ran high at the Morris School District board of education meeting as a group of
parents and students stepped up to the microphone to plead their case for Steve
Woodruff, the audio/visual technician whose job was eliminated by the board at
the start of this year.
“I spend every day in the WJSV broadcasting room and it is so different without Mr. Woodruff,” said sophomore Abby Semple. “Mr. Woodruff really helped me learn a lot as a student and as a person.”
Jake Goldberg said that the dismissal of Woodruff was tantamount to the butterfly effect referenced in the Ray Bradbury story A Sound of Thunder. In the tale a time-travelling scientist strays from the path and crushes a butterfly under his shoes, altering the future.
“You guys are the scientist that stepped on the butterfly,” Goldberg said.
Michael Chase brought with him a petition signed by 250 students, Jeremy Herbert said that the faculty and students that being asked to pitch in and cover in Woodruff’s absence are being overtaxed. Dominic Cupo told the board he was pulled out of an AP test to plug in a microphone
Others spoke of the loss of friendship, consistency, and stability. Some expressed concerns that events like the school play and fashion show wouldn’t be able to continue and that the station itself could be impacted in the long term. Cupo said that he is training some underclassman, but that would not be enough going forward.
“Once I am gone and once they are gone there is only so much they can impart. Like the game of telephone it is lost in translation,” Cupo said. “Mr. Woodruff was that conduit to knowledge.”
Superintendent Dr. Thomas Ficarra said that while he was sorry to disappoint the students, the decision that was made was the best one for district.
“I realize that I can’t replace a friend or someone you are close to but we can replace the services,” Ficarra said. “The play, project graduation, the fashion show will continue.”
Ficarra said in fact that the new system they have in place should improve operations at the radio station, which was off the air for several months with a damaged piece of equipment.
“It was mentioned several times the equipment was broken. That was part of some of the reason for looking into the reorganization. The transmitter was down for three months under the old administration,” Ficarra said. “We have a company now that can come in same day or within a few days and repair the equipment. A highly professional company with high sophisticated employees.”
Ficarra acknowledged the members of the public didn’t have all the information, because “some of it is just not appropriate to share in public.” Ficarra maintained that the school will continue with the broadcasting program without cuts in services. And the change made this month saves the district $81,000.
“Between salary, overtime and benefits Mr. Woodruff made $94,000 last year,” Ficarra said. “Giving Mr. Butler a stipend for the extra hours a day, which he has accepted happily, and with graduates assisting we have saved $81,000 from the budget. That is what we are here to do.”
Ficarra said when the district realized they did not have the capacity to fix the equipment when it broke down, it was the impetus for change.
“Now we have that capacity. They will be coming in at a moments notice,” Ficarra said “If we had them on board in the fall the three month down time wouldn’t have happened.”
Ficarra said that while there will be hiccups as the new system gets up and running, things like a student pulled out of an AP exam should not happen. Ficarra also said that newly installed Principal Mark Manning should be the first point of contact for concerns and went out of his way to allay concerns about the radio station closing.
“We love our radio station and it will not be providing less services and children will not be deprived of time in that station,” Ficarra said.
Students like Helen Burgess weren’t swayed.
“I was a little lost puppy when I was a freshman and I didn’t really have a group to call home and Mr. Woodfruff was part of that family and you guys took him away,” Burgess said. “It is unfair for people like me who never really had a home and you took away someone who was a key person in my home.”
Ficarra said that he appreciated the passionate and articulate thoughts posed by the students, but the decision was not going to be reversed.
“I understand people are emotional about friends, but we have a fiduciary responsibility,” Ficarra said.