Jun 15, 2012
The Five Towns JCC is engaged in a public relations campaign to try and persuade the District 15 School Board to sell them the now-vacant Number Six School in Woodmere. While there are conflicting reports as to whether a contract has been submitted or not, there is no doubt that the JCC wants to purchase the property.
It has never been clarified whether the bidding process for the school was an open or closed affair. It did seem somewhat irregular a couple of months back that about an hour after the JCC submitted their $9 million-plus bid that HALB (Hebrew Academy of Long Beach) came in with a higher offer by a razor-slim margin of $150,000. Most of the School Board members refuse to be quoted on the record as to whether this was in fact an open or closed process – a matter that is of no small significance owing to the potential conflict of interest issues that arise from the fact that nearly all the board members either have or had kids in HALB or have been honored by the school in the past. If it was an open bidding process (and Board member Nachum Marcus says it was not) then there should have just been a public auction with everyone having the right to keep upping the ante. If it was closed, then board members should not have allegedly alerted HALB as to the JCC’s bid so they could top it if ever so slightly. We would sure like to see the minutes from the School Board’s meetings to determine the facts in the matter.
Having said this, wouldn’t the public be better served by an open auction and/or letting the voters decide who should buy the facility? The people own the school property and the people should derive the most value from the sale of it. Value is monetary, certainly – but there are also other social imperatives at stake, to wit, which buyer would serve the most residents of District 15? If the bids are narrowly close as they are in this case ($150,000 is negligible when $9 million is on the table) then the public interest transcends just dollars and the people in a referendum ought to be able to exercise their democratic rights and choose who gets to own the Number Six School. This process needs to be made more transparent and accessible and the people should have a say not just on whether the property is to be sold but also to whom.
About the Author: