Camden Courier-Post - December 31, 1953
Differ on Closing of McKinley as 'Fire Hazard'
Joseph T. Sherman, Board of Education member, today disputed a statement by Chief Engineer William Van Pfefferle the McKinley School was closed on the recommendation of the fire marshal.
Pfefferle previously had disagreed with findings of a State Department of Education Survey criticizing alleged conditions in a number of city schools. The existence of the survey findings was disclosed at a school board meeting Monday night by Sherman.
Pfefferle, commenting on the report, was quoted by Sherman as having stated the McKinley School was the school found to be a fire hazard and that the McKinley School was abandoned on the fire marshal's recommendation.
Disputed by Sherman
"That statement is not supported by one shred of evidence. The facts are to the contrary," Sherman said. "On May 28 and June 10, 1953, special meetings of the Board of Education were called for the purpose of solely deciding whether to keep the McKinley boundaries and keep the school open or to abandon the school. The public was invited to attend and did so. Opposing groups argued the merits of continued use of the McKinley School. Commissioner Aaron, a member of the Board of Education and also Chief Pfefferle's boss, as head of the Camden City Department of Public Safety, was present and participated.
"On June 29, 1953, the Board of Education after full public hearing decided to abandon McKinley School. At no time was there any recommendation presented by the chief or any other representative of the fire department about McKinley School being a fire hazard.
"The McKinley question was widely discussed. Certainly if the chief knew the school was a fire hazard, he owed a public duty to present those facts known to him, but he did not do so. He now states that he did. I challenge him to substantiate his statement that McKinley School was abandoned on the fire marshal's recommendation. How can this man, after the making of such a statement, expect the board or the public to rely upon such other statements as he has been called upon to make?
Explains Own Stand
"I want to clear up one point. I didn't make the report that classified many of our schools as unsatisfactory because of non-correctable fire hazards. I merely disclosed the existence of such a report which many had good reason to hope remained hidden. If the disclosure of such a report is politics, then I'm proud to participate in that type of politics.
"I notice that a leading city politician and an ardent supporter of Mayor Brunner has termed such a revelation as politically inspired for votes. I'm thankful that I can make a disclosure which the public is entitled to know about and let the public judge my motives. I will continue to oppose any politician, no matter how big, who is opposed to the people being informed of the condition of our schools."
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