The Monmouth County Democrat candidates for Freeholder and Surrogate were recruiting 14 and 15 year old high school students to be interns for Chairman Vin Gopal’s organization when they made a campaign appearance at Middletown High School North earlier this month.
According to an email from Gopal to members of the Middletown Board of Education and Superintendent William George Ed. D, the Democrats’ Campaign Coordinator, Meaghan Mahoney reached out to Assistant Principal Tyniesha Douglas on August 10 asking if she could advertise open intern positions to the student body and requesting to address a Government, Law and Public Policy Pathway (GLP3) seminar. Douglas responded the next day offering to arrange for Mahoney to meet the class and asking her to bring possible candidates.
Mahoney is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland and a 2012 graduate of High School North. She was a Field Organizer for the Monmouth Democrats collaborating with Freeholder candidates in 2014 and 2015, according to her resume on linkedin. She was an intern for U.S. Senator Cory Booker from January through May of this year.
Douglas joined the Middletown High School North staff as Assistant Principal/Supervisor of Social Studies in 2014 following a two year stint as the Asbury Park School District’s 9-12 Assistant Director of Curriculum and Instruction, according to her linkedin profile. From 2007 through 2012, Douglas was the Supervisor of English at Colts Neck High School.
Gopal’s email to the Board and Superintendent, which, he says, includes the “full communication” between Mahoney and Douglas, can be viewed here.
The GLP3 program is coordinated by Patti May, a teacher who is a Democrat candidate for Borough Council in Eatontown. Monmouth County Democrat Chairman Vin Gopal held a fundraiser for the teacher at the Jumping Brook Country Club in June.
Screenshot of Surrogate Candidate Vincent Solomeno’s facebook post about campaigning in Middletown High School North. MMM has reduced the size of the photo to protect the identity of the students.
A photo of Freeholder candidates, Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty and Brenda Sue Fulton, and Surrogate candidate Vincent Solomeno was posted on Solomeno’s campaign facebook page on Tuesday, September 20 with the caption “Thrilled to join Matt Doherty and Sue Fulton for Monmouth County Freeholder 2016 and speak to students about county government at Middletown High School North. Get involved!”
None of the candidates have any experience in county government.
Gopal’s email said the candidates spoke about their experience running for office. Solomeno told MMM that he spoke about county government and the American Legion Boys State program. The email between Mahoney and Douglas, the “full communication,” according to Gopal, indicates that the purpose of the seminar appearance was to recruit interns.
In his email, Gopal did not address the photo, or whether the school administration’s and the students’ parents consented to the use the image in a campaign advertisement. He has refused to answer questions about the photo or the posting and removal of the photo from Solomeno’s campaign facebook page. Solomeno said the photo was posted and removed “by the campaign.”
In his email, Gopal said, “It is great when members of both parties and candidates from both parties can talk to students about their real life experiences, not what is just in a textbook.” But the Republican candidates for county office, Sheriff Shaun Golden, Surrogate Rosemarie Peters, Freeholder Director Tom Arnone and Deputy Freeholder Director Serena DiMaso were not invited to Middletown High School North until a day after the Democrat’s photo was posted on facebook.
Upon seeing the facebok post, Arnone called High School North Principal Patricia Vari-Cartier to inquire as to why his opponents were campaigning in the school during an instruction period.
Arnone said that Van-Cartier passed him off to another administrator whose name he does not recall, who immediately offered him “equal time” which he declined. Arnone told MMM, “I speak to school children about county government all the time. I don’t think it is appropriate during the campaign season for an office holder who is running. This was obviously a campaign event, not an educational experience. We were not invited and would not have even known about it if not for the Democrats’ facebook post. If we showed up now it would be another campaign event. There are three Freeholders not running this year and many other officials we could send to speak about County Government, if that would serve the students.”
This incident is the second time this year that a Middletown Board of Education faculty member has been exposed participating in partisan political activity during school hours. In April, Middletown High School South history teacher Joseph Ventre told the press that he was forced to resign after showing a video of the HBO John Oliver show critical of Donald Trump to a class. Ventre later rescinded his resignation.