The following words reflect the opinions of Ava Finnerty, not those of a Board of Education trustee.

The race for school board trustee on November 5 is one of the most important decisions Bayonne voters will make over the next week. Last year, I am pleased to say that the community responded in a very favorable way by re-electing me to serve another term. Your validation of the job I am doing as trustee tells me that you approve of the direction the elected board is going over the past few years. We have achieved a great deal for the betterment of both our students as well as our dedicated teachers and support staff. Yet, we have much, much more to accomplish and most assuredly we are on our way to completing many of our board goals. Having been a board trustee for the last four years,  I have come to the realization that a trustee needs to have not only the time, but also the know-how to do the job well.  For sure, being a trustee carries a great deal of responsibility and draws heavily on life experience.

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I ask your consideration as I give my unconditional endorsement to Carol Cruden, Charles Ryan and Denis Wilbeck who are seeking re-election. First, they bring the experience of having already served on the elected board. In addition, they each have brought their own unique life experiences to their positions as trustees. Through their experiences each of these trustees brings an understanding and sensitivity to the challenges that being a person, a parent and a citizen of this fair city brings. They have endured some of life’s hardships with courage, grace and fortitude.

Reading some of the recent social media posts regarding the school board election, it strikes me that we should examine our candidates not only on what they’ve done, but also by who they are. So, I’m going to take a risk and share with you what you may not know about Carol, Chuck and Denis.  I believe knowing some of the intimate details of each of their lives will help to confirm why they are clearly the best choices for the three Trustee positions.

Widowed at the age of 27 when her husband was killed in Vietnam, Carol Cruden was left with the enormous responsibility of raising three young children. In addition, Carol worked as a school nurse for the Board of Education as well as a nurse at Bayonne Hospital to help support her young family. Through hard work, Carol was promoted to the position of Director of Nurses for the Bayonne Board of Education. Upon retirement from the Board of Education, Carol continues working at Bayonne Hospital as Nursing Supervisor at Care Point Medical Center while staying very involved in her grandchildren’s lives. Carol is an intelligent, tireless, and dedicated worker for all.

Charles Ryan, father of three, knows the challenges of raising a child who will require special care for the rest of her life. Because of this, he devotes a tremendous amount of time to community programs involving children. He is active in SEPAC, has served on the board of Advocates for Bayonne Children, was President of the BHS Choir Parent’s Association and acted as Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 35 in St. Henry’s. During his career, the former Deputy Chief of Police commanded the Patrol Division during Hurricane Sandy and oversaw the “Cops in Schools“ and the DARE programs. Ryan indeed brings a much-needed perspective to the Board of Trustees, one that we cannot afford to lose especially when the safety and security of all of students and staff is paramount.

Denis Wilbeck, orphaned at age 15, joined the Army, earned his black belt in karate while serving in Okinawa, received his GED and then put himself through college under the G.I. Bill.  Denis became a teacher and subsequently completed his MA in Educational Leadership which led him to the position of Vice Principal. In retirement, Denis continues to be involved in high school athletics nationwide. He is also the proud father of 3 children and husband to his wife Rose for the past 47 years.

Carol Cruden, Charles Ryan and Denis Wilbeck have served as examples in their own lives of the character traits that are needed to be a valued trustee.  Each is a success story in his or her right. They are role models of what it takes to persevere in the face of adversity and prevail. They have grit!  That is why I urge you to cast your votes for Cruden 7D, Ryan 8D, Wilbeck 9D on November 5.


Ava Finnerty