MIDDLETOWN, NJ: Middletown Township community members got to witness the arrival of new members and leadership to the Middletown Township Board of Education (MTBOE), as well as announcements of changes to how the Board meetings will operate, during the Board’s Jan. 5th meeting held virtually on Zoom.

The meeting, which the MTBOE livestreamed on Facebook rather than YouTube due to technical issues with YouTube that evening, featured among other things the swearing in of new Board members Jacqueline Tobacco, Frank Capone and Harmony Heffernan (who are replacing former Board members Pamela Rogers, Nicholas DiFranco and Robin Stella as a result of successfully running against them in the election), the appointment of a new Board President and Vice-President, the re-activation of three previously inactive committees, and a decision to make the Board meetings once again twice a month rather than once a month.

The meeting began with the swearing in ceremony for the new MTBOE members; in which they pledged to uphold the U.S. and NJ State constitutions and laws, that they meet all the legal qualifications and criteria that allow them to serve as Board members, and that they will faithfully carry out their duties as Board members to the best of their ability.

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After the swearing in ceremony, District Superintendent Mary Ellen Walker issued remarks to welcome the new Board members.

“You’re joining the Board at probably the most difficult time in educational history right now, but we know that you have a lot to offer in terms of your expertise and your passion for the students in our school district,” Walker said. “We look forward to working with you and serving the students in our district together.”

Afterward, Board member Leonora Caminiti nominated Board member Joan Minnues for the position of Board President, and Minnues was then voted into that position by a 5-3 vote.

Afterward, Board member Tobacco nominated Board member Frank Capone for the position of Board Vice-President, and Capone was voted into that position by a 7-1 vote.

Next, Board member Heffernan made a motion to extend the normally allotted speaker time for public comment to 5 minutes per speaker from the current 3 minutes per speaker; but later agreed to table the motion for the next Board meeting after being advised to do so by Board attorney Lester Taylor, who said that the current bylaws call for two “readings”, which are essentially public  announcements during public meeting about an intent to vote on something, of proposed policy changes like this before they can be voted on and take effect.

In the meantime, the Board would be welcome to temporarily enact such a policy for each individual meeting when each of these meetings take place, Taylor said.

Afterward, Board member Caminiti made a motion to re-activate three previously inactive committees; with those being the Technology, Co-curricular, and Personnel committees; and Board Attorney Taylor advised that since these committees are technically already existing although dormant, the Board could simply assign members to these committees without the need to formally re-start or re-activate these committees.

Board member and now Vice-President Capone then made a motion search for a new Board Attorney as well as a new Health Insurance Broker.  Business Administrator Amy Doherty said that both positions have technically been appointed until June 30th, although potential candidates for such positions could still be interviewed before then, as long as any potential candidate knows that they would likely be unable to take the position for which they could potentially be hired until June 30th.

The motion to allow for this process to begin was passed by a 6-2 vote.

Afterward, Board member and now President Joan Minnues made a motion to make the Board meetings twice a month rather than once a month, which passed by a 7-1 vote.

Next, Albert Miller, President of the Monmouth County Board of Education Association, made remarks welcoming the new Board members, and inviting the MTBOE to send a board member there as a representative.

The 9 members of the MTBOE going forward are now Board President Joan Minnues, Board Vice President Frank Capone, Leonora Caminiti, Michael Donlon, Thomas Giamo, Harmony Heffernan, John Little, Jacqueline Tobacco, and Deborah Wright.