BELMAR/LAKE COMO, NJ — Two incumbents and one newcomer are vying for three seats on the Belmar Board of Education, while there is a contested race for one seat on the Lake Como school board.

Here is the rundown of the candidates, who give their views on the important issues facing their school district, as well as their qualifications for holding a school board position.

Belmar Board of Education: Two Incumbents, One Newcomer Running Unopposed

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In Belmar, three candidates are running for full three-year terms on the school board — incumbents Cherie Adams and Aileen Fahy and newcomer Antoinette Raucci. Incumbent Joanne Gray had initially filed a petition, but decided not to seek re-election due to a career change, she said.

CHERIE ADAMS

Cherie Adams of 12th Avenue has lived in Belmar for 33 years. She is a founding partner in Adams, Gutierrez and Lattiboudere, a Newark-based law firm, representing school districts and employers in labor and employment matters.

She has two children, both of whom have attended Belmar Elementary School and Manasquan High School.

Service to Belmar

Adams has been a member of the Belmar Board of Education for 20 years, serving as board president for about seven years.

What are your qualifications for elected office?

I have achieved my certified board member, master board member and certified board leader credentials from the New Jersey School Boards Association. In addition, my daily work as an education attorney involves providing legal advice and representation to boards of education and school districts throughout the state. I also provide training to school board members, school administrators and other attorneys on education-related issues.

What are the most-important issues facing the school district (up to five)? And if you're re-elected, how do you plan to address those issues?

■  Continued focus on progress and student achievement. We have made strides in this area and have a continued goal of monitoring our programming and modifying it as necessary to meet the needs of our students. We also meet with the other sending districts and the high school to coordinate programming and make sure our students are ready as they move to high school.

■  Address our facilities’ needs. Many portions of the school are aging and need to be addressed through maintenance and construction projects to update the facilities and make the environment safe and comfortable for our students and staff.  

  Strategic planning. We have to develop a five-year plan for the district through the strategic planning process where we gather information and input from all stakeholders in the community and develop a vision for moving the school forward. The strategic plan will involve community members as well as staff, students, board members and administration.  

AILEEN FAHY

Aileen Fahy is a River Avenue resident who has lived in Belmar for 40 years. She is a sales associate with Gloria Nilson & Co.  

She and her husband, Tom, have three children, Brigid, Tommy and Julia.

Service to Belmar

Fahy has been a member of the Belmar Board of Education for about 12 years, serving on its policy committee. She also is a member of the Monmouth/Ocean Regional Realtors’ education committee and the Belmar Better Angels.

What are your qualifications for elected office?

My 12 years of experience working with the superintendent, business administrator, teachers and board colleagues has taught me how to work together and make important change.

What are the most-important issues facing the school district (up to five)? And if you're re-elected, how do you plan to address those issues?

  Student achievement. Standardized test, graduation requirements and SATs have changed over the years. I’m devoted to keeping our kids on track, while remembering the life skills necessary for thriving as high school students and beyond.

  Diversity. I’m proud of our harmonious environment and want to make sure all students continue to be happy at Belmar Elementary School.

  Facilities. Our school is over 100 years old. It needs major upgrades and repair. This is a pressing issue that needs immediate attention.

  PILOTs (payment in lieu of taxes agreements). I want to work closely with Belmar's mayor and council to make sure our school gets its fair share of the tax revenue. Belmar's redevelopment zone, created by the Doherty administration, allows developers to forgo paying taxes to our school. This PILOT program is in effect for 25to 30 years. Developers do pay an annual revenue to the state and municipality (in lieu of taxes), but they don't have to pay revenue to our school.

Currently, we have five buildings housing over 100 units taking advantage of this deal, and it's just the tip of the iceberg. We were hit with a big reduction in state aid and our 110 year-old school has major renovation needs. Belmar school children deserve the best. I'm devoted to making sure that all of Belmar's property owners share the bill. Luckily, I am surrounded by a wonderful group of board members, a superintendent devoted to what's best, and a town council who is receptive to my concerns.

During these changing times, I look forward to serving another three years.

ANTOINETTE RAUCCI

Antoinnette Raucci, 50, of Third Avenue has been a Belmar resident for eight years. She has owned Antoinette Rose Bridals on Route 71 for 15 years and another location in Brick for 23 years. She is in the process of moving her Belmar store to Main Street.

She is married to Mark Aumack, and the couple’s twin boys — Lucas and Logan — are fourth-graders at Belmar Elementary School.

Service to Belmar

Raucci was recently named to the board of trustees of Belmar Business Partnership,  the nonprofit group formed to manage the borough’s Special Improvement District.

What are your qualifications for elected office?

I have owned several businesses and ran them successfully. I have the best interest for the children of (Belmar Elementary School). I ran an extremely successful fundraiser to raise funds for the afterschool program. I am in the process of running another fundraiser that will hopefully raise $20,000 for a basketball court on the playground. I was recently on the committee for the Belmar Mayor’s Ball and completely put together a children’s ball.  

What are the most-important issues facing the school district (up to five)? And if you're re-elected, how do you plan to address those issues?

I believe the most pressing issue facing Belmar Elementary School is declining enrollment. As a result, class sizes have increased and some cuts have been made.  We need to get the word out about what Belmar Elementary School is really all about. In my opinion, it is truly a community school that treats children like family. The teachers go above and beyond, the technology is top notch, and each and every child is valued and embraced.

We need to get the community more involved in the school so that they too can see all the wonderful things BES has to offer. I have two children currently attending the school, and I have lived and been a business owner in the community since 2010. I am involved in the school, both with the PTO and fundraising. I know the staff, administrators, and I witness the successful programs we offer firsthand on a daily basis.  

This year Belmar Elementary School’s  PTO began enrichment classes after school. This program has been hugely successful and has kept students positively involved in their school community. I would like to continue to support this wonderful program, as well as add more enrichment opportunities during the year.  I am also leading a fundraiser to add basketball courts to our school playground. I think they would be a welcome addition for our students during outdoor time and would bring more Belmar Elementary School families together.

Lake Como Board of Education: Contested Race for Three-Year Seat

Lake Como school board member Mary Louise Underhill is being challenged by newcomer Michele Cartaya for a full three-year. In 2018, Underhill was elected to fill a one-year unexpired term on the five-member body, while Cartaya made an unsuccessful bid in 2017.

MARY LOU UNDERHILL

Mary Louise Underhill, 63, who grew up in the borough, moved back three years ago and currently resides on 18th Avenue. She works in sales at The Papery in Sea Girt. She has three adult sons.

Service to Lake Como

Underhill has been a member of the Lake Como Board of Education for one year.

What are your qualifications for elected office?

As an interested citizen, Underhill said that she “cares what happens in our school district.”

What are the most-important issues facing the school district (up to five)? And if you're re-elected, how do you plan to address those issues?

Underhill listed the school budget and state aid as important issues.

MICHELE CARTAYA

Michele Cartaya, 37, of 22nd Avenue is a 14-year Lake Como resident, who is married to Andrew Reiners. She is an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Ocean Township Immediate School.

What are your qualifications for elected office?

I have the personal and professional characteristics to hold an elected position. Professionally, most of my experiences within the community has been through the school system where I work, such as working with a school improvement panel, district technology committee and the instructional council, among others. I am looking to capitalize on the skills I have honed in my professional experiences to benefit the Lake Como community.

Personally, I have characteristics to hold an elected position such as being a thorough, hard-working representative who will ensure that voters’ concerns will be addressed. It is my commitment and follow-through that allows me to stand out from the other candidates.

What are the most-important issues facing the school district (up to five)? And if you're re-elected, how do you plan to address those issues?

In order to best prepare our students for the future, our schools and communities need to offer opportunities for students to work within the community on academic and workplace skills. Therefore, I would like to pursue an open relationship between the community and the school starting with a stronger line of communication.

Within the school system, I would like to give our students resources to spearhead projects that would benefit the community, such as a capstone graduation project or a service learning program. This would build a stronger bond within our community, plus it sets up our students to be leaders in the larger context.

Additionally, the quality of education in our community is dependent on the open and clear communication among students, families, the school system and the Board of Education. The connection between the school and the community starts with the family. In order to best support our students, our schools need to have a close relationship to each family to understand how to best serve them. This bond is reflected in community outreach programs to help families achieve their goals. Examples include quarterly presentations on the various educational activities strategies occurring at their children’s schools, or a showcase of students’ best work to not only make a more unified community, but also to offer real direction and support.

After a strong rapport is established among families and the larger community, there are several critical factors to the quality of the education that we provide our students, including but not limited to the access to quality resources such as teachers, technology and facilities. These resources must not only be accessible but students, teachers, administration and families need to be supported to capitalize on their effectiveness and advantages that the resources offer.

If elected, I hope to bring a fresh perspective to the board due to my background in education, but also as a taxpayer without children. Although I am looking forward to starting a family soon, as a Lake Como representative, I hope to keep per-pupil spending down, while still providing the best educational opportunity for our students.

These are just some ideas that I would like to look into for the Borough of Lake Como and our students, but ultimately I am willing to hear the concerns of our residents, and I am looking forward to making concrete improvements.

 

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