The buildings of Phillipsburg High School and Trenton Central High School are remarkably similar. Phillipsburg was built in 1928, Trenton in 1932, in classical style. Both are iconic, graduating outstanding young men and women over the decades. Both have great sports teams. Both serve 1,800 students.
And both buildings have fallen on hard times. They suffer from deferred maintenance. They lack modern classrooms and spaces for science, the arts and technology. Phillipsburg, which serves students from surrounding suburbs, is intensely overcrowded, with 30 dilapidated trailers cramming the site. Trenton Central has a plethora of defects: a crumbling façade, mold and asbestos, falling plaster, and, recently, cracks that shuttered the once-grand auditorium.
Both Phillipsburg and Trenton are urban districts. Both are eligible to have schools renovated or replaced by the state under a program administered by the Schools Development Authority (SDA).
Given the problems in both buildings, the state approved a new Phillipsburg high school and either building a new Trenton Central or a complete overhaul of the existing structure. In 2008, the SDA put the projects on its capital plan, allocating more than $120 million for each.
Both projects began moving through the planning stage. Because Phillipsburg decided to build a new school on a new site, it moved faster. In 2009, Phillipsburg was ready to break ground.
But in January 2010, both projects stopped when newly elected Gov. Chris Christie halted the urban school construction program. When the program restarted in March 2011, the SDA removed both Phillipsburg and Trenton Central from its capital plan.
This is where the stories diverge.
The Phillipsburg district protested the SDA decision not to build the new school. Students wrote letters and protested at the Statehouse in Trenton. The district sued the SDA. Phillipsburg’s effort fell on deaf ears until its legislator, state Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Washington), stepped in to help. Sen. Doherty vowed to press the case for a new building with Gov. Christie.Let's take a small time out here to mention that Sen. Michael Doherty is New Jersey's Worst Senator™ - a man with an astonishing indifference to the needs of the children of this state's working poor. Doherty has for years insisted that state education aid should be distributed without any regard to whether a local community can raise its own school revenues, or whether a community is serving a large proportion of at-risk children.
See, if your parents can't vote for Doherty, he really doesn't much give a damn what happens to you. But if you're in his district...
In February 2012, Gov. Christie announced the SDA would put the Phillipsburg project back on the state construction list. Sen. Doherty praised Gov. Christie for recognizing that Phillipsburg is “overcrowded and in need of major repair” and said “it’s about time that we got our kids out of ramshackle trailers and into proper classrooms.”Yeah! Whoo-hoo! That's how you do it...
I'm sorry, Trenton - what's that you say?
Trenton Central was not put back on the list of schools to be replaced or rebuilt.
In March 2012, the SDA announced it would repair only the most dangerous conditions. The SDA has yet to issue any construction contracts, and won’t begin repairs to the exterior until late next summer. The repairs won’t be completed until early 2018, almost two years after Phillipsburg has a brand-new school.Wow - that seems totally unfair, doesn't it? What did Doherty have to say about this?
You mean except in Phillipsburg, you massive, massive hypocrite.
Keep the mold on the walls and crumbling ceiling on the floor.
That’s what one politician alleges to be occurring at Trenton Central High School, a building that has been documented to contain mold, leaks and a rodent infestation, and has recently been in the middle of a hotly contested debate between the state and the Trenton School District about who will fix the 80-year-old school.“I would say some cynical politicians from time to time may allow buildings to be used as props as opposed to actually doing the proper maintenance — allow an area to be a little spotty, a little maintained less than it should be — just so they could bring the press in and show them,” state Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Warren/Hunterdon/Somerset) said Monday. “I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s occurred somewhere in the history of mankind, maybe even in Trenton. Obviously, because that’s what they want to show.”Doherty’s comments came four days after gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono toured the school’s deplorable conditions, scolding Gov. Chris Christie for failing to make repairs and declining an invitation to tour the school firsthand.The senator contends Trenton receives $227 million in state aid, more than most other districts in the state.“Instead of blaming others, they should ask themselves maybe we should have done a better job,” Doherty said, adding the building and grounds department, the board of education and the superintendent should do more to make sure the building is properly maintained. “It’s certainly not for lack of resources. They’re getting a lot more than virtually any town in New Jersey, but we don’t see those problems in other towns.”
What does the state senator from Trenton, Reed Gusciora, have to say about all this?
Oh, there's no doubt about that, Senator (all figures from the NJDOE 2012-13 enrollment file):
“We’re not doing anything differently than what Sen. Doherty did for Phillipsburg,” Gusciora said about advocating for a new school, adding Doherty is a hypocrite for criticizing Trenton. “All we want is what Michael Doherty got for Phillipsburg.”
Doherty disagrees with the assemblyman.“I don’t think I’m being hypocritical at all because if you go to Phillipsburg High School they don’t have all the problems that Trenton High School seems to have, even though Trenton is getting a lot more (state aid) than Phillipsburg is,” Doherty said. “It’s a totally different situation.”
Trenton Central is, for all intents and purposes, an apartheid school.
While Phillipsburg High has poverty, it is nothing compared to Trenton Central.
And Trenton Central serves far more children who don't speak English as their first language.
Pundits will tell you there is some sort of a war going on between the Tea Partyin' Rand Paul types, of which Doherty is one, and the "moderate" wing of the Republican party as exemplified by Chris Christie. Don't you believe it for a minute: these guys may jockey with each other for political position, but they are a united front when it comes to screwing poor people of color.
More tales of inequity in Chris Christie's New Jersey to come...
What're you lookin' at?