BARNEGAT, NJ – Last night, Barnegat Board of Education Attorney Martin Buckley administered the oath of office to three newly elected Board members. Sean O’Brien, Richard Quelch, and Robert Sawicki ran together under the slogan “A New Voice for Barnegat.”
Board of Education member Lauren Sarno was unable to make the meeting in person due to a work obligation. However, she did call in to participate in the discussions and vote on agenda items.
A concerned parent who asked not to be identified questioned whether Sarno should have been able to cast a vote on any of the issues. The District does have a policy regarding Board member participation at board meetings using electronic devices.
According to the policy, Board members may use electronic devices in select circumstances. This includes when they are unable to attend a meeting because of a medical condition and are prohibited to leave their home. Additionally, Board members with out-of-state commitments may also use approved electronic devices.
That said, the policy requires submittal of a written request to the Board President. At the start of last night’s meeting, there was no Board President in place.
Ironically, the questionable vote was on the election of the new Board President and Vice President. Michael Hickey and Sean O’Brien were both nominated to take over as the President of the Board of Education. When the votes were tallied, Hickey won by a 5-4 vote.
Robert Geddes and Doreen Continanza received nominations for Vice President. The outcome went the same way, with Geddes winning by one vote.
The parent who spoke on condition of anonymity pointed out that Sarno’s vote essentially broke what would have been a tie. The question focused on whether Sarno’s vote was proper. If not, what would happen in the event of a tie? A call to Buckley’s office has not been returned as of publication of this article.
Hickey and Geddes moved into position to the center of the room. Hickey welcomed the three new Board members and told them he looked forward to working with them. “It’s an exciting time for you,” Hickey said. “My advice to you is to ask a lot of really good questions and spend a lot of time in your committees getting to know the chairperson.”
New to the Board last year, Hickey credited both Continanza and Pereira with “being super helpful to him.” He also said he learned a great deal by studying the resources available to him.
In delivering his remarks, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Latwis also thanked the new Board members. He read a resolution acknowledging the contribution of Board members in conjunction with School Board Recognition in New Jersey.
Although the district had considered meeting on Wednesdays, the Board members decided on monthly Tuesday meetings. Other business included naming delegates as the legislative chairpersons at the state level for the New Jersey School Boards Association. Continanza will serve as primary delegate; Quelch, as the alternate.
As far as the Ocean County School Boards Association, Hickey will serve as primary delegate, with Pereira as the alternate.
Barnegat Board of Education members meet next on January 28, 2020 at 6:30 pm. The meeting will be held at Barnegat High School.