David Gruber, a member of the Teaneck Board of Education for the past five years, has resigned, citing philosophical differences as well as significant time constraints. With one year remaining in his second term, Gruber explained that professional obligations have made it increasingly difficult to offer the time necessary to maintain his board position. He also said it has become apparent to him that, while the board is well intended, he does not share the same vision on fundamental issues that determine the success of the school system.
Board President Ardie Walser announced the resignation to fellow board members, calling Gruber “an outspoken and fearless public servant whose presence on the board has helped to make it a better, more discerning board.”
According to Gruber, the most significant disparity of opinion with colleagues lay in the spending budget. He said the New Jersey Department of Education has published statistics which indicate that Teaneck educators are among the highest paid in the state. He also charged that 70 percent of Teaneck’s BOE spending costs are labor-related, and this includes not only salary but benefits as well. In Gruber’s opinion, Teaneck teachers are well compensated and appear willing to disrupt the educational process to achieve their financial goals.
Gruber described himself as data-driven with a sense of urgency to resolve, if possible, key issues. The board also described itself as data-driven, but Gruber believes that additional opportunities exist to generate insight, implement actions and monitor progress. He also believes there are different ways to reduce spending, such as by outsourcing an additional custodial shift, renegotiating overly generous benefits such as unused sick and vacation pay, and health benefits with a premium cost of $37,000 per family. He noted that “nearly 31 percent” of Teaneck’s students are classified for special education services, as compared to 16 percent for the state overall, highlighting, Gruber believes, an issue with
inclusion criteria and outcomes monitoring.
While he commended his colleagues, he believes that too often the facts are overshadowed by beliefs, politics and the desire to be popular and ultimately re-elected. “It’s more about process than outcomes,” explained Gruber.
Allocation of resources and prioritization is a major issue as well, said Gruber, indicating that there is a large amount of money spent on student activities which would be better spent inside the classroom. “Experience is important but we are in the business of education,” said Gruber. It’s much easier to spend than cut, he added, but without unlimited funds, it is essential to the success of the system to prioritize the way resources are allocated.
Gruber indicated that Teaneck is a multicultural township with tremendous diversity. Looking ahead, Gruber said he hopes to see greater engagement from different groups, not just those who have children in the school system. Labeling himself as fiscally conservative yet socially liberal, Gruber hopes that, like him, his successor will approach the board with courageous and honest initiatives to ensure that the school system functions with the appropriate level of resources. Gruber reflected on his time on the board as a learning experience.
Teaneck will appoint a successor by the beginning of April, within 65 days of Gruber’s resignation. That person will hold the seat until it runs out next year.
By Andrea Nissel