interviewed by police, along with other witnesses.
By Joshua Riley • EDUCATION WRITER • September 24, 2008 – Asbury Park Press