TRENTON – An Education Department spokesperson this afternoon said the Commissioner would consider lawmakers’ request to give school directors more time to comply with background checks, but pointed out that there is a state law that must be followed and that this process has been in the works for some time.
Spokeswoman Allison Kobus pointed out that the law was signed in May, and that it is a goal of the Education Department “to ensure compliance with the law and have minimal disruption’’ to school districts.
Two lawmakers sent a letter to acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf asking that school board members be given more time to comply with background checks.
The state reported this month that about 184 people statewide had to step down as a result of noncompliance by the deadline.
Kobus acknowledged that there were some false starts in getting the background checks system in high gear.
After the law was signed in May, she explained, logistical problems emerged that would have prevented checks from being accomplished within 30 days, including that a vendor who was performing checks still had to get approval from the FBI to use that agency’s database.
But eventually, she said, a Dec. 31 deadline was set, and from Jan. 6-11 letters of ineligibility went out to those who had not complied.
Once a vacancy has been created, Kobus said, then a county superintendent can appoint someone to fill that vacancy. Conceivably the same person could be reappointed, she explained, but “They don’t have statutory preference.’’
In either case, the appointee still has to have a background check accomplished within 30 days.