The Community Relations Advisory Board has requested that the Township Council hire an outside firm to help bring different groups together after a debate over school bus routes sparked tensions in the community.
The purpose of the sessions is “to increase understanding of attributes needed within a diverse community, build cohesiveness among the groups (and) build capacity for a better understanding to help repair the community to avoid future incidents," said Community Relations Board Chairwoman Patricia White.
The outside experts will facilitate the sessions, White said. The sessions would include about 25 invited participants and are planned to start in October.
A debate erupted over the summer when the school district said it would combine private school bus stops. The district had already said it was scaling back public school busing. Councilmen Elie Y. Katz and Yitz Stern became involved, and a local bank offered to donate $85,000 to restore only the private school routes, which largely served Jewish day school students. The school board reversed its decision and restored all busing, but not before heated public meetings and calls of divisiveness.
The donation and role of the council members led to a public outcry and brought a focus on community tensions.
A majority of council members have signaled support for the proposal, but Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin said the township wanted to interview the suggested firms.
White said the American Conference on Diversity would offer its first session for $500. The group is offering a 50 percent discount from the normal $1,000 fee. A cost for the Public Conversations Project was not immediately available.
“This is an opportunity for us to really put forth a very positive initiative in our community,” White said.
What do you think about the proposal? Is an outside firm needed to help ease recent tensions in Teaneck? Why or why not?