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Does Teaneck Need Help Easing Tensions After Busing Debate?

What do you think about a proposal to bring in experts to hold dialogue sessions over community tensions?

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 Community Relations Board is seeking to hire either the American Conference on Diversity or Public Conversations Project to hold a "dialogue session.”

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 , but not before 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?

Barbara Ostroth September 19, 2011 at 12:11 PM
Teaneck has always had the ability to heal. Following the uproar over the Panell incident in the early 1990's and some political posturing by outside agitators taking advantage of our internal struggles, a series of dialogues was held, sponsored and led by the Teaneck Clergy Council and facilitated by our fellow residents who were trained social workers and therapists. Hundreds of residents participated in these dialogues, listening to others' points of view, and while complete consensus was not reached, the listening process helped to calm tensions and move forward. Where is the Teaneck Clergy now in all this? Which of them will take initiative to bring this kind of healing dialogue about, rather than sit back in their own little congregations and fan the flames or ignore the troubling issues that divide us as friends and neighbors?
Jacob September 19, 2011 at 12:38 PM
I agree with Barbara. This is an issue that throwing money at will not get resolved unless Teaneck's own citizenry steps up to the plate and works at it. The Communit Relations Board has a large enough membeship to draw from its own to do this. As Councilwoman Toffler said at a recent meeting, we have a report from the visioning process that took place a number of years ago that should be put to good use including an entire section on what the Board of Ed should be doing to help out. Some may remember that Mayor Kates pushed for a similar initiative while she was in office and it went nowhere when it was revealed that the group that was recommended to handle this had some issues that precluded it from doing the work. I hope the Community Relations Board pulls its head out of the sand and gets to work using its own people as it should have all along and on its own time, instead of pushing the envelope and using taxpayer dollars to accomplish its own mission.
JamesTS September 19, 2011 at 01:33 PM
I am sorry but no. I do not think these "dialogue session" will help anything. Barbara does have some good points too. Does anyone real think this will work??? i dont
Jay Grigas-Kirsch September 19, 2011 at 01:44 PM
Didn't Teaneck, once the best town in the United States, learn anything about bussing in the 1960's?
zizi September 19, 2011 at 03:07 PM
Another stupid thing to waste tax payers money on. Why the mayor not paying for it from his own pocket or ask his supporters who think it is important to pay for this. Let us start talking about saving money here for a change.
Tee Smyth September 19, 2011 at 09:08 PM
@ Barbara: Outside agitators? Are you speaking of Sharpton and Jackson? I was actually friends with Phillip in school, and I didn't know anything about the follow-up meetings, etc. It's very interesting to hear. As for this. I do believe it's a waste of tax payer money and window dressing to cover for what really happened regarding the actions of two council members. My suggestion is very simple to my fellow Teaneck residents: VOTE. As to the underlying dynamics in town, I believe that the people who SHOULD attend such a session, would not.
Dee Are September 20, 2011 at 01:33 AM
I believe that dialogue is paramount, and that if we bring the cultural differences to the light of day and explain what makes us different, it will bring us together. However, i am not convinced that it takes an outside agency to do this. It takes guts. Guts to stand in front of a group and say "I'm not like you but please, let me explain why so you can accept my difference, and I will work to accept yours." Guts are free, but priceless, and the ability to listen without judging and accept without begrudging is very rare.
Jacob September 20, 2011 at 01:11 PM
@ Teesmyth: I doubt that it's "window dressing" to cover for anyone since the initiative came from the Community Board and not the Council. As I said before, the CRB has plenty to work with from the Kates visioning debacle report, of which nothing was implemented.
Tee Smyth September 20, 2011 at 08:49 PM
@ Jack: I know that it "came" from the CRB. However, color me a skeptic.
sharon September 21, 2011 at 09:57 PM
Well the only thing I can say we can continue with the discussion, but will it change anything I don't think so. My reasoning, it will take a lot to bringi the cultural diversity in this community together. The people of Teaneck feel that they have been slated against each other due to the busing situation and this should have never occurred. In my opinion Teaneck is not is not unified at all, and iI've only been here for 14 years and it sadden me to see this issue arise where we can't even get together about who should or shouldn't have busing. This is about the children (all diverstities) and let make sure that we are on their side. Also on another note - as for bringing in other sources "aka" mediators- forget It, I see more problems brewing such as "dissension" among more people in our town. Let Teaneck handle their own problems.

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