Longtime school board member called out for absenteeism

ROBBINSVILLE -- Few elected officials have perfect attendance, but a longtime Robbinsville school board member is being singled out for having the worst record in each of the last 13 years. Faith Silvestrov, who was first elected in 1991, has missed...

Longtime school board member called out for absenteeism

ROBBINSVILLE -- Few elected officials have perfect attendance, but a longtime Robbinsville school board member is being singled out for having the worst record in each of the last 13 years.

Faith Silvestrov, who was first elected in 1991, has missed 71 of 205 full meetings since the 2004-05 school year, making her the member most often absent, according to a review of meeting minutes available online.

Last month, after Silvestrov was absent for a fifth straight meeting, resident Michael McGowan brought up her poor attendance record during public comment.

"It's not just a one-off event," he said. "This is year-in, year-out. ... When is the board going to address this situation? Personally, I think she's derelict in her duties and/or if there's a family problem of some sort and she's unable, then she should resign or just be removed because she's incapable of handling the duties she's been elected to do."

Board president Matthew O'Grady alluded to there being a family situation, but didn't comment further.

"I like the lady, but come on, you're taking up a very important spot," McGowan said. "Let somebody have it who wants to be there or can be there, who brings extra to the table and carries the weight of the position. It's time you can't ignore this any longer."

Minutes show Silvestrov has had an overall attendance rate of 65.4 percent since July 2004.

There is a policy on the books that states a member who fails to attend three consecutive regular meetings without good cause may be removed from office by a majority vote.

There have been five times when Silvestrov has missed three consecutive meetings -- 2005, 2008, 2009-10, 2013 and 2016-17 -- but it's not clear whether the absences were excused. O'Grady, the board president, declined to comment when reached Monday.

Silvestrov answered the phone at her house Friday, but gave the phone to her husband, Mike, as soon as a reporter identified herself.

Mike Silvestrov said his wife's recent absences are related to his own medical issues, saying he had a stroke, heart attack and triple bypass surgery.

"Her record is better than a lot of members," he said. "If she didn't show up without calling, that would be a cause, but she's called every time and explained every time."

He called McGowan's comments politically driven.

"Other board members have missed more meetings than she has," he said, declining to name anyone.

But according to a review of minutes from July 2004 on -- the earliest year for which they are available on the district's website -- no other board member has been more absent than Silvestrov.

She had the the highest number of absences in 2016-17, 2015-16, 2013-14, 2012-13, 2011-12, 2010-11, 2009-10, 2008-09 and 2004-05. The most she's had in any one school year has been seven, which has been the case three times.

In the remaining years, Silvestrov was tied with other members for the most absences -- of whom, Thomas Halm is the only colleague still on the board with her:

  • 2014-15 (4 absences): Silvestrov, Vincent Costanza, Florence Gange, Keith Kochberg and Thomas Halm
  • 2007-08 (5 absences): Silvestrov, Nagesh Kuppuraju
  • 2006-07 (4 absences): Silvestrov, Raymond Hart
  • 2005-06 (5 absences): Silvestrov, Michele Siekerka

Silvestrov was re-elected to her latest three-year term in November 2015. She is a member of three board committees -- Education, Development & Policy, Personnel, and Security -- but attendance records for those meetings are not available online.

Here is a list of Silvestrov's absenteeism percentages:

Cristina Rojas may be reached at crojas@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @CristinaRojasTT. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

 

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