LIVINGSTON, NJ — Come November, Livingston residents will be tasked with selecting one individual to occupy the open seat on the Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) for a three-year term beginning on Jan. 1, 2021.
Below is a brief introduction to the four Livingston residents—Jenissa Arnette, Bridgette Nevola, Vineeta Khanna and James Calderon—who have emerged as the candidates vying for the open seat in November.
About Jenissa Arnette:
Arnette, the mother of two Livingston High School alumni and a rising fourth grader, is an algebra teacher with Montclair Public Schools, a professor in the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Math Department and an active member of the Livingston community.
According to Arnette, her professional experiences as an educator combined with her unique personal experiences will “add imperative insight and discourse for [Livingston’s] community of learners.”
“The important discussions we are having as a community about diversity, inclusion and equity (as a result of the death of George Floyd) made me want to step up now,” she said. “As an educator, my practices are geared toward diversity, inclusion and equity for all students and learning styles.
“These are convictions that I hold near and dear to my heart. I believe that education must guarantee equity and opportunity for all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, economic statuses and learning abilities.”
Arnette added that her experiences with students of all ages and many different backgrounds will allow her to “offer Livingston a vital perspective” as a member of the LBOE.
“Progressively strengthening education is one of my many goals in helping Livingston Public Schools as we empower all to learn, create, contribute and grow,” she said.
About Bridgette Nevola:
Nevola, a 22-year resident of Livingston, is also a special education teacher, volunteer and parent who says that the three daughters she shares with her husband, Ken, have “benefitted from the stellar education provided by Livingston Public Schools.” Over the years, she and Ken have worked side by side in serving the community at events like Youth Appreciation Week and the Kiwanis Karnivals and in serving as active members of Livingston Kiwanis, Girl Scouts, the Hillside School PTA, Band Boosters, the Knights of Columbus, Livingston Advisory Committee for Disabilities (LACD), Livingston Justice, St. Philomena's Church CCD and more.
“Livingston can leverage the skills and talents of these and other organizations to build character and leadership skills, mentorships and service opportunities,” said Nevola, adding that she believes that a strong community is one that cares for each other and listens to their needs and voices.
Although she has never run for an elected position before, Nevola described herself as a "get-your-hands-dirty type of person when approaching needs” and said her plan is to “help our community find our voice and discover paths which will help our community members achieve their goals.”
“Livingston needs to hear from a candidate who is there to listen to the community and create consensus,” she said, noting that her career and personal life have centered on service, education and communication. “In this day and at this moment, we need to encourage people to use their voices.”
If elected, Nevola concluded that she will bring a collaborative approach to her role as a board of education member so that “Livingston will be stronger now and into the future.”
About Vineeta Khanna:
Khanna, a mother of two and an active member of the Livingston community for 21 years, said she is running for LBOE because she knows she has “the expertise to support an enriching and inclusive environment in our schools.”
“I believe that giving back to our community makes us all stronger together. I have had an expansive global career alongside frequent community engagement. That has broadened my perspective and built empathy to connect with the diverse population of students, parents, educators and administrators.”
As the founder of Orator Academy, where she coaches children in public speaking and helps build their confidence, Khanna said she has “thrived as both a leader and a team player.”
In addition to serving as a member of the Livingston Zoning Board, Open Space Trust Committee and Livingston Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, Khanna also conceptualized the inaugural multicultural event in at Harrison Elementary School—which has since spread to all Livingston schools—and has held formal positions on the PTA.
Khanna noted that her strengths include being “creative, productive and dedicated” and that she is “passionate about a holistic approach towards education.”
“My life journey has been that of a leader, and of an advocate for developing social skills, emotional resilience and relational intelligence in our youth,” she said. “I look forward to the opportunity of serving as your representative on the board of education and being the voice of our diverse community.”
About James Calderon:
In his bid for a position on the board, Calderon said he is looking to “make change over the next 3 years and be at the table to initiate systematic change for the benefit of [Livingston’s] future.”
Noting that change cannot be achieved “alone or with only five people,” he added that community members need to “embody a common purpose and contribute” as they see fit in order to “provide an optimal future” for Livingston students.
“As we begin to build a movement, we look to our community for support on how to achieve optimization for our vision,” he said. “This campaign looks to not only provide a relatively great education for most of our students. We need to nourish all our students’ ambitions and recognize that in a 21st Century education, we cannot use a wide brush, but instead we need to meticulously carve out opportunities for all our students.”
Calderon also said that the year 2020 has often been “associated with optimal vision” and that the community needs to improve its vision for the future, grow from its experiences and “create an environment in education that truly brings forth an optimal future.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to finally correct our vision and create a blueprint to bring education into the 21st Century,” he said. “We are facing an unprecedented time, and we need to respond with unprecedented solutions; we cannot just hope for a relapse to the past.”
As part of his election campaign, Calderon said he plans to create a platform that addresses Livingston’s future educational needs by reflecting on the changing community and implement a diversity of thought, experiences and perspectives in order to “fulfill the mission of providing an optimal future and provide a 21st Century education.”
Note: In place of a photo, Calderon has opted to share the following quote from Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax”: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”