Madison Board of Education Candidates Debate at League Forum

Kevin Blair, Brenda Catalanello, Lisa Ellis  and Linda Gilbert Credits: Jason Cohen

MADISON, NJ- With four people running for three board of education seats in Madison, the election in a few weeks is going to be close. Thursday evening, Oct. 18, the League of Women Voters held a debate between the candidates at Madison High School.

Board member Linda Gilbert is running unopposed, while Brenda Catalanello and incumbents Lisa Ellis and Kevin Blair are vying for two, three-year seats on the Madison Board of Education.

Ellis is the board's president and Blair chairs the Buildings and Grounds Committee, Life Safety and Security Committee and sits on the Finance Committee.

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The candidates agreed the biggest concern in the district is funding and the budget, but overall they are pleased with the school system. Ellis feels her experience on the board will help Madison as they head into the future.

Madison is an amazing community and the faculty provides the kids with a great education, she said. However, Ellis said the facilities in the district should be upgraded.

“We are constrained only by our finances and I hope that in time, that will change,” she said. “We always have work to do, but I believe we’re up for the challenge.”

Blair said his 29 years of working in the district help him when he makes decisions for the school district. He said he knows the facilities well, but more importantly people in Madison know and trust him.

“The best thing we have going for us in this district is our children,” he said. “The kids are a product of the teachers and the parents.”

He added he is pleased with the special education program in the schools, especially after the district was able to bring some students back into Madison.

Catalanello said while she may not have the experience her opponents have, she is up for the challenge. She has volunteered with many other organizations in town and pledges to work hard and dedicate herself to the students in Madison. The challenges for the district are special services and improving the facilities, she said.

Madison is a fantastic town and it’s really a great place for children to grow up, Gilbert said. The teachers and administration provide the kids with an excellent education, she said.

“They make our kids want to come to school and enjoy learning,” she said. “I believe that the strength and stability of local public schools is the single most important factor behind a community’s ability to truly grow.”

Madison resident Tom Piskula said the debate was very impressive and each candidate made valid points. Although he does not have kids in the public school system, he said it’s important to attend board of education meetings.

“I attend because the vitality of the schools is a big contributor to the vitality of the town,” Piskula said.

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