FAIR LAWN, NJ - Wilkin Santana, Mark Spindel and Eugene Banta received the most votes for Fair Lawn Board of Education in a contested race that saw incumbent Jeffrey Klein ousted from his seat he held for six years.
Vote totals were as follows: Wilkin Santana (4,124), Mark Spindel (3,865), Eugene Banta (3,531) and Jeffrey Klein (2,898). A total of 12,524 votes were counted and the unofficial totals do not include absentee ballots.
Newcomer Santana, a Spanish teacher and father of one in the school district, earned his first three-year seat on the board as the top vote-getter.
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.
Incumbent Spindel, a member of the Fair Lawn Board of Education for six years, will serve his third term on the Fair Lawn Board of Education if the results hold after the absentee votes are tallied. 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.
Incumbent Banta, is the current president of 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.
Klein, who failed in his bid for a third term if the numbers hold, was accused of interfering in teachers' classroom functioning in a year-old complaint to the NJ Department of Education Ethics Board, a charge he denies. There has been no determination either way regarding the accusations and hearings on the matter are scheduled to continue into December.