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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip.
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Mum's the word on London refund
Thursday, June 01, 2006
By JARRETT RENSHAW
JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

A week after Jersey City School Superintendent Charles T. Epps Jr. pledged to refund taxpayers for his lavish trip to England - but refused to apologize or admit any wrongdoing - his traveling partner has yet to announce what she plans to do.

Associate Superintendent Adele Macula and her husband, Joe Macula, a vice president with United Water in Jersey City, joined Epps in spending more than $10,000 on extravagant meals and posh hotels during their 2004 trip to England.

That includes thousands of dollars the two spent during a side trip to London, where they arrived four days before they made the 50-mile trek to Oxford University to attend an education conference.

Once in Oxford, Epps and the Maculas turned down the lodging that was included in the $2,785 tuition fee, staying instead in the nearly-$500-a-night Old Parsonage Hotel.

Overall, the trip to England, including airfare and expenses, cost taxpayers more than $20,000.

Epps pledged last week to return the $5,179 he submitted as expenses following the trip, but Adele Macula said she was "reviewing" her records before she made any decision regarding the $5,456.03 in reimbursements she received.

The Jersey Journal has placed several phone calls seeking comment from Macula, but she has yet to respond.

"If she submitted receipts for things she shouldn't have, or if she arrived early and the taxpayers paid for it, then she should pay it back, and I believe she will," School Board Chairman Bill DeRosa said.

School board members and Epps have described the conference as "legitimate" and "prestigious," and they have suggested it was connected to Oxford University.

However, a disclaimer on the Oxford Round Table's Web site says its an "independent organization that conducts educational forums and seminars under agreements with certain of the Oxford Colleges. The Round Table is not a degree granting institution and does not have a formal academic connection with the University of Oxford."

Posted on: 2006/6/1 14:12
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip.
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I agree that the Jersey Journal has been great on this story, but they should be doing more to hold those in power accountable for their misdeeds and broken promises. For instance, anyone remember the last time the JJ ran an editorial on the continuing flood of abatements given out by the mayor and his City Council cronies?
By the way, here's another JJ editorial from a few days ago...

Just more evidence takeover has failed
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Following a special closed-door session yesterday, the Jersey City Board of Education has decided to become accomplices in the Londongate affair of Superintendent of Schools Charles T. Epps Jr.
After discussing with Epps his lavish 2004 trip to England, the school trustees felt the excursion was OK by them, said the superintendent was contrite and agreed to pay back about $5,000 of $21,000 the district paid for the jaunt, and opined that enough time has passed and that they should move on.
"The trip itself was legitimate, so we have no concerns about that," said Board Chairman William DeRosa.
Why is it that the school board is blind to what the average person can see?
It was Epps who called for this meeting, according to trustees. The reason was obvious - to put the entire issue to rest. It was cowardly of the trustees to support the superintendent, who apparently did a good of job of practicing his sincerity act before going before the powerless trustees.
This newspaper demanded that the school panel open the session to the public. It not only failed to do so, but did nothing to reprimand Epps for, at minimum, his lack of judgment in spending lavishly on his "vacation" at taxpayers' expense.
This newspaper has also called on the state acting education commissioner to remove Epps. The city's toothless school board indicated that it would not ask for his removal, which means they condone Epps' actions.
This newspaper demands that the state return control of the district to the city, and that a new school election be held to create a real Board of Education with full powers.
Some of the school board members say they have been clamoring for the state to give up control for 15 years. In our opinion, no one trusted the local school board and administrators because an early release would have returned the district to the usual local patronage abuses and political influence that led to its takeover.
Now, the Abbott District has come full circle under state control. Epps is proof that there is less concern for the children and more for Epps. It should be noted that despite the claims of great improvements in the district by board members, taxpayers expected a lot more for being under state Department of Education control for 17 years.
The state Education Department, and the city Board of Education, deserve an "F" in ethics and civic responsibility.

Posted on: 2006/5/31 16:49
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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Personally...I like what the Jersey is doing to Epps (because he did this to himself). I do hope that they take heart from this and dig into abuses by other political-governmental figures. Epps needs to go -- from both of his jobs. But he isn't alone. There are plenty more abusers, I suspect, and I'd love to see more aggressive reporting on the Jersey's part. Hudson County needs a good muckraking paper.

Posted on: 2006/5/30 11:38
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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Was out a few mins ago and saw a copy of the Jersey City Reporter, which had a picture of Epps on the cover. He looked a good 12-inches or more taller than everyone else in the picture (several men and women). If that's the case then I don't blame him for upgrading to a seat with more leg room.

Posted on: 2006/5/30 0:07
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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This last article from the Jersey Journal is a bit obnoxious and over the top. Very inflammatory and unnecessary and not really adding anything new to what they've already said a dozen times.

Posted on: 2006/5/29 23:16
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip.
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Acting royal? Just the kind of guy he is
Saturday, May 27, 2006 - Jersey Journal

I t seems appropriate that Assemblyman Charles T. Epps, who is also the Jersey City superintendent of schools, is experiencing agita over his trip to England in 2004 to attend a five-day Oxford roundtable discussion about school leadership. There is always an air of sovereignty about him.

What we have learned about Epps' and his companions' excellent adventure is that they arrived in London four days early and lived high on the hog at taxpayers' expense. Taxpayers reimbursed Epps $5,179 for London expenses, which does not include air fare and the "all-inclusive" $8,195 Oxford tuition already paid by the district.

All this may seem like piling on the state-appointed "educator," but not after it was revealed Thursday that the whole trip cost taxpayers close to $21,000.

More than likely, London was important for the superintendent who felt right at home with the royals. This opinion is based on his penchant for high-priced steaks and hotels. To his credit, he never submitted the booze tab, but why the pricier double espresso instead of just coffee? Perhaps we quibble.

What has been revealed about those expenses is that the initial "all-inclusive" monies paid "did" include air fare and this is where "Prince Charles" differs from the rest of us, or at least most of us. The airline tickets were purchased through the school district's travel agent. School representatives are trying to convince the public that Epps traveled "economy" in 2004, and paid about $2,400 round-trip.

Someone better tell Epps and the school district that they were ripped off. Go on any Internet travel site and you can get a fare for coach travel to London from Newark for about $863 round-trip on Continental and other airlines.

"Epps does not go anywhere unless it is first class," says a high-ranking member of the Hudson County Democratic Organization. This appraisal is echoed by others in the school district and in county organizations who have had personal dealings with the superintendent/assemblyman.

Virgin Atlantic, the airline Epps and company selected, does have an economy class seat that would cost about $1,250. School officials are correct when they say he took an economy flight, but more than likely it was "Premium Economy" and the fare for that is about $2,300. The difference is that "Premium Economy seats are bigger and wider than in Economy, with a headrest, a legrest and a seat pitch of 38 inches," according to the airlines.

Epps could not get away with First Class because it cost more than $9,000 on Virgin Atlantic. Yes, that figure is correct. Yet, Premium Economy allows you sit on the Boeing 747's upper deck with the First Class folks.

Several anecdotes about Epps give a glimpse into his penchant to not mingle with "the folk not noblessely obliged."

At a district Visual and Performing arts concert at the Loew's Jersey Theater in Journal Square, preparation for the event included a mandate that the Epps name go up on the theater marquee. On the day of the event, school security informed theater workers that providing parking for Epps in an alley next to the theater was not enough. Curbside directly in front of the Loew's had to be reserved.

Shortly after the January 2003 infamous district-sponsored Patti LaBelle concert, Epps was scheduled to speak at a Visual and Performing Arts students' art show. His car arrived early, but instead of entering the theater and reviewing the art, talking to the students and mingling with his staff, he waited in the vehicle for about 45 minutes. When alerted, he walked up on stage, gave his speech and left.

What has dumbstruck his supporters and members of the HCDO is that Epps allowed the question of his reimbursements to linger for about three weeks before taking action - and only when HCDO leaders pressured him. The decision to pay for his London trip made it sound like he was doing everyone a favor.

Democrats were tired of being beaten over the head by state Republicans over Londongate. Despite Epps' announcement, Hudson's state legislators know that the attacks by state Republicans have only just started. Epps has become the poster child of everything critics see wrong with funding the Abbott District schools.
The only question in the minds of the HCDO leadership is who will replace Epps as their Assembly candidate next year? They do not want any primary opposition and some are suggesting the widow of Jersey City Mayor Glenn D. Cunningham, Sandra Bolden Cunningham, could replace Epps and prevent a fight. Then there are many more who say they would rather stick with Epps than deal with the widow.

Another name being bandied about is former Jersey City acting Mayor L. Harvey Smith, who has had legislative experience. But there might be an objection from the "county boys" who may still feel that Smith has been ungrateful because he ran for mayor against their wishes.

Posted on: 2006/5/29 9:42
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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I agree with the general concensus that Epps is a scar and needs to be removed. But at first, I thought the Jersey Journal had some sort of vendetta against him or they were just trying to play up the fact that they broke the story. I mean, the articles have been relentless and at times they're overdoing it, including today's editorial. I don't remember any other occasion that they fought so dogmatically on a political/corruption issue, not that I've been an avid reader of the paper. Even though I firmly believe there's some self-serving motivation on JJ's part, I think in general they should be commended for their attacks on Epps and the board that merely gave him a slap on the wrist. I might have to spend more than my usual 3 minutes a day perusing the JJ.

Posted on: 2006/5/27 18:08
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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I'm not arguing that he shouldn't play by the rules.
But, i'm just saying that I'm sure he didn't write the check himself! There was probably an entire department that processed his reimbursement request and why did they fall off the job and not follow the rules? Why didn't the employee, their supervisor, the internal auditor, etc catch this????

I also think they need to create new policies for reimbursements that are more realistic.

Posted on: 2006/5/27 15:08
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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Usually when you are per diem, you do not need to provide receipts. You get an alloted amount of money per day and you can spend it how you want. If he chose to eat 100$ lunches then he should have to pay the difference out of his own pocket.

you're right, ~40 quid per day is not a lot in London, however those are the rules and just because he has a high ranking position doesn't mean he is above those restrictions. He should be setting an example for all the other govt employees.

Posted on: 2006/5/27 14:55
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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I dont think his salary/compensation is too high. I mean, the man is a Superintendent of an entire school system, has a Ph.D, etc. It seems in line with other districts and appropriate. If we don't compensate such positions well, then those with the talent necessary to do the job are going to go to corporations instead.

In terms of the reimbursements, to me this seems more a matter of process than anything else. I have no doubt the conference itself was legitimate and think we should provide a lot more staff development than we do.

A $70 per diem food budget is okay for the U.S, but not for a European trip. $70 USD is only about $35-40 British Pounds and anyone who has been there knows you can't buy much on that! A hamburger at a regular ol' paper napkins place (non-mcdonalds) is about 15 pounds (or $30 USD). I woudln't expect (or encourage) the superintendent to eat at McDonalds every meal for a week. Nor can you find many hotels for $150 USD.

Clearly the school system needs printed guidelines of reimbursements for out-of-country trips as well.

Another part of the process is with the actual reimbursement. Why were the guidelines not followed? Epps submitted his receipts and he had a right to do so. I mean, he had a right to eat anywhere he wanted - but, to only get reimbursed up to the allowed amount. Who wrote those checks and why did they not follow the guidelines? If anyone loses their job, it seems like it should be that person!

Posted on: 2006/5/27 14:41
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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THIS IS ABSOLUTE BS!!! I AM OUTRAGED!!!


Here is a clip from Jersey Journal Now:

Jersey City school board OK with Epps' $21K trip

Jersey City school board members emerged from a closed-door meeting today pleased with Superintendent Charles T. Epps’ explanation of his controversial $21,000 taxpayer-funded trip to England in 2004, even as some state political leaders and members of the local community continued to criticize him.

Following the three-hour meeting at the board of education headquarters on Claremont Avenue, several school board members described Epps as “contrite” and “open” about the trip, saying he admitted that he made some “regrettable” mistakes and that he planned to reimburse the district and help ensure that something like this never happens again.

“The trip itself was legitimate, so we have no concerns about that,” said board Chairman William DeRosa. “We were happy to see that he was genuinely contrite and that he plans to reimburse the money from the trip. It happened in 2004, and we now have to bring the focus back on educating our city’s children.”

Epps, who is also an assemblyman representing the 31st District, did not return phone calls seeking comment after leaving the meeting.

Board members, who lack authority over the state-appointed Epps, said they don’t plan to ask for his removal.

The trip in question — to Oxford, to attend an education conference — was taken by Epps and Associate Superintendent Adele Macula, who also brought along her husband, Joe Macula, a vice president with United Water in Jersey City.

Roughly $10,500 went towards fancy dinners and five-star hotels in some of England’s finest establishments, including a four-day side trip to London, where the pair splurged on $80 ribs and $25 soups and stayed at a $515-a-night hotel.

Epps has pledged to return $5,179 in expenses, but Macula says she is “reviewing” the records from the trip before making any decision.

Get the full story in tomorrow's Jersey Journal

Jarrett Renshaw

Posted on: 2006/5/26 23:55
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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Quote:
epitome wrote:
The issue is the reimbursement of his spending above the spending guidelines. That should have been out of his own pocket.


No, the issue is that he showed up four days before the conference began and spent that time in London all the while charging expenses associated therewith to the New Jersey taxpayer.

The secondary issue is that rather than utilizing the "all inclusive package" that the taxpayers paid for, he declined the already paid for rooms and meals choosing instead to stay at a private hotel and eat at restaurants around Oxford.

A third (potential) issue is whether or not Epps used vacation time for his four day jaunt in London. I don't know the answer to this and I am not aware of any way that I as a private citizen could find out. If this trip was not related to his job as superintendent then any time spent there (on a weekday of course) should have been taken as vacation or personal days. If not he is being paid to take a vacation when he should have been working.

On a side note:
Quote:
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I also believe that as a black man in a public position of power, he should have expected this type of scrutiny and should have known better.


This is the most absurd thing I have heard in a long time. He is not being scrutinized or attacked because he is a black man. He is being attacked because he used abused a position of public trust and may well have stolen public funds.

Posted on: 2006/5/26 16:17
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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That only talks about one trip - the same one issue that has been discussed over and over. I am not trying to debate your point. I am sincerely asking for any info that you may have that shows that Epps has been mismanaging the district. I do believe that his acceptance of the reimbursement check for expenses that shouldn't have been covered was poor judgment on his part. But was there wrongdoing all throughout his career? Maybe there was. If you have this info, please inform me.

And about the total tally of the trip - It is the norm for educators to attend professional development conferences. It is actually required that educators get a certain number of professional development hours in each year. School districts pay for most of this. We want our educators to stay on top of current educational information and trends. So the airfare and conference costs are expected expenses. The issue is the reimbursement of his spending above the spending guidelines. That should have been out of his own pocket.

And that last post of yours was kind of lengthy. But I guess that was okay since most of it was not your own words.

Posted on: 2006/5/26 15:46
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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THIS ARTICLE MAY SAY IT ALL. NOW EPPS IS UNDER ATTACK FOR POSSIBLE THEFT OF STATE FUNDS!

EPPS HAS GOT TO GO.

------------------------------------------

ALMOST 21 GRAND
Aide got even more $$$ back than Epps after London trip
Friday, May 26, 2006
By JARRETT RENSHAW
JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

That London trip had Epps sleeping in king-sized beds

The final tally is in: $20,995.49.


That's how much taxpayers shelled out for Jersey City Schools Superintendent Charles T. Epps Jr.'s trip to England in 2004. The school board had approved spending the "all inclusive rate" of $8,195.

Meanwhile, a Republican member of the Assembly's budget committee is calling on the state Attorney General's Office to investigate Epps for a possible "theft of state funds."

The final tally arrived at by The Jersey Journal, based on receipts and other documents obtained through the Open Public Records Act, includes airfare for Epps and Associate Superintendent Adele Macula; tuition to attend the conference; and food, lodging and transportation Epps and Macula paid for that was then reimbursed by the district.

The Jersey Journal has previously detailed Epps' spending on the trip, but additional receipts obtained yesterday show Macula splurged even more than her boss: He was reimbursed $5,179.46, but she got back $5,456.03.

Neither Epps or Macula could be reached for comment yesterday. Epps has pledged to return the money; Macula hasn't said what she'll do.

Macula, who was accompanied by her husband Joe Macula on the trip, stayed at the same luxury hotels as Epps during the nine-day trip, racking up $4,280.22 in hotel bills, according to the expense report she submitted to the district.

District officials say Epps was alone on the trip, but receipts from two hotels in London indicate Epps reserved a room for two, with one king-sized bed.

Macula submitted $849.87 worth of meal receipts, but apparently did not ask to be reimbursed for her husband's meals - though Epps did when he picked up the tab.

Even though the top of the form indicates a $70 daily limit on meals, Macula exceeded that amount on four different days - including $200.99 for dinner on their first night in London.

In addition to the $10,635.49 paid in reimbursements to Epps and Macula, taxpayers also paid $2,385 apiece for two round-trip, economy class airplane tickets on Virgin Atlantic airlines, leaving from Newark and landing in London. The tuition for the convention cost $2,795 each.

Meanwhile, a Republican assemblywoman who has helped shed a spotlight on alleged abuses in education spending proved yesterday that "Londongate" will continue to be a lightning rod for critics of Abbott Districts.

"The DOE did the right thing in calling for this money to be returned, but someone needs to determine whether there should be additional sanctions against Assemblyman Epps," said Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, R-Sussex, Morris, and Hunterdon. "The attorney general should be looking into whether or not these personal expenditures constituted a 'theft of state funds' and, if so, taking appropriate action."

Posted on: 2006/5/26 15:24
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip.
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To Nuada: Thanks for the links. They all seem to be recent articles about his trip to London. I get the impression that he is being accused of mismanagement and corruption throughout his long career in the JC public school system, not one single incident. I try to stay updated on the Jersey City school system and try to attend all open Board of Ed meetings. Knowing what I know about how districts are run, I just never realized that Epps had actually committed acts of corruption. It seemed that you had this information, so I was just asking you to share. And no, I don't have a lot of time on my hands. I'm actually pretty busy. I work long days and am currently working on my doctorate in educational leadership. And I do read the Jersey Journal every day. I've been getting it delivered to me for the past 15 years or so and have had many editorials published in the JJ. Sorry about the length of my posts, since it obviously bothered you. I am a writer and I tend to express myself - maybe too fully for this site. Its just that I am very interested in any and all topics regarding Jersey City. And as an educator, I have a lot to say about this topic. You seem like a very mature and pleasant person. Hope you have a great day.

Posted on: 2006/5/26 15:22
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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Obviously you have a lot of time on your hands -- 5 book-length posts in one day!. Satisfy your curiosity by reading the Jersey's unusually good reporting re Epps, Abbott, and fiscal abuses.

Here's a link to get you started:
http://www.nj.com/search/index.ssf?sc ... 3&xpath.any=epps&x=19&y=8

Epps needs to go.

Posted on: 2006/5/26 12:24
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip.
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To Nuada: please inform me of the Abbott fund abuse that Epps is guilty of. I missed that and would like to know about it. What exactly is he accused of?

And about his grammar - people should remember that it was a quote, not a written response. People don't have the opportunity to edit unprepared remarks to newspapers the way a good writer can edit his writing to check for grammatical errors.

Also, reflexive pronouns should not be used alone as an object so I don't think that he should have said "myself". And "I" is only used in the nominative case so I don't think that he should have said "I". That particular sentence can be improved but I can't say the problem is with his use of "me". Please elaborate on his incorrrect grammar so I can get a better understanding of what you are talking about. There are so many grammar rules and I don't feel like looking this one up so please refresh my memory.

Also, how is Epps destroying our state? As a New Jersey native, I would really like to know. There seems to be a lot that I must not know about Epps. Please fill me in.

Posted on: 2006/5/26 4:31
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip.
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One more thing, isn't a $225,000 salary within the norm for someone with a five year post bachelors education. I mean he does have a doctorate degree. I have a masters in educational leadership and if I ever decide to leave the classroom and become a vice-principal or principal, my starting salary would be about $100,000 to lead one, single school. Shouldn't someone leading an entire district, not to mention an urban district with its unique challenges, make at least $250,000. I don't understand the issue with his salary. I worked in corporate America before becoming an educator. At one time I put in 12-15 hour days at Lehman Brothers. It was a lot of work but it wasn't hard work. Being an effective educator is hard work. Yet people question the compensation which still doesn't pay enough for what the jobs entail. Maybe people should volunteer as superintendents. Maybe people should volunteer as principals and teachers too because their efforts aren't worth a fair compensation. Maybe Epps isn't doing the absolute best job, but he is doing better than many. How many people are out there who knows what it takes to run a district like ours and think that they can do a better job?

Posted on: 2006/5/26 3:47
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip.
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The issue should be "Where were the checks and balances?" Who signed off on the reimbursement of Epps' trip? Where there established guidelines for trip expenses? For example, if the daily limit for food was $70 then he should have only been reimbursed $70 no matter how much he spent. If the hotel limit was $150 a night, then he should have only been reimbursed $150 even if he spent over $300 a night. When I go on business trips and turn in my expense report, I am only reimbursed what is allowed. If I choose to spend more than what is covered, I understand that it will come out of my pocket and that I won't get reimbursed for the full amount. The questions should be whether there were spending guidelines in place and who approved Epp's reimbursement for the full amount that he spent? Epps is not the head of a private corporation but a public entity that is heavily regulated. Who signs off on Epps' expense reports? That is the person who is responsible for this. This is a system failure and should not be placed on the shoulders of one person.

I also believe that as a black man in a public position of power, he should have expected this type of scrutiny and should have known better.

Does anyone know whether or not this type of spending is common among school administrators and other public offcials? Or is Epps just being singled out? Now he's a bad guy all of a sudden.

I worked in the Jersey City Public School system as well as Newark and New York City. Under the leadership of Epps, Jersey City had been doing some good things. Yes, the system can improve but compared to its counterparts, it making more strides than most. Didn't Jersey City just receive a national award for one of the most improved school districts in the nation? Don't we have the #1 high school in the state under Epps? Didn't our students just win some national science awards under Epps? But yet, Epps is a bad guy now becasue he accepted a reimbursement check that someone else signed off on and maybe shouldn't have. Bad judgment, yes but does that make him bad for the district?

People keep mentioning his salary. Salaries of school officials are not determined by the official. It is standard. Epps does not determine his salary. As a teacher, I once wanted to teach more hours for no pay and I couldn't becasue my contract wouldn't allow it. Should Epps have refused the salary offered to him?

And as far as the Republican gripe about Abbott districts. This is nothing new. There are many non Abbott districts who are upset about the fact that districts with the poorest and most disadvantaged students get more funding from the state. They have been saying that it wasn't fair for the longest even though this additional funding is needed to close the educational gap between the well off and poor.

I am no fan of Epps and don't know him personally but this situation and the attention that it has drawn is sad commentary on what people are choosing to focus their attention. I'd rather see the picture of the last kid that got shot or killed on the cover of the paper, not Epps day after day. And this comes from a teacher who shells out thousands of dollars from my own pocket to effectively teach the kids whose education I am responsible for.

Posted on: 2006/5/26 3:33
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip.
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Two stories today:

EPPS: I'LL REFUND TRIP $$
Sighs of relief from Democrats and another blast from GOP

Thursday, May 25, 2006
By JARRETT RENSHAW
JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
An unapologetic Jersey City School Superintendent Charles T. Epps Jr. announced yesterday he will return the money he received as reimbursement for expenses for his lavish trip to Merry Olde England.

"As rewarding and beneficial as this experience might have been, I certainly understand how it could be perceived as excessive, however legitimate," Epps said in a written statement released yesterday. "Therefore, I am returning to the district all expenses reimbursed to me relative to the trip to England."

Epps, who makes $225,038 a year as the state-appointed superintendent, refused to answer any questions regarding the statement or his trip, referring a reporter to his staff.

Since The Jersey Journal began reporting on Epps' trip on May 12, a number of local and state political leaders have called on him to return the $5,179 he received in reimbursements for his expenses on the trip, which he attended with Associate District Superintendent Adele Macula and her husband, Joe Macula, who is a vice president of United Water of Jersey City.

Assemblyman Louis Manzo, D-Jersey City - the first of the county's political leaders to criticize Epps for the trip - yesterday said "reimbursing the district was always the right thing to do."

But Manzo, who ran with Epps for the Assembly last year, wouldn't commit to running with him again next time.

"I will have to see how this process works out," Manzo said, referring to what he hopes will be a discussion between Epps and the school district in the weeks ahead.

State Sen. Bernard Kenny, who heads the Hudson County Democratic Organization, has refused to comment about Epps' trip for two weeks - but reportedly was working behind the scenes helping him deal with the political fallout.

"I am happy with the outcome, and I hope it goes a long way to restore people's trust," Kenny said.

However, yesterday's announcement did little to soothe state Republicans who see Epps - who also serves as an Assemblyman - as the poster child for fiscal irresponsibility in Abbott districts.

Tom Wilson, chairman of the state Republican Party, said Epps returning the money doesn't mean the scandal's over.

"Last time I checked, if you rob a bank, all is not well if you simply give the money back," he said.

Epps had school board approval to attend the education conference at Oxford University in England in 2004, but The Jersey Journal learned he actually arrived four days before the conference began and went to London, staying at a $481-a-night hotel and eating at two of the city's poshest restaurants.

He later submitted receipts for food, lodging and transportation from the London trip, and received $5,179 in reimbursement.

The lavish spending didn't end when the conference began.

Even though room and board was included in the price of attending, Epps instead spent more than $200 on one night's dinner and stayed at the nearly $300-a-night Old Parsonage Hotel.

Ellen Zadroga, Epps' executive assistant, said Epps and the Maculas didn't stay on campus because "they did not feel it was appropriate for their needs at the time."

"But like Epps has said in the past, if he could do this over again, he would do things differently," she said.

and...

'It could be perceived as excessive'
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Text of the statement issued yesterday by state-appointed Jersey City Superintendent of Schools Charles T. Epps Jr.:

The children of Jersey City are, have always been, and will continue to be my top priority. When I received the invitation to participate in the Oxford University Roundtable, I looked upon it as an opportunity to share Jersey City's story with highly respected educators from around the world - many of them American Superintendents, and to learn about best practices that might be replicated for the benefit of the children in Jersey City. The trip to the Oxford University Roundtable was a worthwhile and legitimate staff development activity.

But, as rewarding and beneficial as this experience might have been, I certainly understand how it could be perceived as excessive, however legitimate.

Therefore, I am returning to the district all expenses reimbursed to me relative to the trip to England. It is time now for the focus to be placed back on the tremendous achievements of the Jersey City Public School District's staff and students.

© 2006 The Jersey Journal

Posted on: 2006/5/25 15:11
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip.
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Aide and her husband joined Epps on his trip

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

By JARRETT RENSHAW

JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

An associate superintendent and her husband joined Jersey City Schools Superintendent Charles T. Epps Jr. on his expensive trip to England that has become a lightning rod for critics of spending in the state's Abbott districts.

Adele Macula, who heads up the district's curriculum and instruction, and her husband Joe Macula, a vice president with United Water in Jersey City, wined and dined with Epps at two of London's finest restaurants during the 2004 trip.

They went across the pond, at the district's expense, to attend a five-day education conference at prestigious Oxford University.

But Epps and his companions arrived in London four days before the conference began, according to receipts and other documents obtained by The Jersey Journal through state Republicans and interviews with conference organizers, and they spent hundreds of dollars eating $80 entrees and $25 soups and staying at a $481-a-night hotel before trekking the 50 miles to Oxford.

Once at the conference, Epps and the Maculas apparently turned down the campus lodging - included in the cost of attendance - and instead stayed at the nearly $300-a-night Old Parsonage Hotel.

A school board member who has seen receipts submitted by Adele Macula says that she did not charge taxpayers for her husband's meals, though he did stay with his wife in the hotels.

Epps, on the other hand, was apparently reimbursed by taxpayers for Joe Macula's expensive meals when he picked up the tab, despite the fact that the United Water veep was not a district employee.

"The taxpayers did not pay for me," said Joe Macula when reached at his work yesterday. "I did not hand in those receipts."

He would not comment any further on the trip yesterday.

Epps also refused to comment about the trip, but officials said a statement from him is expected today.

Taxpayers eventually reimbursed Epps $5,179 for the wining and dining expenses, which does not include air fare and the "all-inclusive" $8,195 tuition paid by the district. Though it's unclear how much Macula submitted as expenses, it was in the thousands of dollars, according to a school board member.

The revelation about who joined Epps on the trip has caused at least one local political leader to demand that Epps speak publicly about the trip.

"It raises even more questions and now he has to respond so that public trust in government can begin to be restored," said Assemblyman Lou Manzo, D-Jersey City.

Manzo, who ran on the same ticket with Epps, was the first of the county's political leaders to criticize Epps. He was later joined by Assemblyman and Union City Mayor Brian Stack and Assemblyman and West New York Mayor Albio Sires, who also said Epps should give the taxpayers their money back.

Yesterday, state Sen. and Bayonne Mayor Joseph V. Doria Jr. joined the others in calling for Epps to return the money.

The State Department of Education "recommended" Monday that the district seek reimbursement for the money.

State Sen. Bernard Kenny, who heads the county's Democratic organization and is reportedly working behind the scenes to defuse the politically charged issue, offered "no comment" on the issue, as did state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco.

Posted on: 2006/5/24 14:37
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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Congrats! Today's Jersey has this letter --
http://www.nj.com/opinion/jjournal/le ... 48461816208390.xml&coll=3

The paper also has more revelations about Epps' waste of Abbott monies.

Shame, shame, shame.

Posted on: 2006/5/24 11:43
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip.
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I don't know the outcome of the school budget but this article speaks to the idea of being a State Assemblyman while also being the Superintendent of Schools.

I know you get to make more money by moonlighting but this is clearly a conflict of interest -- even if he works 20 hours a day.

---------------

Parents blast Epps for not joining suit

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

By KEN THORBOURNE

JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

A group of Jersey City parents are accusing freshman state Assemblyman and Superintendent of Schools Charles T. Epps Jr. of playing politics with next year's school budget.

he parents - allied with the nonprofit Statewide Education Organizing Committee - believe Epps isn't doing his job as superintendent by not joining in a lawsuit to challenge Gov. Jon Corzine's proposal not to increase state aid to its poorest districts. The parents claim he's trying to score political points with the governor.

"I think it should be more about the children than about politics," said Annie Hicklen, grandmother of two Snyder High School students. "We feel he should be able to fight for the schools."

To Keisha Harris, a School 17 parent, Epps is failing both as an assemblyman and a superintendent.

"He (Epps) said he wanted to go to be in Trenton and Jersey City to help us," Harris said. "Now is the time to use what you got."

The parents made their comments at an event in Newark, where they were supporting parents there fighting for a new school. Twenty-two of the state's 31 so-called Abbott school districts have joined with the Newark-based Education Law Center to sue the state over the lack of an aid increase.

Epps rejected the argument that not joining in the suit amounted to an abdication of his responsibilities as superintendent.

The state has called for a $7.5 million cut in aid to Jersey City, but Epps has submitted a budget calling for roughly $25 million more than the $430.4 million in state aid the district received last year.

"And I think it will be approved," Epps said. "I'm waiting for a response. I don't know why everyone has jumped so fast."

Assemblyman Craig Stanley, D-Irvington, chairman of the Assembly's education committee, was also on hand for the Newark event and called Epps's actions "curious."

"It's something I just don't understand," Stanley said, adding: "I think it's very important to keep one's elected position separate from the position to which you're entrusted."

Epps said he had no idea what Stanley meant and declined to respond to his comments.

Posted on: 2006/5/23 19:27
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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Why does Epps have to go? Poor judgment. Poor job performance. Poor ethics. He might "bust his hump" but, really, so do some Latin Kings who sell dope on Palisade. Hard work at the wrong thing is no prescription for winning applause. Epps quite simply has to go. His existence is an insult to every NJ taxpayer and an affont to the intelligence of Jersey City's residents.

Posted on: 2006/5/23 19:19
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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Thanks from me too, Nuada. Here's my message

Quote:
Dear Dr. Hyndman,
I’m writing to you as a Rutgers University alumnus and longtime Jersey City resident about the revelations of a lavish 2004 business trip taken by Jersey City school superintendent and Assemblyman Dr. Charles Epps Jr. at taxpayer expense, as revealed in recent articles by the Star Ledger and Jersey Journal. I’m concerned that Dr. Epps has not shown the level of contrition needed to assure us that he understands the gravity of the situation. Jersey City’s schools desperately need an able and committed leader, and Dr. Epps’s behavior in this instance shows a disturbing lack of judgment and a wanton disregard for the wellbeing of the children in his school district. Should these allegations prove correct, I urge you to immediately terminate him from his position as school superintendent. Anything less sends the wrong message to those in public service and the citizenry.

I CC'ed both the Star Ledger and Jersey Journal reporters for good measure.

Posted on: 2006/5/23 19:11
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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whats the big deal - the guys busts his hump for every cent.

Posted on: 2006/5/23 18:51
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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Thanks for the info, Nuada. I sent the following email to Hyndman:

Dear Mr. Hyndman,

This is in response to the May 10th article in the Star Ledger entitled "Superintendents take heat on 'obscene' compensation" which can be accessed on http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.s ... 47243075187060.xml&coll=1.

I am a Jersey City resident, as well as a McNair Academic High School (Jersey City) and Rutgers University alumnus. While I am a very proud product of the public school system of both the city of Jersey City and the state of New Jersey, I find appalling the financial abuses of Dr. Charles Epps, which were in violation of state policies and were ultimately incurred at the expense of taxpayers and students in needy districts such as mine.

I urge you to conduct further investigation into Dr. Epps' operational and fiscal spending, and take corrective action as necessary.

Thank you.

Posted on: 2006/5/23 17:53
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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hyndman@rci.rutgers.edu

That's the email of the president of the state Board of Education, Arnold Hyndman. (He also is dean of Livingston College at Rutgers.)

Write him about Epps.

I sent him an email urging that Epps be fired. Today.

Officials like Hyndman have to hear the extent of the outrage.

Posted on: 2006/5/23 17:25
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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EXCLUSIVE: Nigel, my friend in London, has sent me a picture of the "limousine" hired by Dr. Epps. Actually, I'm not that impressed, but check it out yourself.

Posted on: 2006/5/23 17:10
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Re: Jersey City School Superintendent takes heat on 'obscene' compensation and five-star London trip
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Yeah, but he was going to a meeting in OXFORD, and the rooms were included in the fees!

So why was he staying in London with his entourage before the conference, and why couldn't he stay in the rooms that had been paid for during the meeting?

Taxpayers want to know!

Quote:

hero69 wrote:
I guess many o you readers haven't been to London so you don't realize that ondon is a lot more expensive than Manhattan. $500 per night for a hotel room in Lodon is simply not extravagant. Also, anyone who knows London also knows that getting around is difficult, so the money spent on the limosine is not that outrageous.

Posted on: 2006/5/23 2:31
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