BRIDGEWATER, NJ - He gets personal satisfaction from helping others, and has already served 10 years on the board of education – now former board member Evan Lerner is throwing his hat in the ring once again.
Lerner is running for one of two open spots on the board of education representing Bridgewater.
“I’m a big believer in community,” he said. “Bridgewater served as a safe haven for my family post 9/11 when we didn’t have a place to live, and I quickly was happy to call it home. When the opportunity to combine my affection for my new home, my sense of community and doing service as a member of the BOE came in 2005, I jumped on it.”
Lerner and his family moved to Bridgewater from lower Manhattan on Dec. 1, 2001.
“We like many thing about Bridgewater,” he said, “the fresh air, parks, recreation and shopping. And, of course, the great public schools.”
Lerner attended college at the University of Florida, and law school at American University. Following law school, he practiced corporate law at major New York City law firms, and later as general counsel to Nathan’s Famous and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
After the sale of the UFC, Lerner said, he transitioned to recruiting.
“I co-founded Lerner, Cumbo & Associates, a diversified staffing firm, in 2002, and continue to serve as its managing director,” he said.
Lerner said his first service role was as a participant in a three-day 260-mile Boston to New York City bicycle ride for AIDS charities in 1997.
“I learned immediately that I get great personal satisfaction from helping others,” he said. “I rode in another AIDS ride in 1999, and still do long distance charity bike rides.”
Recently, he said, he did a more than 200-mile ride for the Young Survival Coalition, a charity dedicated to helping young women with breast cancer, his 13th year riding in it.
Lerner then served for 10 years on the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional Board of Education, from 2005 to 2015, before losing re-election in 2015. After that, he served as a member of the Bridgewater Township Planning Board.
There are several issues, Lerner said, that he sees currently with the district. First, he said, is the issue of maintaining the quality of education without breaking the bank.
“When I was on the board, the district’s ranking improved steadily,” he said. “At the same time, we literally halved the tax levy increase. In three years since I left, this board increased the tax levy increase almost 100 percent.”
“That’s not sustainable,” he added.
Lerner said he is also concerned with maintaining and updating facilities, while continuing to understand that the district must live within its means.
Finally, Lerner said, one of the biggest issues is providing the best education to all students.
“Bridgewater-Raritan is a very diverse population, and, as a result, we have students with vastly different needs,” he said. “Not all groups are represented on the board of education, but the board of education needs to make sure its product serves the needs of everyone. That isn’t always the case.”
If he is re-elected to the board, Lerner said, he hopes to work toward keeping facilities in good repair and modern, while also focusing on achievement levels among students.
“Achievement levels, while excellent, are inconsistent,” he said. “B-R needs to constantly pay attention to groups that may be performing below their potential. I think improvements for these groups is very possible.”
Lerner said he would also like to see more financial responsibility in the district.
“The current board not only set a budget with a 3 percent tax levy increase, it did so without seeking approval from voters,” he said. “Any time a district seeks that kind of increase, it should, in my view, get voter approval. My position is consistent with the law in this area.”
Lerner said he is also concerned about recent reports of high numbers of drug and alcohol incidents in the district, and he is hoping to work on fixing that.
Finally, Lerner said, he would like to see more of a connection between the community and the district.
“This includes all stakeholders,” he said. “We have a lot of resources in town that could be utilized to benefit our students, but are not.”
Lerner said he does believe that, administratively, the district is in great shape.
“A board of education member’s primary job is hiring the right leadership, setting goals and holding leadership accountable for working toward district goals,” he said. “B-R is fortunate to have an outstanding superintendent, so I do not have visions of promoting major educational changes.”
Lerner said he is proud of the work he has done before on the board of education, and hopes to accomplish even more.
“I am very proud of the accomplishments of the district from my time on the board, and have no doubt that my contributions as a board member were meaningful,” he said. “I’d love the opportunity to again utilize my professional, business and life experiences to better the district.”