Princeton Times

Pieces from Princeton's Past

September 22, 2012

From the September 22-28, 1977 Archives - School Preservation members met with Rockefeller Aide

PRINCETON — The Mercer County School Preservation Association met with the state fire marshall and an aide from Governor Jay Rockefeller's office regarding the controversial closing of Oakvale School.

MCSPA president John Cottle, along with members Mrs. Weatherly, Mrs. Shirley Perry, and Mrs. Jetty Burkett, met with Governor's Aide Jack Canfield and Fire Marshall Walter Smittle III in order to "get the facts" directly from the fire marshall's office regarding the school closure order, and to alert Governor Rockefeller to the dissatisfaction with the Mercer County Board of Education for what they believed was the premature closing of Oakvale School and the appearance of the B.O.E "ruling Mercer County."

Cottle said, "[Oakvale] went from having five fire violations to a condemned school in three years;" and believed that someone in Canfield's office buckled under pressure from the MCBOE to close Oakvale.

According to Cottle, "Smittle told us Frank Ubeda, fire marshall inspector, had written no order of any kind to close any rooms at Oakvale." Ubeda had told Canfield before the hearing he didn't recommend closing any rooms at Oakvale until June 8. The Board of Education closed Oakvale on April 14, [1977].

Cottle went on to say, "They [Cottle and Smittle] tried to tell me that they couldn't force the B.O.E. to do anything, but I have read the fire code and I told Smittle that he was the ONLY man who can do anything. If he didn't write an order forcing the B.O.E. to do what they ought to do to correct fire violations, nobody can make them do anything. They want me to believe nobody can do anything with them." He went on to tell the representatives that if they didn't get something done he would dump the entire affair in the Governor's lap.

Cottle also said that Smittle sat during the discussion with his head in his hands in an attitude of dejection, and the only time he showed animation was when Cottle said that kindergarden children are attending classes in rooms considered unsafe for high school age children.

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