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2004/9/15 19:03
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'I think about it every day,' Epps says amid wavering support
Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Jersey City's beleaguered state-appointed schools chief, Charles T. Epps Jr., told The Jersey Journal yesterday he's contemplating retirement.

"At my age, it's always on your mind," said Epps, who's 62. "I think about it every day."

The statement by Epps, who doubles as a state assemblyman for parts of Jersey City and all of Bayonne, follows weeks of bad publicity about a costly trip to England two years ago.

He made his comments yesterday just hours after the Journal held an editorial board meeting with four of the city school board's nine members.

Contrary to public perception, the board members - who only have advisory powers - said they often feud with Epps over a variety of school-related matters, including "block" scheduling at the high schools.

And for the first time, the officials said a majority of members privately went to Epps before he ran for office last year and asked him not to do it.

"Each and every board member went to Dr. Epps when he first decided to run and told him it's not a good idea," School Board Chairman William DeRosa said.

"If I had my druthers, he'd just be superintendent," DeRosa said. "It (the superintendent's job) needs 110 percent."

Board member Franklin Williams said he went so far as to ask William Librera, who was then state education commissioner and thus Epps' boss, to quash Epps' run.

"He (Librera) said there was nothing he could do," Williams said.

Though they may have voiced their opposition privately, Epps claimed last year he was running with the support of "a majority" of the city school board, and no one disagreed. In fact, several board members made supportive comments of Epps' candidacy at the time.

Board member Peter Donnelly - who said he didn't know Epps was running for Assembly until he read it in The Jersey Journal article - said he had supported him, but no longer did.

"There was no voice for education in the Assembly. I thought he could be a good representative," Donnelly reasoned. "Who knew the whole world would collapse?"

Two board members - Suzanne Mack, who attended the meeting, and Terrence Curran, who didn't attend but spoke to the Journal afterward - said Epps has lost credibility with them because he promised to retire as superintendent this June, but hasn't.

"When he decided to run . he (Epps) said he was looking to go down to Trenton and that he would serve out 'til June," Curran said. "That's not what he's doing."

Epps' retirement would have been a "natural progression," Mack said.

"I thought he was going to transition out," she said. "He didn't keep that promise."

Epps - who was appointed superintendent in 2000, and has a contract through June 2008 - didn't contradict the board members' account that he had talked about retirement.

"I always discuss it," he said.

Posted on: 2006/6/28 14:56

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