As the BOE election draws near, we have a responsibility as parents and/or taxpayers to pay close attention to the candidates running. What is it they stand for? What skill sets can they bring to the Board? Do they stand up for what they believe in? Are they open-minded in hearing the concerns of others? How much time will they dedicate to their position? These are some questions that come to mind for me.
In 2004 my husband and I chose to buy a home in Berkeley Heights because we wanted a home that would be commutable for us both, and we wanted a town that had a strong school system for the family we planned to start. Easy access to NYC, affordable taxes, and strong schools we believed were paramount. As the years passed, we began to see our streets deteriorating, our storm drains collapsing, and our services cut, while our taxes soared. Simultaneously, the town council was trying to push through plans for the current municipal building that is now under construction. There were voices of opposition to the building plans who tried to warn us of the problems it would bring, problems that have now come to fruition. One of the strongest voices was Sai Bhargavi Akiri. Sai dedicated a tremendous amount of her personal time trying to bring awareness to the townspeople of what was to come if the building was approved. She pressured the council to put the approval of such a massive expense to referendum, because she fiercely believed all the town’s residents should have a voice in approving such a massive expense. The council did not allow the referendum. They found a loophole, but she fought the fight.
As a resident, and long before ever seeking a position on the Board of Education, Sai has demonstrated a strong commitment to keeping our town on track over the years. She regularly attended town council meetings and questioned the council members in detail. She attempted to hold the town council accountable for their decisions. Her background as a project manager made her uniquely qualified to ask the right questions. She was met with hostility at times for doing the homework and questioning, but she stood her ground with composure. I have a tremendous respect for those who don’t just follow the crowd. That is leadership. Sai will bring that same tenacity and dedication to the BOE. More importantly, she will hold true to her dedication to giving everyone a voice, something many parents felt strongly lacked this past Spring when our district was challenged with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sai’s willingness to give to the community goes beyond her activism with the town. Anyone who knows her personally knows her generous heart, how she cooks for and delivers dinners to sick friends and the elderly, her past volunteerism at the rescue squad, and at William Woodruff elementary chaperoning the Happy Feet running club. All of her actions speak volumes about her character and commitment to our great town.
Electing Sai Bhargavi Akiri to the Board of Education is the right choice for Berkeley Heights. Sai has my vote, and I encourage all my friends and neighbors to choose her too.