FAIR LAWN, NJ - In a contested race for Fair Lawn Board of Education, incumbents Eugene Banta, Jeffrey Klein, and Mark Spindel will vie to retain their three-year seats on the Board of Education Tuesday, November 6.
Also in the running is Wilkin Santana, a Spanish teacher and father of one in the school district who is seeking election for the first time on the Board of Education.
The candidates are listed with biographies and statements below in alphabetical order. They meet tonight, Oct. 11, in a League of Women Voters and PTA Council Candidates' Forum at 8 p.m., Council Chambers at the Municipal Building, 8-01 Fair Lawn Avenue.
Incumbent Eugene Banta, currently the president of the Fair Lawn Board of Education, is running to retain his three-year seat on the board.
A resident of more than 35 years and a board member for 26, the father of three adult children who went through the school system, graduated from St. John’s University with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in business. Banta also holds a juris doctorate degree from New York Law School and has worked as an attorney by trade, practicing in both New Jersey and New York for 27 years, concentrating in commercial litigation.
During his two decades-plus tenure on the board, Banta has served-on and chaired most Board of Education committees.
Banta Election Statement: "I am running to help the district with the building project and the moving of the fifth grade to the middle schools. I want to help acclimate the new superintendent to the district. I want to continue to work with the administration and my fellow board members to keep the district in the top 10% of New Jersey school districts, and to keep the tax base stable, with increasing home values. I want to continue to serve the district and work with the Borough Council to help Fair Lawn remain one of the most desirable places to live in New Jersey."
Incumbent Jeffrey Klein is seeking a third term on the Fair Lawn Board of Education. The father of one, who graduated Fair Lawn High School in 1988 and holds a bachelor's degree in Special Education and a master's degree in Education, has been teaching for 23 years as both a high school English and Special Education teacher. He has served as coach of the Boys Varsity Soccer Team in addition to an SAT/ACT tutor for students. Klein cites helping to bring in full-day kindergarten, mental health programs and technology upgrades as some accomplishments that he feels serves as motivation to continue moving the Fair Lawn school district into its “progressive” direction.
It has recently come to light that Klein was accused of interfering in teacher's classroom functioning in a complaint to the NJ Department of Education Ethics Board, something he denies. There has been no determination either way regarding the accusations and hearings on the matter will extend past the fall election.
Klein Election Statement: "Since enlisting in the US Navy in 1991, I have always believed in public service. That belief has been emboldened by both past successes and current challenges. I became a special education teacher because I like taking care of kids, and I know that every child has the potential for happiness and success. I ran for election because I want to ensure that all students in Fair Lawn have the greatest opportunities to reach their highest levels of academic and social-emotional achievement."
Wilkin Santana, a father of one child in the Fair Lawn School District, is running for his first time as trustee on the Board of Education.
Santana, a Spanish teacher during the past 15 years, founded and serves as coordinator of Trees for Fair Lawn. A former member for the Fair Lawn Open Space Committee, he advocated for Parks and Recreation for all children and families. Currently, Santana volunteers at the borough’s local Food Pantry to help neighbors in need. Santana also participated in the school district’s formulation of their strategic five-year plan late last year.
Santana holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Political Science from Rutgers University. In addition, he holds a master’s in Public Administration from Rutgers, School of Public Affairs and Administration and post graduate studies in Curriculum and Instruction from William Paterson University. A lifelong learner, Santana is currently completing a second master's degree in Spanish Literature at Montclair State University. He is also an AP Spanish teacher and grades College Board exams.
He’s married to Idarmy Santana, a workers compensation coordinator.
Santana Election Statement: I love children. I am an educator, a parent and a person that wants to make sure we get the best education for our children at the best price. I decided to run for the Fair Lawn Board of Education because I have a child in the Fair Lawn Public Schools system and want all children to get the best possible education. If elected to the board, I will be an advocate for all children, work with the board for school safety, and ensure the district makes responsible fiscal decisions.
Incumbent Mark Spindel, a member of the Fair Lawn Board of Education for six years, is seeking his third term on the Fair Lawn Board of Education. The father of two has resided in the borough with his wife, Jane, for nearly four decades. He has a master’s degree in Urban Education and a second in Administration/Supervision from William Paterson University. A retired principal who began his long career in education teaching the sixth grade before moving up to assistant coordinator in basic skills and vice principal, Spindel said he has “extensive knowledge” in the “integral” areas of education including budgeting, curriculum, testing, and policy to name a few.
Spindel Election Statement: “I have the ability to work with my colleagues even when their opinions may differ in order to reach consensus while strengthening the district policy. The children are always foremost on my mind when making decisions. I am not one to rubber stamp approvals because I am not beholden to any individual, group, or political affiliation. My goal is to see to fruition the initiatives set forth during my tenure. I look forward to seeing the construction of both middle school additions, elimination of soft borders, technology initiatives, upgrading school security, increasing board transparency, selecting a new assistant superintendent and stabilizing the budget. I would also like to initiate new ideas into the curriculum such as mindfulness/meditation in all schools, implement STEM/STEAM starting in kindergarten, increase the REACH program budget, bring back vocational education, and implement a one-on-one initiative in technology along with 21st century learning skills. I hope you will help re-elect me to the board so that I can continue my work in making Fair Lawn Schools a superb district while keeping within a fiscally conservative budget."