Over a year ago, I wrote a Letter to the Editor on the current issues destabilizing the Board of Education and the BH Public School System as a whole. After diving into the issues and reaching the core of the matter, I concluded that “New leaders are needed…that can bring new perspectives and ideas…that can do the right thing.” While I think the Board of Education is in a better place now than it was a year ago at the height of teacher contract disputes, my point relating to the leadership on the Board of Education remains unsatisfied and unfulfilled.

However, I believe a new leader has arrived— a leader that would satisfy and fulfill that need. I also believe that this Berkeley Heights Board of Education election is more important than ever, because of COVID-19 altering the landscape of education. Sai Bhargavi Akiri, a current candidate for the Berkeley Heights Board of Education, is the leader that we greatly need.

Sai brings great talent as a Program Manager at Bristol-Meyers Squibb, but she also brings a great heart. Knowing Sai as a former member of the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad and still being a member myself, I know the great compassion and dedication it takes to be a member of a community-focused organization, like a volunteer rescue squad. Sai has proven herself to be not only a quick-learner but also a servant leader in her community— one truly dedicated to others. I have great confidence that Sai will only be dedicated to the students and families of the Berkeley Heights Public School system. This gives me great confidence in her ability to serve as a Board of Education member. 

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But, equally important, as a former student of the Berkeley Heights Public School System, I believe I bring a unique perspective on this matter. Having walked through the halls of Mary K. McMillan Early Childhood Center (then Hamilton Terrace), Thomas P. Hughes Elementary School, and Columbia Middle School, I understand both the school system's faults and great strengths. In speaking to Sai on numerous occasions and diving into her plans on a fiscally responsible school budget, further communication and transparency, community outreach, and more, I truly believe that she knows how to beat those faults and exploit those strengths. 

I truly believe that Sai is the leader that we need right now, and now is the time to fill the leadership gap that I believe exists on the Board of Education. Sai is a servant leader, a proactive leader, and a democratic leader. She cares for others, remains unwavering and committed to her goals, and ensures that all voices are heard. She will be the independent voice that brings creative, forward-looking solutions and real change to our great public schools. She is a “doer” and a steadfast “solution-finder.” I urge Berkeley Heights residents to not pass up on this opportunity to have such a strong leader, like Sai Bhargavi Akiri, on our Board of Education.