|All interviews were taped and documented. They are available through the Reference Department of the Teaneck Public Library. The Library is not responsible for the accuracy of the statements nor does it necessarily endorse the opinions expressed.|
|NARRATOR:||Charles S. Grady|
|DATE OF INTERVIEW:||March 22, 1984|
This is Orra Davage interviewing Charles Grady for the Oral History project of the Teaneck Public Library.
(I) Charles, When did you move to Teaneck?
(N) I moved to Teaneck in November, 1963.
(I) Where did you come from? Was it New Jersey or where?
(N) I came actually almost directly from West Germany and I arrived in Teaneck by accident. The situation was this. I had completed my term of service in the United State Army and I had decided, along with my wife, we both had decided that we would like to live in the north Jersey area, perhaps because we had visited my wife's relatives. She had relatives at the time that lived in Cresskill and in Englewood and at one point, I was stationed in south Jersey before I had gone overseas to West Germany and we had visited the area several times. Of course, I didn't know anything about Teaneck, I only know about Englewood and Cresskill. And we liked the area so we decided that we would settle in this area, not specifically in Teaneck because we didn't know anything about Teaneck. We found an apartment.
(I) By yourself.
(N) No, not by ourselves. We went to a realtor and the realtor lived in Englewood. And we looked at several apartments around Bergen County and, including Fort Lee and Englewood.
(I) They showed you apartments in Fort Lee?
(N) Yes, we saw an apartment in Fort Lee. It was, I suppose you might call it a mid-rise. At that particular time Fort Lee did not have the high-rise apartments. A rather nice apartment but at that time in my career, I really couldn't afford the rent that was being asked for in essence a large studio.
(I) What did you do then - I mean what was your job?
(N) Well at that time, I was between jobs because I had just come out of the Army. So I did not have a permanent civilian position at the time. And so we found, through the help of a realtor, this two-family house which happened to be in Teaneck right on the edge of Teaneck on Hargrave Avenue which is really an extension of West Englewood, that's Palisade Avenue in Englewood. Right in the beginning of Teaneck there. So we discovered that we were in Teaneck and it was from that point that we began to continue to live and progress to the point at which we are at now. But many things have happened along the way over that period of time.
(I) When did you move to this address on Summit Avenue?
(N) We moved to this particular address in 1965.
(I) So you were just two or three years over there. How did you find your neighbors here?
(N) Well at the time that we moved into this house on Summit Avenue, it was what I call an unfortunate time in Teaneck, not only Teaneck but almost all other communities in this country. It was a time in which persons who happened to be black would not be shown certain areas of houses and certain areas were discouraged from buying homes in those areas and had to go through court fights to even have a chance at getting homes in certain areas unless it was in an area that had been preselected for you by someone who wouldn't even know you but they would decide that you would have to live in a certain area. So that was what was happening at that particular point. We had looked at several homes in other communities. We even looked at a home in Ridgewood. The owners were very nice people, they happened to be white, and the neighbors of course were, looked at us askance and the upshot of that Ridgewood incident was that we were told two days later that they had an all cash buyer for the home and, that may have been a likely story. I don't know who was walking around with that much cash. I certainly didn't have the cash. So anyway we came to Teaneck and we found Summit Avenue and our neighbors at that time, on this particular block of Summit Avenue, were all white except one family. One family directly across the street had lived on Summit Avenue since 1960 and of course there was a black family on the corner but their house was actually on Robinson Street so I don't consider them on this particular block, on Summit. But we found the neighbors, I suppose you might describe it as being not skeptical but sort of accepting in that my perception of their feelings was that they accepted this as a foregone conclusion that this was something that was going to happen. The blacks were going to begin to move into this area so they were just going to accept it. But there was no open hostility and the people seemed gracious enough when we moved in. We had a small child at the time, our daughter was two years old at the time and I can't say that we were greeted over hostilities. However, one of the families that lived diagonally across the street, the lady of the house about two weeks after we had moved in, came over and said that she was moving because her house was too small. She had a grown family and she didn't want us to think that she was moving because we had moved here. This despite the fact that her father lived behind her on another street and she had specifically arranged it so that she would be nearby while he maintained his independence but nevertheless, she felt that move just two weeks after we had arrived. But that was her prerogative as an individual I suppose.
(I) You by this time had gotten a job. Where did you work and what did you do?
(N) Yes of course I had gotten a job before that otherwise I couldn't get the house. I worked initially, thank goodness, in New York city for a private firm, a manufacturing firm. I worked in the Accounting Department. One of the reasons I got involved in this was because in the military I had been a member of the Adjutant General Corps which is the administrative arm of the Army and I had enjoyed the desk work and although originally I had gone to school, I majored in music at Virginia State College and I had trained to become a pubic school music teacher. My military career began immediately after graduation, almost immediately, and after that, as a result of the experience in the military, i decided to experiment with the field of accounting. And perhaps another impetus may have been the fact that my wife is in accounting.
(I) Was she working at this time?
(N) She was not working because our daughter was just two years old. In fact, our daughter was a year old when we came to Teaneck and so she had her hands full looking after our young child. So I worked for a couple of years in New York City. In the meantime, I contacted the county superintendent of schools and inquired as to what I needed to do to get a teaching certificate. For New Jersey. So I received my teaching certificate about a year after I had been back in the United States even though I was still in the business world. Subsequent to that time, I made inquiries about teaching jobs. I suppose I started to pull back to what I had originally trained to do. In looking over some of the openings at that time, you have to remember this was the mid-60s, teaching jobs were plentiful, teachers were very mobile at that time because of the high enrollment and there were several opening for music teachers around the county and I just happened to pick one from the list and make an inquiry and I interviewed subsequently for that particular position and I have been there ever since.
(I) And where is that?
(N) This is in the borough of East Rutherford. East Rutherford is in the southern part of Bergen County. Now we are very famous because of the Meadowlands. The complex is there, the stadium and the race track. But at that time, it was not very well known. I certainly had never heard of it until I saw it on this list. And they were looking for an instrumental music teacher.
(I) What lever is this? Is this elementary or
(N) It was in the elementary school at that time. So I interviewed successfully for that position and I resigned my position in New York to take this position. I've been there ever since.
(I) I really seems that you have settled down into the town. What did you do about getting yourself appointed with the people in town in organizations when you cam. You said that your daughter was two years old and, she's grown, where did she go to school?
(N) All right. let me see if I can answer the first part of your question. My wife and I have been active and we had originally met when she was working in the field of mental health at a state hospital in the state of Virginia and I had gone to this hospital to take a temporary position. I went into the military almost immediately upon graduation, after graduation and I had worked at this mental hospital for about nine months and as it turned out, I was fortunate in that I did meet my wife at this time at the place and so from that point it seemed that we had many interests that were similar and one of our interests was becoming involved in helping people. And having a really keen interest in people and in mental health, their well-being, and in the community, the surrounding community. Perhaps it might even go back further that that. I had a grandmother who was involved in the P. T. A. and civic progress in the state of North Caroline all her life and she lived to be 92 years old and she was heavily involved, deeply involved in the community, parent teacher association. She was one who believed in education and had been a teacher at one time herself which was not the usual thing around the turn of the century and just prior to that. But nevertheless so she had had some influence on interesting people in education in the community. So here we were in Teaneck and one incident, I won't call it an incident. I'll call it an issue was surfacing around about the time that we were getting here and getting settled back on Hargraves Avenue and that was the issue of what the town was going to do about it emerging black population, particularly on the school population.
This was the time in which the town began to see that the schools were no longer going to be able to run as they had been run without some of them becoming segregated again this due to the fact that blacks were not allowed to purchase where they wished to live. And since we were relegated to mostly one area of town, it stands to reason that the school, the elementary school in this particular part of town would, of course, rapidly obtain a high percentage of black students and so, seeing this, as history shows, the town decided to come up with an educational plan which in effect was the central sixth grade plan. Scribner was superintendent of schools at that time. and as the history books tell us and those of us who were here recall, the issue centered around the approval of the board approval of this plan and of course those people who were running for election as board members, those who supported the plan or the integrationists if you will of course were opposed by those who were opposed to the plan and we will call them segregationists for want of a better word and this is really how the town voted for integration. It was not a referendum as sometimes perhaps people out of town might think if they don't know about Teaneck history. But it was really voting for school board members who took certain positions to implement this plan and the upshot of it or the out come of which was designed to effect the integration of the students. So this was beginning to boil over.
This was the big issue when we came. And we became involved in it to some extent even though our daughter was just a year or two old. We felt this commitment. Now living in the northeast community as it is called, this particular quadrant of Teaneck, it happens to be the northeast quadrant and it happens to be the place where most blacks live. At least they did at that time and I think it is still true today, we became members and I in particular became very active in the community organization called NECO (The North East Community Organization) which was a civic group that had grown out of a desire to, I suppose, ease the pains of racial integration in the town because this had been the point that we first had blacks come in so blacks and whites were working together in this group. It was about 60/40 I suppose at that time. Trying to effect good community, good stable, viable community and trying to say to the public and to those who were observing even those from other parts of town that there was no need for alarm, we can work things out, we are just people like anyone else and soon this organization, I think many, many effective things were done. I became involved in that. The issue of the school integration was upon us. But that is sort of how I got into it. My wife, of course, was involved and as much as she could be at that particular time with a small child. But I suppose you might say that's the entry level of being involved in the town.
(I) Once you get into one, then you go from one to another and on. But then you initially moved into town in the Bryant School area, right? (That's correct ) And this is the Washington Irving school. So did your daughter go to Washington Irving?
(N) Yes. My daughter went to kindergarten at Washington Irving School. At that particular time.
(I) Was it still a neighborhood school at that time?
(N) It was a neighborhood school, kindergarten through sixth grade, but what had happened was this. It was rapidly becoming I won't say becoming black but had a high percentage of blacks, black enrollment and so the solution at that time was not to allow any new entrants to continue (inaudible) My daughter went there in the fall of 1967 in kindergarten and she, had the school remained in its state at that time in its organization plan, she would not have gone first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth grade there. She would have been bussed to another
(I) Because you were late arrivals in the school district.
(N) Just at that particular time. In other words, other black students who went there that particular year would not be allowed to complete their education there. They were trying to slow down the enrollment of blacks. In other words I guess you might call it a frozen enrollment. They were trying to freeze the enrollment so she completed her kindergarten there and, as things turned out, the school changed the very next year anyway. it became a birthday school, from kindergarten only, in 1968 so things changed but had they remained as they were, she would not have gone there. So she went to kindergarten there and I don't know if you recall this but because of her birthday, she had to take a special test.
(I) That 's right. They had an entrance date, deadline.
(N) Deadline. And because she was born after deadline, in order to enter kindergarten without having to wait for the following year, she had to take this psychological test.
(I) So she was able to get in at least for one year.
(N) Now after that with the grade organization plan changing the town, she was bussed to another school and it was decided by whoever does that sort of thing, at that time I don't think the computer were doing it, it was decided that she would go to Whittier School. Now I have no way of knowing how this was determined but she did ride the bus to Whittier School for the, through the sixth grade because in the meantime, while she was approaching the sixth grade the plan was changed again and there was no more central six grade as it had been originally at Bryant School but by the time my daughter was in the sixth grade, she remained at Whittier so she spent all of her elementary years at Whittier School except with the exception of the one year at Washington Irving in kindergarten.
(I) And then of course she went to TJ and all.
(N) Yes. After that she went to Thomas Jefferson Junior High School and from there to Teaneck High School.
((I) I presume you were actively involved in, you and your wife, were actively involved in the P. T. A. and things of that kind.
(N) Yes. At Washington Irving, we both belonged to the P. T. A. of course as active as we could. Now I have to say that unfortunately my wife had a terrible accident within our home just prior to my daughter's entering kindergarten and she was unable to the physically active for almost two years but I became active at Washington Irving and, as a matter of fact, I was even elected a third vice president whatever that means. But the following year I was supposed to be on the executive council board of Washing Irving P. T. A. but, of course, as I mentioned earlier, the school changed its grade configuration and so that was disbanded. I was never able to take my office. However, we became active in the Whittier School with the P. T. O.
(I) Who was the principal at that time? At Whittier, Miss Hackner.
(N) No. At that time, it was a man by the name of Henry Whitty. He is no longer in the district of course. He is now superintendent of schools in Oradell.
(I) He retired, didn't he or he just left for another job?
(N) You mean from Teaneck? (from Teaneck) No. When he left Teaneck, he went to Oradell as superintendent up there, in the elementary district there, a position which I believe he is still in today. But anyway he was, at that time, principal of Whittier School.
(I) Well that takes you pretty much up through the schools. Do you go on to any other organizations in town? Affiliated with any others except those that were school oriented?
(N) Yes. As I mentioned earlier, I had been involved with the North East Community Organization and subsequent to that time, I became involved with the 1978 which is really pushing past a number of years, I became involved with a newly-formed group called the Citizens Forum of Teaneck.
(I) Did any particular incident tough off the formation of this group or how is it that it came about.
(N) Well let me give you my perception or my opinion of how it came about. At one time in Teaneck, there was an organization, a civic townwide organization, known as the Teaneck Political Assembly better known as TPA. And the function of TPA had been to select candidates or to encourage candidates to run for the Board of Education. Coming out of a very volatile political atmosphere following the integration of the schools, many people in the town well-thinking, well-meaning people felt that an organization such as TPA was needed to give candidates a forum to encourage them and also to seek out people who might be interested in elective office and to encourage the best of those to run for office. To help them in other ways. And so this organization was considered to be the rather leading one in the community at that time and it served a very fine, fine purpose in that it was not political in the traditional sense. It was not democratic or republican. It included people who happened to belong to both parties but it was a townwide organization that served a purpose.
Now what had happened over a period of time, and I would say in my judgment, over a period of ten to fifteen years, up to 1978, the T. P. A. had become complacent to a point. People had begun to forget about things that had happened back in the early 60s and the mid 60s as people began to go about the mundane tasks in some instances of earning a living and trying to survive and trying to adjust to the different things, the Viet Nam War, the ending of that war, and other things and President Nixon and his demise and so many things thought-shaping events that were happening, they began to sort of take the local things for granted and in my judgment, this is what sort of happened to the T. P. A. So the upshot of it was that in 1978, there was a group of people in town who felt that an alternative organization, civic organization was needed at this point. So this group organized itself and it came about around the time of a council election and the majority of the people who were the initiators or founders as it were of citizens forum supported a particular slate of candidates which slate for the town council was unsuccessful.
This is not to say the T. P. A. necessarily endorsed the ones who won, the candidates that won, but because some of the original members of the citizens forum were also members of the T. P. A. at that time. But at any rate, this group of people, which included a lot of people who had been living in town for a number of years and who were knowledgeable about town events felt the need for this organization. Now the stated purpose of the organization was to 'elevate the level of awareness' in the community. Not unlike the original purpose of T. P. A. But again this is an organization that (phone rights) so this group of people decided to form the citizens forum of Teaneck and there was another issue in town also. In addition to the council election that years, we had something happen in town regarding the township library.
There was an unfortunate occurrence in that we had a librarian who was really interested in trying to build a new library. This has been a project which she was involved, a voluntary project, or a project in which donations were being made, contributions solicited to build a new library. The town had at an earlier time rejected a referendum for anew building for a library and Teaneck happens to be one of those towns in which people like to read and like to use their library a lot. It has a very high circulation. And the need for a new library was clearly evident but the money wasn't there, wasn't forthcoming, so several people decided that one approach might be to raise part of the money through voluntary contributions and unfortunately, some things happened just prior to, well not construction of the library but prior to the time in which construction was going to be talked about as I recall and it seems that the library didn't have as much money as the public thought it had in contributions. So as a result, there was a mild scandal in town. There was a mild scandal and several people were upset by this and this of course was an issue that this newly formed organization, the citizens forum, seized upon and took a side, took a position, that the thing that happened should not have been allowed to happen and this organization called for resignations of people who had been in responsible positions. Of course it wasn't the only group to call for resignations by any means but it did take a very vocal position, very much in the news in opposing some of the subsequent solutions that were offered. So
(END OF SIDE A - BEGIN SIDE B)
(I) We were talking about the library issue with the citizens forum.
(N) Yes, I suppose this issue went on for about a year and the outcome was that a solution was reached by the township council that was found that there had been no criminal negligence on anybody's part. There were some changes made and I believe that the majority of the people in town by this time were tired of this issue and they felt that the best thing that could be done was being done and certainly many members of the citizens forum were no as vocal as others. So we began to let that issue resolve itself which was good and of course today, we have a very nice addition to the library which serves everyone well. The citizens forum was also involved in other aspects of the town. One such aspect was the area of dual officeholder. We had a situation to occur in Teaneck in which member of the Board of Education. Peter Zeleny to be exact, decided to run for township council in this same 1978 election. And he was fortunate enough to win election tot he council. Now prior to the time that he was elected he had stated that he would resign from the board of education seat at some point. he did not give specific date but he said that he would resign. he would not hold both office at the same time although at this particular time, he saw no reason why he couldn't serve on both but he said he would resign one. And this became an issue with members of the C. F. T. because Mr. Zeleny seemed to be in no hurry. He was elected in May to the council and he went right on with this Board of Education duties right on into the fall, the late fall, and so the citizens forum decided at that time to file suit against Mr. Zeleny and to call for his resignation as a member of the Board of Education and the suit (inaudible) In that the judge agreed that under the circumstances of this particular case, in this particular instance, that Mr. Zeleny should indeed give up one of his offices. Now in the meantime, Mrs. Zeleny did resign and he made a point of saying that he was planning to resign anyway from the Board of Education and he was going to resign when he got ready to resign and it wound up that he did resign when he felt like it but everybody was happy that he resigned and he won it too. The citizens forum won the suit and everybody was happy and got back to the business of getting on with the town.
(I) That sounds like typical Teaneck politics. Speaking of politics, you belong to one of the political parties.
(N) Yes, I am a registered democrat. A member of the Democratic party.
(I) Now that group has had some kind of division since you have been in town, hasn't it? It's not the same people. Wasn't there a pulling out of a group in forming another party or subsidiary party or something?
(N) I think perhaps you are talking about the Democratic Club. Let me explain it. The Democratic party is organized along a list of lines in that it has a municipal committee and the member of the municipal committee are elected from within their own election districts. They actually are on the ballot and they are called committee people. A man and a woman are elected from each election district in the township of Teaneck as democratic committee people and these people form the membership of the Democratic Municipal Committee. Although the members are called County Committee Members, they also belong to the Democratic County Committee and this is their actual title - county committee people. They are actually close allied within the town, they are organized within the town, at that first level in other words and then the towns, of course, form the county organization. Now in addition to the municipal committee which is the inter-structure of the party, there is a democratic club which operates for the benefit of the party of course but outside of the inter-structure. The people of course are not elected and anyone who wishes to join may join and participate in these activities and of course the republican party has a similar organization.
In Teaneck, the original democratic club which was known as the Teaneck Democratic Club was in existence from a time back long before I arrived in town and up until the mid 60s, this Teaneck democratic club served as the functioning body for most democrats who wished to participate in this. Now a club assists candidates, it holds forums for people who aspire to office on the democratic ticket and also school board candidates as well although the school board elections are non-partisan in their nature as are our township elections. And the democratic club, some members who were interested in reform and who were against the Viet Nam War decided to form what became known as the Open Party Democrats. Not only were these people who were against the Viet Nam War but they wanted a new approach given to the selection of candidates who run for office. At that particular time, the county committee selected who was going to run and actually what it was was a case of backroom politics because a committee which at that time my very well have been one person who had the power, we don't know that for a fact but we were pretty sure that that did happen on occasion, would select people to run. But the Open Party Democrats were formed to change this, to form an open primary, to have an open primary for candidates who were running for office. The board of chosen freeholders for example, the candidates for the democratic nomination for that office would be able to be selected at an open forum, an open primary, such as we are going through now with our presidential election. And prior to that time, there was no such thing for the democratic candidates so this segment of democrats which called itself Open Party Democrats did in fact form another club. Now prior to the municipal committee (inaudible) certain members of the club were also members of the municipal committee and of course there was some power struggle there as to who would control the committee.
(I) I can imagine.
(N) Now what happened there, over the years since around 1968, the open party democratic club became the larger of the town organizations. The Teaneck Democratic Club began to lose power in the municipal committee as well as lose power as a club of its own and the end result was that the Teaneck Democratic Club ceased to exist and the Open Party democrats became quote, unquote the Democratic organization - a club in town. So much so that in recent years, the name was changed from Open Party Democrats to the Democratic Club of Teaneck. We would not us the name Teaneck Democratic Club but we could use Democratic Club of Teaneck which now it still is today.
(I) I see.
(N) My wife and I were very involved in this club. I was not a committee person but my wife was a committee woman. My wife is more active on the political side than I am. So it was through this organization that our political contributions were made so far as party is concerned.
(I) So your wife is now a committee
(N) She is now a committeewoman from the 16th district in Teaneck.
(I) Now in other aspects of Teaneck life, have you participated for example, how about the recreation or the social facilities and the religious organizations in town.
(N) Well the recreational and social facilities, I have not had a direct involvement in them. I have always afforded the idea of recreational facilities for the young which is something that seems to have escaped us even though we now have a recreational center and have had for several years on Teaneck Road. I have always felt that this was a stop-gap measure that never really fully served the purposes of the town however well meaning it may have been in the beginning. But I've not had a direct involvement with that. I supported the idea. The religious aspect is good. I suppose I am like many people in Teaneck who have been here for a number of years but they still have their direct religious membership if they belong to an organized religious body, they belong to a church or whatever, outside of the town and I fall in that category. And I say that sort of tongue in cheek because my original religious affiliation is with the African Methodist Episcopal Church which particular church of my own membership happens to be the one in my birthplace which is in North Carolina. I have never changed my membership from that church and I must say though that in Teaneck because of the fact that my wife and my daughter are Roman Catholics, I have been active to a point with the St. Anastasia parish. Active in a sense that I have made financial contributions and during the time that my daughter was going to the public schools here and was living at home, I participated in many activities in the church. My wife ran for parish council once and I assisted her in that. The parish council was a church body that acts as a layman's advisory board to the parish and a lot of my involvement was due in no small part to the very effective pastor that was here during a large part of the time, Father Joel.
(I) Oh I knew Father Joel.
(N) Father Joel was certainly well-known throughout the town and his leadership in the parish as well as in the town was of such magnitude that I think that a lot of my participation, even though I am a Methodist, came as a result of his encouragement. As a matter of fact, I told my wife just the other night that if Father Joel had stayed here, I may have become a convert. At one point, I seemed to have been on the road to that.
(I) Well, How do you feel about your life here since you've been in Teaneck?
(N) Well I've touched on some community involvement aspects of it and just briefly about my own personal career. I feel that it has been a very full life in Teaneck. It has been interesting from the stand point of the fact that we live in a community which I deem a progressive one. There are many people in this town who are concerned about issues, who are thinking people, who like to discuss issues and reach equitable solutions to problems, who are not afraid to speak up and I like living in this kind of town.
It is a town that has tried to approach problems of the 60s, 70s and 80s with its head above the water and out of the sand unlike many other communities in Bergen County, some of whom don't wish to come into the 20th century but Teaneck has come into the 20th century maybe kicking and screaming at first but now I think it has weathered the storm and it has become a very heartening community, one in which I think anyone would do well and would enjoy living in. So my life here has been rewarding from that standpoint of community involvement, the civic, the religious aspect, the political aspect of it as well as my own personal life which has progressed believe it or not from going to teaching music in East Rutherford.
In the meantime I have become involved in other personal relations such as my college Britannica. I did belong to the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity which is a Greek letter organization, a college fraternity of predominantly black men which I joined back in Virginia State and now recently I have become active in a graduate chapter that has been organized here in Teaneck just last year so this has added a new dimension to my life in Teaneck that I enjoy very much and so now with the fraternity and also the meantime I have gone back to school myself, I have acquired a masters degree from Montclair State College back in 1969 and subsequent to that time, I have been doing further work at Rutgers towards a doctorate and at this particular point, I have an ABD which, for the uninitiated, means All But Dissertation. The dissertation of course being the most important part. But I have gotten all the preliminaries out of the way with the qualifying exams that they have had. I have taken all of the course work, I have completed the residency requirement and I am now in the throes of writing that big research document. Hopefully I will complete it at some time in the not too distant future. So I have had all of these things I've become involved in. It has been very rewarding to me since I've been in this town. I feel that I had no idea that I would ever be living in this part of the country as I mentioned earlier, I came to Teaneck by accident but that having happened, I think we have been the better for it.
(I) Well I am in agreement with you. It sounds like from your experiences that Teaneck has been the better for it. We thank you very much for telling us about it.
(N) Just let me say this before we close. My business being music and being concerned with the arts, I have been involved with the Arts Advisory Board to the township council. This is a board that was organized by the township council back in 1978 to adjust the needs of artists and also to add a new dimension to the town. speaking earlier about the progressiveness of the town and the type of people who like to live here, we have a large number of artists, musicians, painters, sculptors, etc., writers, who live in the town and this Artists Advisory Board or Advisory Board on the Arts through the township council addresses issues and concerns to the town as well as to the artists living here and I did become very active with that organization. One of the things that we did during the time that I was heavily involved with it was published a directory of Teaneck artists. This was a pet project of mine which I did and I completed in 1980 copies of which are in the library and all the schools. So that again was another dimension of my life in Teaneck. Very enjoyable.
(I) Well, thank you very much.
(N) You are welcome.
(I) You spoke earlier about how the schools were reorganized in different ways as your daughter was growing up. We seem to be in the middle of another reorganization plan now. What are your feelings about this present set of plans?
(N) You are absolutely right. Of course this reorganization at the present time is of a little different nature. What has happened over the last fourteen years, we have had a decreasing enrollment, a decline in enrollment of public school students. Almost half of what it was in Teaneck. And I believe, and many other believe also, that we no longer have the need for eleven school buildings.
(I) Used as schools.
(N) Used as schools, right. For a classroom instruction purposes. So in order to address that issue, declining enrollment as well as budget problems with inflation and the cost of providing a quality education becoming so, so high and with the tax structure in town, Teaneck has one of the highest tax rates in the county, and we have very few ratables so it puts a very high burden on the property owner and the Board of Education was forced to seek a solution to this and the better solution was to organize the schools in such a way by stopping the use of three buildings. Now I am fully in agreement with that and certainly, being an educator myself, I understand the need to have quality education. My daughter certainly received a quality education here but Ii feel that at this time in our history, it is an organization plan that has come of age.
The reorganization of the schools then is a plan that is needed at this time. And speaking about quality education, Teaneck has had a fine school system over the years. My own child, own daughter, I should say at this point that she is 21 years old and she is a second year medical student at Duke University School of Medicine, my own daughter certainly received a fine background here all the way from kindergarten to the time that she graduated from high school and on into Howard University from which she received Baccalaureate Degree and on into Duke Medical School so I certainly am one who is concerned with high quality in education and I believe that this high quality will continue. I don't believe that the buildings themselves have that great an impact as long as you keep the quality of the instructions high and I see no reason to doubt that that will change because we are closing certain buildings. But it is going to be certainly a traumatic experience for those staff members who will lost their jobs but there again, these are things that happen and I don't think that the people in town really can afford to maintain the schools. I believe that the schools will be organized in such a way that the classes and the teachers and the curriculum, etc. so that this high quality will be maintained. We will just be using three fewer buildings for actual classroom instruction.
(I) Well, it is up for grabs in April 1st when the budget is to be voted on and I guess that will be one of the telling.
(N) I believe it will. I believe the budget will be a telling vote and we keep in mind that the budget really is based on the closing of these school in order to try to close the gap, the budget gap. There was a big gap in the budget between how much was needed and how much of it was going to be raised through tax revenue and I think also constraints imposed by the state limit called a cap and we ran into a problem in that regard so hopefully, people will understand this and they will support the budget and I believe it has been fashioned in an economical way as possible considering the time in which it was.
(I) Well, we'll see and hope for the best.
(N) Yes. We certainly will.