Response to the Board of Education President’s Letter to the Editor | #Education

Dear Editor,  

On September 25, 2020, Ms. Heather Reddy, President of the Madison Public School Board (BOE), wrote a letter to the editor at TAP entitled, “Madison Learning Accommodations and Student Privacy.” The aforementioned was sent to provide clarity to a concern posed by a Madison resident at the September 22 virtual BOE meeting as to why a Vice Principal and other Middle School personnel provide individualized learning experiences to selected gifted students at Kings Road School. This was a simple question under any circumstances, but more so today since many Madison parents, including myself, are hiring tutors and private teachers to help navigate their children’s daily hybrid educational labyrinth. The question posed at the BOE meeting did not violate FERPA.  To be clear, FERPA is designed to protect a minor’s educational records, and while student privacy is critical, FERPA can only reach so far.  There is certainly no expectation of privacy in observing a child or children going into a classroom at a public school during school hours for special instruction.  The question at the BOE meeting merely sought to address what appears to be a troubling situation and perceived conflict of interest.   

I am an attorney, a mother of two children in Madison public elementary school, a Madison tax payer for over 10 years and the daughter of a retired Superintendent of Schools.   I find Ms. Reddy’s explanation woefully inadequate and misguided, especially in light of her seeking our vote for the renewal of her position as BOE president.  Under the guise of student privacy laws, Ms. Reddy pontificates on the Madison Schools’ commitment to every child’s educational plan without even tangentially addressing the fundamental question posed.  The lack of substantive response continues to paint the appearance that all individualized learning plans are not created equally, especially for children with well-connected parents.  Indeed, the role of every BOE in the state of NJ is to oversee the job performance of the Superintendent and to approve or reject his/her educational, budgetary, and personnel policies/ recommendations.  It is not to use this trusted position to gain unfair access to programs.  

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Notably, in an October 16, 2019 article published in the Madison Eagle, entitled “Madison School Board Mulls Changes to Gifted and Talented Program,” Ms. Reddy, then BOE Vice President, voiced her concerns regarding parents being “a little bit aggressive in their eagerness to advocate for their children” for this program, and therefore, she addressed the need for children to be tested to qualify for gifted and talented services.  I share the same concerns as Ms. Reddy, especially when it’s BOE members advocating for these services and the result is obtaining private one-on-one classes on the taxpayer’s dime.  Unfortunately for others, without the same clout, advocacy for their children, even for basic educational needs, is not met with the same extraordinary positive result.    

Equal treatment for students in Madison schools should not be a stretch.  If Ms. Reddy truly wishes to advocate for all district children, begin by abolishing practices that earmark special educational privileges for well-connected students, and make the selection process for such services transparent to the citizens of Madison.  Follow that up with leadership befitting the office.  That is the very least we deserve in considering her plea for our vote. 


Trish L. Wilson  

Madison Resident  

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