Waters Elected President of Millburn School Board; Wenik Chosen Vice President; Siegel, Wadhwa, Wong Take Oaths of Office

Raymond Wong, Eric Siegel and Rupali Wadhwa take their oaths of office as members of the Millburn Board of Education at Monday's board reorganization meeting. Credits: Bob Faszczewski

MILLBURN, NJ—During a somewhat controversial reorganization meeting of the Millburn Board of Education on Monday, the majority of the school body elected Jeffrey Waters as their new president and Rona Wenik as the vice president.

The election of the board officers and seating of board members for new terms now is held in January rather than in May as in the past because the Millburn board, like many across the state, decided to move its school board election from May to November. The school election in those communities choosing to make the change now coincides with the date of the general election in those communities.

At this past November’s election, board incumbent Eric Siegel was chosen for another term and Rupali Wadhwa and Raymond Wong were voted in for their initial terms on the education body. Board Secretary and School Business Administrator Steven DiGeronimo swore in the three election victors and presided over the opening of Monday’s meeting.

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When the business administrator asked for nominations for president board member Jean Pasternak nominated Lise Chapman and board member Regina Truitt nominated Waters.

Prior to the vote, Pasternak asked each of the nominees how they would handle assignment of board members to committees if they were elected president.

Chapman replied she would consider the qualifications of each board member and consult with the board vice president as a “member of the executive team” in making her selections.

Waters said he too would consider the qualifications of each board member and the bylaws of the school body in making his selection. He added he would consult with the board vice president, although, he said, it was ultimately the decision of the president about who will serve on each committee.

Going back to the nomination process, Michael Birnberg, who served the previous two years as president, said no matter who was chosen president or vice president all board members were qualified to hold those offices.

He said both the nominees had served on many board committees and he was sure either would do their best for the board and community. As president, he said he had consulted extensively with Siegel when he was vice president and with Waters when he held that position.

Birnberg added although the board worked with Superintendent of Schools James Crisfield in planning the school body’s agenda it was ultimately up to the board to formally establish its agenda.

Wadhwa, however, said, since she was new to the education body, she would like to know the backgrounds of each candidate before making a choice.

Pasternak spoke at length about Chapman’s service on various committees, especially as chair of the finance committee, and said she research all matters carefully and was committed to allowing all points of view by both the public and the board to be heard, even if some of those points of view differed dramatically from her own.

Truitt said she nominated Waters on Monday because she was impressed with his work on a number of board committees and did not come to Monday’s meeting with prepared remarks.

She added while making lengthy comments about a nominee was neither a positive or negative, she felt “somewhat blindsided” by the speech given for Chapman’s nomination.

Following the election of Waters by a 5-3 vote, with Wong abstaining, Siegel nominated Wenik for vice president and Pasternak nominated Chapman.

The tally for vice president was the same as that for president, with Wenik winning the majority.

During the nomination discussions, Birnberg asked Wadhwa if, during her campaign, she had the permission to use the name of everyone she named in newspapers as being her supporters.

Wadhwa replied she did not think that was an appropriate topic for discussion at the reorganization meeting and the business administrator ruled that discussion out of order.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Jeff Diecidue said he was very disappointed with the elections of the president and vice president, adding, “I believe someone who believes in spin rather than the interests of the community is not in the best interests of our community.”

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