BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ — A fourth candidate is seeking write-ins votes for a seat on the Bernards Township Board of Education.
He is Larry Scholl, an engineer in the HVAC industry. His family has lived in Basking Ridge for two years but previously lived in Warren Township. Two daughters attend Cedar Hill School.
He joins Ruchika Hira, who sought a board seat twice in the last two years; Harris Gartenberg, a 22-year-old Bernards Township schools graduate, and Christopher Asakiewicz, who used the public comment portion of the Oct. 5 board meeting to announce his interest.
Three board members will be chosen at the Nov. 3 general election, for which mail-in voting is well underway. Incumbents Jennifer Korn and Jennifer White each seek another three-year term.
A third candidate, Elaine DiDario, said in mid-September she was dropping out of the race. Her name is still on the ballot, and she urged people to run write-in campaigns.
Scholl said he wanted the district to explore expanding time in school buildings and to be “fully transparent with parents with what is being considered and driving the decisions.”
“This would most likely require different implementations for different schools and grades since the class schedules are different and the risks to different ages may be different,” he said.
Hira is a lawyer working for a firm in Little Falls. In November 2019, she was one of five candidates seeking three seats on the board. In January 2018 she was one of 12 people who asked to be considered to fill a vacancy. Timothy Salmon was ultimately selected.
Hira’s practice is in the area of family law, dealing with families, children and conflict resolution on a day-to-day basis.
“I am constantly having to think outside the box to craft solutions that work for everyone involved,” she said last year. “I also believe school boards with a diversity of backgrounds, experiences and ethnicities benefit from multiple perspectives.”
Gartenberg grew up in Basking Ridge and attended public schools. In April, he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor of arts degree in political science and a minor in legal studies. He said he is considering whether his future includes graduate programs, be it law school or a master’s degree.
“We are also experiencing very challenging times with the Covid pandemic. I personally had to finish my senior year of college by Zoom and virtual learning and this opportunistic experience has given me insight into the positives and negatives of the current strategy. Allow me to be a voice for the future,” he posted on social media.
Asakiewicz said in his public comment message that he would have children in the school district in the future. He said he saw the race as “an opportunity to make a lasting difference to their future and my community.”
Scholl said he understood that having five full days of in-building school learning may not be right for many families but many wanted to see the time in school expanded. Each family has a different risk-versus-reward view, he said.
“I am less concerned about normalcy and more concerned about being sure that our children are getting the focus they need on core subjects, such as reading, writing, math, etc.,” he said. “If getting students back in school more is not feasible, we need to improve the virtual aspect of school because I don't believe there is enough instruction on days the kids are not in school.
“Let's maximize instruction and learning in the core subjects, supplement time with specials (art, music) and determine how to safely allow extracurricular activities,” he said. “I feel that specials should be occurring during virtual learning only since we have minimal in school time.”