In Delgado-Polanco Hearing, Burzichelli Wonders about the Need -in the Name of Efficiency – for the Schools Development Authority

The interim director of the NJ Schools Development Authority (SDA) dismissed about 30 employees, many of whom were hired by embattled former director Lizette Delgado Polanco, including the director of personnel, projects manager, deputy chief of staff and press secretary.

Schools Development Authority (SDA) CEO Lizette Delgado-Polanco appeared this afternoon before the Assembly Budget Committee in the aftermath of a report detailing how the SDA under her leadership restructured to employ members of the CEO’s family.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3) noted that education comprises 37% of Governor Phil Murphy’s proposed $38 billion budget, and wondered aloud if the SDA was even necessary at this point, given $19.4 million in overhead.

Might it be better off merged with the state Economic Development Authority (EDA)?

“You should consider budgeting your overhead from a different place,” Burzichelli said. “There’s a lot to talk about here.”

Appearing with Department of Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet, Delgado-Polanco made her case for the SDA under her leadership.

“We are now being a collaborative partner with the district, the parents, we are now engaging everyone, every stakeholder in the communities,” said the CEO. “We are working very closely in a collaborative manner.”

Community forums, she noted, meetings with churches, advocacy groups and other stakeholders.

“We are not going in and just imposing our way,” Delgado-Polanco said. “This is the public, and we are engaging 100% with them.”

Delgado Polanco

“You are somewhat high profile,” Burzichelli told Delgado-Polanco, referring to a packed committee room.

“I thought they were here to see us,” cracked Assembly Budget Committee Chair Eliana Pintor Marin (D-29).

There was a political context to Delgado-Polanco, who also serves as vice chair of the Democratic state Committee, the number two at the political organization behind Chairman John Currie, a close ally of Governor Murphy.

Currie has been a target of his party’s South Jersey-based political machine, as have other Murphy allies, former NJ Carpenters leader John Ballantyne among them. Ballantyne was an early Murphy apologist in the face of salvos by Building Trades against the Murphy Administration.

After taking a Murphy position at the Sports and Expo Authority and arguing internally in favor of Murphy’s EDA choice (Tim Sullivan) in the face of Building Trades Prez Bill Mullen, the carpenter went to D.C. for what he thought would be a routine meeting.

It wasn’t.

Carptenters’ brass told Ballantyne they were dissolving the Northeast Council of Carpenters.

He wouldn’t be needed anymore.

Part of that restructuring sent Delgado-Polanco – the NJ Carpenters’ political director – into no-man’s land.

Murphy picked her up and installed her at the SDA.

She remained a political target.

Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly
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