(Editor’s Note: Five candidates are vying for three open seats on the South Plainfield Board of Education. Incumbents Keith Both and Pio Pennisi are both seeking re-election to their second consecutive three-year term, former members Ernie 'Jim' Giannakis and Chere Glover, along with newcomer Kristine Keefe are also looking to secure a seat. Both, Giannakis, and Pennisi are running together as the 'Proven Team' tickets. TAPinto will be publishing, profiles on each candidate; they will run in alphabetical order as follows: Both, Giannakis, Glover, Keefe, and Pennisi.) 

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ –  Ernie ‘Jim’ Giannakis, a resident for over 30 years, is seeking to regain a seat on the South Plainfield Board of Education (SPBOE) and is running on the 'Proven Team' ticket with current members Keith Both and Pio Pennisi. 

"We are tried and true. We are a 'proven team' that has dealt with many issues and overcome a lot of concerns," said Giannakis. 

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Giannakis was a member of the board of education for three consecutive terms from 2005 to 2015 and served as its president from 2007 to 2011. He secured another three-year term on the board in 2016, during which time he chaired the Building and Grounds Committee, and served on both the Finance and Policy committees as well as the district's Ad-Hoc Referendum Project Committee. 

Giannakis, who lost his bid for a second consecutive term last November, told TAPinto that, during his recent time on the board he is most proud of the passage of the referendum and 'bringing all projects in on time and under budget.' 

"There was a lot of skepticism around the referendum in the beginning and a lot of people thought we were going to spend the money elsewhere," he said, noting that the district, during his last year on the board, also had an 'almost perfect audit.' "That is huge, too. We haven’t seen an audit like that in years." 

As a member of the board from 2016 to 2018, Giannakis said he is also proud of the role he played 'solidifying' and 'supporting' the district's current central administration. "I worked to bring continuity to the district, which was something that was missing for so long. For too long the word interim was an everyday word," he said. "Those positions hadn’t been solidified in years and now they are."

Additionally, Giannakis told TAPinto that during his early years on the SPBOE, he was instrumental in bringing all-day kindergarten to the district and also introduced the district's current drug testing policy. As its president, he also worked to iron out a policy authorizing the South Plainfield Police Department to enforce traffic safety issues on school property.

Giannakis said he is seeking to return to the SPBOE because he has a 'vested interest' and that his 'experience and knowledge' is an asset that will help 'bring stability' to the board.' "I bring continuity, experience, and knowledge," he said. "I am level-headed and, when faced with adversity, I have always taken the high road and never make any decisions out of emotion; all of my decisions are made out of experience and taking into account what is best for our district, its teachers, staff, and students." 

Giannakis and his wife, Linda, who works for the district, have three children, Nick, Jamie, a guidance counselor at the South Plainfield High School, and Jenny, a member of the Class of 2021. For the past 15 years, he has a served as a food service director for Piscataway Public Schools and, on a local front, is a parishioner at St. Luke’s Church in North Plainfield and a Silver Life member of the Mountainside PBA. Giannakis is also a former member and vice president of the Mountainside Rotary Club. 

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