WAYNE, NJ – With four candidates running for three Wayne Board of Education (BOE) seats in November, the political wrangling has already begun. Current President of the BOE Cathy Kazan, who is running for re-election, is questioning why a current BOE member is encouraging his daughter to run, and why other current BOE members are endorsing her.
Abigail Giordano is a 19-year-old former Wayne Valley High School student, current Seton Hall University student and daughter of current Wayne BOE member, Matt Giordano. The younger Giordano says that she is running to “give back to the community that gave me such a great education.”
“She has as much right to run as any other resident of Wayne,” said Kazan. “As for her motivations to run I couldn’t say. A more important question would be: Why would her father encourage her to run?”
Matt Giordano explained: “Abigail is exceedingly smart; she made the Dean’s List in both of her semesters at Seton Hall University. She's majoring in Finance and has been listening to just about every single [BOE} meeting, and she’s been asking a lot of questions. When she came to me and said that she wanted to run, I did like every good parent does in these cases and encouraged her.”
“I think the very fact that [Kazan] is questioning us shows her character and she needs to look very closely in the mirror at herself,” added the older Giordano.
Kazan told TAPinto that she saw the signatures of two current BOE members, Don Pavlak and Eileen Albanese, on Abigail Giordano’s nominating petition. “To me this is an endorsement,” said Kazan.
TAPinto reached out to both Pavlak and Albanese, asking for their response. Both sent an email statement ignoring the question of their signature or endorsement, and instead criticized Kazan’s questions.
Pavlak is one of the BOE candidates up for re-election in November. He was randomly chosen to hold the first line on the ballot which can be a big advantage. He wrote: “As school board members, we should be encouraging our residents to run, and serve on the school board and not chastise them for their willingness to run for public office.”
Albanese wrote: “Mrs. Kazan, in her capacity as board President, should be encouraging and welcoming all who are interested in serving the community, and not questioning why a young recent graduate of the Wayne school district would want to give back to her community.”
Sean Duffy, who is also running for re-election this year, has found himself in the most disadvantageous position on the ballot in the number four spot. He had this to say: “I wish [Abigail Giordano] luck and I commend her for wanting to get involved in government, especially at her age. However, I don’t know that a 19-year-old has the life experience to understand how to run a school district as large as Wayne. Also, I don’t believe educated voters will want to vote two people in the same household to the same board.”
Abigail Giordano responded, saying: “Being young, in this case, can be an advantage. I can bring a fresh perspective as a recent graduate of the Wayne Schools system.”
“While I respect my father's opinions, we do not agree on everything,” she added. “Many issues are looked at from different viewpoints and due to differences in age, social standing and experiences we have created different understandings on the world and more importantly education.”
“How many times have you ever seen a teenage daughter agree with everything her father has actually ever said,” the older Giordano added. “She may go the opposite way just because Dear-Old-Dad said it.”
Matt Giordano is the President of the Bloomfield teacher’s union and is considered a ‘conflicted member’ of the Wayne BOE, meaning he cannot sit-in-on or participate in any negotiations between the Wayne BOE and the Wayne teacher’s union. His daughter, should she be elected to the board, is likely to be found conflicted as well.
Kazan made this final point in her statement: “My biggest concern is that her father is a Union President in Bloomfield, and should [Abigail] be elected, this creates yet another conflict of interest on our board. There are very important contractual matters that conflicted members have to recuse themselves from. That would leave decision making regarding the largest part of our budget to a select few. I would rather see more independent members on the board.”
“Whether my father was on the board or not I would be conflicted,” admitted the younger Giordano. “There are so many important jobs that must be done other than dealing with union issues. Those can be left to the non-conflicted. Areas such as finance, technology, communications, policy, education and facilities need the attention of the board members. I would be happy to roll up my sleeves and help out with those aspects. Just being related to a union member isn’t the only way you become conflicted.”
The election is slated for November 3, more than two months away, and the election has already become contentious.