BAYONNE, NJ - In an election that could change the direction of the Bayonne Board of Education, 14 candidates are vying for three seats on the city’s body that directs policy for the city’s public schools. Election Day is Tuesday, November 5.
Although previously elected boards have dealt with many significant issues such as selecting a new school’s superintendent and a business administrator, a new board taking office in January will be confronted with a number of bread and butter issues such as finding additional classroom space for increasing numbers of students, finding ways to cope with maintenance on aging school buildings, many of which are 90 years or older, and finding ways to tighten the fiscal belt at a time when state funding is in decline.
Other issues that have been raised so far in this election include lack of programs to meet the demands of families with special needs kids, teacher retention due to low salaries, and lack of transparency from existing and previous board members.
The newly elected board will also have to find solutions to conflicts arising out of the fact that four of the nine existing board members are unable to vote on some issues – such as teachers’ contracts – because family members are employed by the school district.
With three slates of three candidates each, plus five candidates running as independently, the ballot will be crowded.
Three incumbents – Denis Wilbeck, Carol Cruden and Charles Ryan are running together on a slate called “Commitment, Experience, Integrity.”
Ryan, a former police officer, first elected in 2016, ran and lost in 2018 before being the recipient of an appointment to the body to replace Michael Mulcahy, who, due to a job that required him to move out of Bayonne, resigned immediately after being elected last November.
Ryan and Wilbeck are two of the four sitting board members whose conflicts keep them from being able to vote on some issues.
A second ticket that includes Charlies Shepard, Evelyn Sabol and Lauren Alonso – wife of another current school board trustee – is called “Make Bayonne Great.”
Shepard said the campaign is about brings accountability to the school board and getting the district on solid fiscal footing, something currently lacking they said.
This ticket, if successful TAPinto Bayonne was told, hopes to build a coalition with Michael Alonso to become a voting block designed to curb excess spending and to find ways for the district to become more frugal.
A third ticket made up of Jan Patrick Egan, Melissa Matthews and Lisa Burke is called “Together We Can.”
Egan is a local scout master as well as a vice president of sales in the private sector.. He studied political science at Rutgers University and the College of New Jersey. Matthews works as a clerk for two city boards and is involved in a number of civic enterprises. Burke has been involved with special needs programming for local students.
The five independent candidates running for the board are Leo Smith, Antony D’Amico, Melissa-Godesky-Rodriguez, Stephanie Glover-Wilson, and Sharma Montgomery.
Perhaps the best known of these is Smith, who has served in a number of positions in the Bayonne School District over more than 40 years before stepping down at the district’s business administrator in June 2018.
Smith ran for the board in November 2018 and was narrowly defeated in a recount.
Smith became business administrator while the board was still an appointed one, and while his brother, Mark, served as mayor. During his tenure as business administrator, Smith faces serious fiscal issues including what an audit claimed were “inappropriate budgetary practices” that for a short time made it seem the district was missing more than $2 million.
Montgomery, a U.S. Air Force Veteran, previously ran for city council in 2018. She is a director of a communications and technology company and previously served on the board of directors for the Jewish Community Center of Bayonne as well as the Bayonne High School Band Foundation.
D’Amico works as a superintendent at Petretti & Association, studied sports management at Johnson & Wales University. He is head coach of the district’s wrestling program, a manager of the Cal Ripken Baseball League, and serves as vice president of the Henry Harris School PTA.
Godesky-Rodriguez serves as vice president of the Lincoln School PTA and is a coach with Bayonne Recreation Youth Program.
Glover-Wilson is founder of Hunger Free Bayonne, a program dedicated to feeding hungry people. This is her first run for public office.
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