Cathy Kazan, a trustee-elect to the Wayne Board of Education, will be sworn into a one-year term at the board’s meeting Thursday.
Per a 2011 state law, newly-elected or –appointed board members must complete and pass a criminal background check and be fingerprinted. Anyone convicted of a crime that would prevent a person from working in a public school is also disqualified from serving on a school board.
Morpho Trust, the government contractor responsible for taking the fingerprints, did not process Kazan’s in time. Kazan was re-fingerprinted Tuesday. The Jan. 2 meeting was cancelled anyway due to the snowstorm.
“I’m happy it is finally going to happen and that I didn’t miss any time because of the weather, but I still have more questions than answers,” Kazan said. “It has been suggested that the state Department of Education may have overstepped a little bit but it’s not clear. I don’t think the law was interpreted correctly.”
The law states that newly-elected or –appointed board of education members must submit to a background check to ensure they have not been convicted of a “crime or offense.” The person’s fingerprints are shared with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New Jersey State Police.
Kazan was not the only elected member to report problems completing the process.
More than 150 board members reported “technical difficulties” that prevented them from completing the process, the state Department of Education (DOE) announced Tuesday.
The DOE said people who have not yet completed the background check could be sworn in at their board’s reorganization meeting.
“The change makes sense, and it reflects NJSBA’s interpretation of the criminal background check law,” said Lawrence Feinsod, executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association. “Even though we greatly appreciate the Department of Education's change, NJSBA will seek legislation to have its interpretation of the law codified in statute.”
Kazan said she would work with local legislators to change and clarify the law.
“I don’t mind the background check and fingerprinting but a duly-elected official should never be kept from taking office for any reason,” Kazan said. “Elected officials at the municipal, county, or state levels don’t have to be fingerprinted or go through a background check. If this is about contact with children, I think they’d better rethink this.”
The meeting will be held at the district’s administrative office at 50 Nellis Drive beginning at 7 p.m. It will be streamed live online. Trustees Mitchell Badiner, Alan Mordkoff, and Robert Ceberio will be sworn into new three-year terms.