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Uprising at Polls Prompts N.J. Board To Halt Talks With Management Firm

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The Green Brook Township (N.J.) Board of Education last week formally halted discussions with a for-profit school-management firm after voters turned out several school-board members who had held discussions with the company.

The board voted unanimously last week to cease further contact and any sort of contract negotiations with Education Alternatives Inc., of Minneapolis, which the ousted board members had considered hiring to manage the troubled district.

"We captured 75 percent of the people who voted in an election in one of the highest turnouts ever in Green Brook,'' said Ronald E. Bolandi, the board's newly elected president, who ran as one of a slate of challengers who made opposition to working with E.A.I. a campaign issue. The slate also called for the hiring of a new superintendent to bring about reforms.

Robert C. Christie, the ousted former board president, said "E.A.I. and anyone who had anything to do with E.A.I. was looked on as the devil incarnate in terms of education. They played the theme for all it was worth.''

Teachers' union officials, Mr. Christie asserted, "virtually terrified parents of children in the system with speculation that their children would be used as guinea pigs.''

All five members of the "Ethics in Education'' slate, which opposed any involvement with E.A.I., triumphed in the race for five school-board seats.

The other slate of three incumbents and two newcomers, the "Committee for Continued Reform,'' had maintained that E.A.I. could help improve the financial and academic problems of the district.

Mr. Christie said his "lily-white, suburban'' district in central New Jersey spends about $11,400 per student, one of the highest amounts in the state, yet still ranks low in its county in terms of pupil achievement. About 30 percent of students there score below the national average on standardized tests in such major skill areas as mathematics and spelling.

Education Alternatives, which was called into the district last fall, conducted a management audit and offered to help run the district better at less cost, and make improvements in teacher training, student achievement, and other areas.

But the leadership of the Green Brook Education Association, which already had strained relations with the board, asserted that reform would not come from the top down and complained that they were being left out of the process.

David A. Bennett, president of Education Alternatives, last week said his firm has never encountered such resistance from a community.

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