The New Jersey Department of Education considers any board member who has not yet scheduled an appointment for fingerprinting under the recent board-member criminal background check law to be in non-compliance with the statute, and it will inform them that they cannot continue to serve on a board of education.
In an Oct. 11 memorandum to district superintendents and charter school lead persons, Robert J. Cicchino, director of the Office of Fiscal Accountability, directed the administrators to “confirm that your school board members or trustees are in compliance with the criminal history record check process.
“For those individuals that are not in compliance, please provide written documentation…with the non-complying individual’s information,” Cicchino wrote. “The Criminal History Review Unit will then issue a letter of ineligibility to the school board member or trustee."
In response to an inquiry from NJSBA about the “letter of ineligibility,” Carl H. Carabelli, manager of the NJDOE Criminal History Review Unit, replied that “school board members and trustees of a charter school who are not in compliance with the statute, will be notified that they are ineligible to sit as a school board member and must immediately be removed from serving in that position.”
The NJDOE official noted that the state sent letters to superintendents on July 14 and August 11 urging them to inform local school board members and charter trustees to apply for the criminal background checks. As of Oct. 12, approximately 2,100 board members and trustees, less than half of the statewide total, had scheduled fingerprinting appointments.
Registration Procedure As long as a board member or charter school trustee has registered to be fingerprinted for the background check, the NJDOE considers him or her to be in compliance.
Listed below are the specific NJDOE procedures to be followed when registering.
The process requires school board members and charter school trustees to first obtain from their school district (or charter school) a form called the “MorphoTrak Universal Form, Version 4.0,” which contains information needed during the registration process.
Board members and charter trustees must schedule their appointments through the NJDOE website. On August 11, the NJDOE issued a memo explaining procedures and providing updated information about the criminal history background checks.
Board members would then register online for an appointment for fingerprinting. To register, board members must visit the NJDOE’s web page devoted to criminal history review, and select “ePayment Criminal History Record Check.” A member would then select “New Administrative Fee Request,” and then choose the first option, “All Job Positions, except School Bus Drivers and Bus Aides, for Public Schools, Private Schools for Children with Disabilities and Charter Schools.” That link takes board members to a registration page. On that page, choose the “Board Member/Trustee” option under “Job Category.”
After completing the online form and submitting the $10.00 registration fee (plus $1.00 convenience fee to Official Payments Corp.), the board member can schedule an appointment by accessing the link to MorphoTrak for digital fingerprint scanning. The fee for MorphoTrak is $70.25 and must be paid by credit card at the time an appointment is scheduled. The scans are sent to the New Jersey State Police and to the federal government. If no criminal history record of a disqualifying nature is reported, an approval letter will be issued.
School board members encountering difficulty with the process should call the Criminal History Review Unit at (609) 292-0507.
Previous Background Checks Some board members may have undergone criminal background checks for employment in other school districts. The state has retained the fingerprints of such individuals whose background checks were approved after Feb. 21, 2003. These board members should select the option “Archive Application Request” when applying for the criminal history checks.
Reimbursement of Fees School board members are responsible for the cost of fingerprinting, although unexpended campaign funds may be used to cover the cost. In addition, NJSBA successfully advocated for an amendment to the legislation that allows school boards to reimburse members for the cost of the criminal history checks.
NJSBA has developed a sample resolution for use by school boards that want to have the school district reimburse board members for the cost of the criminal history checks.
Contacts, Questions The NJDOE’s Criminal History Review Unit has a “Frequently Asked Questions” section of its webpage. School officials should call the unit directly at (609) 292-0507 if they have any questions.
The text of the NJDOE’s Oct. 11 letter to school superintendents follows:
October 11, 2011
TO: Chief School Administrators/Charter School Administrators
FROM: Robert J. Cicchino, Director, Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance
SUBJECT: Criminal History Record Checks for School Board Members and Trustees of Charter Schools
IMPORTANT UPDATE INFORMATION CONCERNING THE CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORD CHECKS FOR SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS AND TRUSTEES OF CHARTER SCHOOLS.
As you are aware, N.J.S.A.18A:12-1 et seq. mandating criminal history record checks for school board members and trustees of charter schools was enacted on May 26, 2011. The Legislature allowed 30 days for school board members and trustees to be in compliance with the statute.
The Department is aware there were delays beyond our control in initiating the criminal history record check process; however, as stated in our August 11, 2011 Chief School Administrator Letter, all currently serving school board members and trustees of charter schools should have completed the criminal history record check process. Therefore,
all individuals serving as a school board member or trustee of a charter school must have an approval letter issued by the Criminal History Review Unit (CHRU) or possess a receipt showing that they have an appointment scheduled to be LiveScan fingerprinted by the private vendor, MorphoTrak.
Please confirm that your school board members or trustees are in compliance with the criminal history record check process. For those individuals that are not in compliance, please provide written documentation to the CHRU with the non-complying individual’s information. The CHRU will then issue a letter of ineligibility to the school board member or trustee and the educational facility where they serve.
Chief School Administrator/Charter School Administrators
PLEASE NOTE: All board members or trustees that submitted to the criminal history record check prior to the July 14, 2011 authorization date and did not use the correct codes and statute number, must contact the Criminal History Review Unit and provide us with the information so that our database can be updated to reflect the correct information for the board member or trustee.
If you require assistance, please contact the Criminal History Review Unit at 609-292-0507.
RJC/CHC/cc/chief school administrator letter board members trustees termination notice.
c: Members, State Board of Education
Acting Commissioner Christopher D. Cerf
Chief Performance Officer
Carl H. Carabelli
Executive County Superintendents