BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - In preparation for the Berkeley Heights Board of Education election on Nov. 8, questions were submitted to each candidate to give residents insight into why they are running and how they feel they can contribute to the Berkeley Heights school district.

There are four candidates running for three open seats on the Board of Education. The candidates are incumbents Helen Kirsch, Denis Smalley and running for the second time is Robert Cianciulli. The fourth is write-in candidate Christopher Rinaldi.


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My name is Denis Smalley and I have lived in Berkeley Heights for 23 years.  I’m married to Melba and we have twins, Courtney and Justin, who are now in College after going through the public schools here in Berkeley Heights. For the past 12 years, I continue to serve as a member of the Berkeley Heights Board of Education. I’m employed at Orange and Rockland Utilities, a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison Inc., with 33 years of experience in the Construction Utility business serving as Department Manager, Construction Group, and currently serving as Director of Facilities Operations at Orange and Rockland Utilities. I received my degree in Business Management and Psychology from Saint Peter's University in Jersey City, NJ.  I have held numerous positions throughout my career at Con Edison within the Construction organization and was responsible for over $1.5 billion of construction activity.  In my new role, I oversee all of Orange and Rockland Utilities Facilities throughout the entire network and have the responsibility of Chief Logistics Officer during corporate emergencies.  I'm a current member of the Berkeley Heights Board of Education serving my fourth term in elected office. I’m also in my fourth consecutive term of serving on the Berkeley Heights Board of Health. I have served as past President of Union County School Board Association serving from 2008 to 2013.  I serve as Chairman of the Berkeley Heights Board of Education Facilities Committee, an active member of the negotiation and extra –curricular committees and serve on the New Jersey State Board of Education committee representing the Berkeley Heights school district.  In addition, I'm involved as a committee member for the Boy Scouts of America annual award gala and served as event Chairman this past October.  I have been a past scout leader in pack 268 in Berkeley Heights, NJ.  I’m a former lead parent for the Governor Livingston Highlander Football team.  Finally, I’m actively involved in many community activities throughout Berkeley Heights, NJ and an active member of Little Flower parish.

I look forward to your support in the upcoming election in November and ask that you re-elect me to the Board of Education where I can continue our plan to bring our Good district to Greatness by helping implement our strategic plan initiatives. 

. 1.     Why are you running for Board of Education?

The Vision Statement of The Berkeley Heights Public School District reflects my reason why I want to continue and be Re-Elected to The Board of Education it states:

“The Berkeley Heights Public School District will provide a world class, whole child education that offers equitable opportunities for all students.  This will occur in a collaborative environment that infuses a comprehensive curriculum with 21st century skills including critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation.  All students will become responsible at the global, community and personal levels.  Student, parents, staff, community and the BOARD OF EDUCATION are accountable for achieving this vision.”

I have capitalized the Board of Education as I have been part of this team for 12 years.  We are providing assistance to our District to move from “Good to Great”.  The vision is something as a Board member you need to keep focused upon in order to not stray away from our goals and objectives.  We provide assistance to the Academic community in providing the necessary tools, materials and equipment to obtain the overall vision. 

2.     What specialty do you add to the Board of Education?

As stated above in my opening, I have extensive experience in Facilities operations, sports, contract negotiations, finance, personnel, working both at the State and County levels of Education and 12 years of experience on the operations of the Berkeley Heights Board of Education.  Also, my skills of listening to the students, parents, or teacher and asking questions to obtain a result is a specialty.  I’m a parent that has worked with teachers at all levels of Public Education with my children going through our school system not long ago.  I stay involved at the schools and attend many events held at each school including plays, concerts, band tournaments, athletic games, and reading to our students.

3.     What do you see as the biggest issue the Board of Education faces?

Continuing the implementation of the 5-year Strategic Plan – “ Good to Great” will be our main focus and challenge. 

This plan is in 5 parts:

  1. Student Achievement:  Where we will strive to improve our school ranking relating to student achievement and performance.  There are 8 major categories within this area.
  2. Academic Curriculum:  Focus investments on leading educational programs, specifically in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and critical thinking to drive 21st century academics within budget realities.  There are 9 major categories in this area.
  3. Talent:  Attract, develop and retain the highest performing educators.  Align and motivate all staff, teachers and administrators to achieve district goals.  This moves everyone in the same direction.  There are 4 major categories in this area.
  4. Guidance:  Improve the overall perception and performance of our Guidance Department – particularly in the area of college readiness, parent outreach and university outreach.  There are 8 major categories under this area.
  5. Technology:  Provide our students and staff with a state of the art learning and operating environment by continually assessing and improving the efficient and effective use of technology inside and outside of the classroom.  There are 5 major categories in this area.

4.     If Gov. Christie's School Funding "Fairness Formula" proposal were to go through, tax payers in Berkeley Heights could see up to $2,274 or 18.6 percent savings per average household. If the district used this additional funding in the district, where would you like this additional money to be spent?

In reality this will never come to pass at this level of return for our District. The Legislature will take care of the inner cities and the Suburban districts will maintain payments. I could see a different approach to the formula being applied but not to the levels of over 18 percent reductions. Even a modest 5 percent could help our District continue to implement the 5 Strategic Goals of: Student Achievement; Academic Curriculum; Talent; Guidance and Technology.  These are the areas I would reinvest our return.

Also, if not all the funds are required, I would return funds to the community to lower the tax burden.

5. The court recently approved the Affordable Housing agreement with the Township and Fair Share Housing Center.  With the agreement, there will be several new units built in the Kings Property, Hamilton Avenue, old Movie Theater Property and future building on Connell Property.  Do you believe there could be an influx of students that might stress our current capacity?  What are your ideas on how to successfully handle this influx?

I don’t foresee our district having a problem absorbing this potential increase.  With one or two bedroom proposed residences, the impact would not be felt, we have seen a slight decrease in enrollment.  We have lighter enrollment in the lower grades at this time.

There may be a need for a shift in school assignments but that is a geographical review that the Administration would recommend for redistricting if required.  At this time, we don’t see a problem to absorb the anticipated influx of students.