HACKENSACK, N.J. — Three Hackensack residents with children and immediate family in the school district who are calling themselves “Champions for Students” have announced their run for the school board election next month.

Jennifer Maury, David Dungey, and Monica Pelaez will challenge team Smart Schools -- which consist of Michael Oates, Anthony Rodriguez and Chris Coleman -- for three, three-year seats on the board on Tuesday, April 21. Leila Amirhamzeh, Johanna Calle and Robin Coles are not seeking re-election.

Team Smart Schools, who are also calling themselves "Three Dads," as they are fathers of children in the district, say they are committed to improving school facilities, student test scores and safety together with the Hackensack Board of Education. (More on their run here.) 

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Meanwhile, Team Champions for Students say enriching the culture of the school district, enhancing academic rigor, and planning for the future needs of the community are at the top of their agenda.

The team says they’ll carry this promise out with in-person visitations to neighbors and engaging in student-focused dialogue with the community.

Maury, who is a graduate of the Hackensack school district, has two children currently enrolled. A member of the Parent Advisory Committee, Maury works as an educational support professional at Tenafly Public Schools. She said she knows firsthand the challenges the students and staff face on a daily basis.

“I graduated from Hackensack High School, and while the classrooms may look the same, the needs of our staff and students have completely changed,” she said in a news release.

Dungey, a father of two, is employed as a computer scientist at Honeywell and is chair of the Hackensack Access for All Board. Dungey says he is a proponent of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) and seeks to reinvigorate student interest in these subjects of study. 

“I’m an innovator by trade,” he said, "And I want our students to discover their passion for science, mathematics, or any other subject like I did a number of years ago at Hackensack High School. My children have greatly enjoyed their time in our schools, but much like other parents, I’ve heard stories, and know there are some things that can improve.”

Pelaez is employed as a surgical technician at Hackensack University Medical Center and volunteers her time as a member of the Jackson Avenue School PTA. Her niece and nephew attend Hackensack Schools. Pelaez, whose father worked as a custodian in the district for almost two decades, praised the teachers, and said she has heard about their impact on the lives of students and wishes to continue to foster community support of these educators to keep the positive effect on their well-being going.

While Champions for Students originally scheduled a meet and greet for tomorrow afternoon, it has been canceled given the current concerns about coronavirus. Schools Superintendent Robert Sanchez closed the district on Friday, March 13 in order to conduct a thorough sanitization of the schools. (School will resume on Monday, March 16.)

The trio will update their Facebook page, ChampionsForStudents, with information regarding a virtual meet and greet in the coming days.