The New Jersey School Development Authority (NJSDA) is in crisis, again. The agency in charge of funding and managing new construction, modernization and renovation in 31 of the state’s most impoverished school districts is spiraling after yet another scandal. There are now calls to dissolve the agency that was created after its predecessor was disbanded when it failed to meet its mission to use taxpayer dollars to give the most at-risk kids of this state an adequate learning environment.
This week the organization’s CEO Lizette Delgado-Polanco was forced to resign after an investigation showed she lied about her education and hired unqualified people with personal connections to her after firing others on staff. Amid these accusations of unfair hiring practices and lying about qualifications, the budget is dwindling and no one can say for sure what is going to happen to the districts and 25 active Capital Program projects it lists on its website.
According to NJ.com, the agency once had a budget of $12 billion and it is now down to $60 million, which is not enough for new construction—it is only enough for emergency repairs at existing schools. And the NJSDA is already operating with a debt that costs state taxpayers $1 billion a year, according to The Record. It is also under multiple internal investigations and an audit.
Lost again in all of this is the construction projects that now people in the state admit there are real questions about how projects can go forward, but board chairman Rob Nixon told The Record the authority would continue its work.
“I’ve got a responsibility to now work with the board to get a CEO in there that’s going to be focused on taking this program into its next stage,” he said. “We really haven’t missed a beat. But I think that now that we’re hopefully no longer going to be distracted, we can look ahead to finishing up the projects we have and look into re-authorization and learning from this like we’ve done in the past.”
The Capital Program active projects are:
George Washington Carver Elementary School, East Orange
New ES at Halloran PS 22 Site, Elizabeth – substantially complete and occupied.
James Madison Elementary School, Garfield – substantially complete and occupied.
Gloucester City Middle School, Gloucester City – substantially complete and occupied.
New Elementary School, Harrison
Thomas G. Connors Elementary School, Hoboken – not yet out to bid.
Madison Avenue Elementary School, Irvington
Patricia M. Noonan Elementary School, Jersey City – substantially complete and occupied.
Port Monmouth Road School, Keansburg
Senior High School, Millville
Paul Robeson Community Theme School for the Arts, New Brunswick
South Street Elementary School, Newark
Cleveland Street Elementary School, Orange
Orange High School, Orange
Dayton Avenue Elementary School Campus, Passaic City – design phase ongoing.
New Elementary School at Leonard Place, Passaic City
Union Avenue Middle School, Paterson
Alexander Denbo Elementary School, Pemberton
Seaman Avenue Elementary School, Perth Amboy
High School, Perth Amboy
Woodland Elementary School, Plainfield
Trenton Central High School, Trenton
Lincoln Avenue Middle School, Vineland – substantially complete and occupied.
Harry L. Bain Elementary School, West New York – substantially complete and occupied.