ROXBURY, NJ - The Roxbury public had a chance to meet the school board candidates this week at Lincoln/Roosevelt School (LRS). This event, sponsored by the LRS PTO allowed the four candidates running for three, 3-year terms to debate questions from the general public and by the moderator, Michelle Bobrow, from the League of Women Voters.
This year saw no incumbents seeking re-election for the Roxbury Board of Education. The three board members whose terms expire in December are Patricia Miller, James Monaghan, Jr. and David Ramage.
Newcomers running this year are Joseph A. Bocchino IV of Succasunna, Heather Champagne of Landing, Anne Colucci of Succasunna and Eric J. Pilkington of Ledgewood.
Kelly Curtiss, parent, taxpayer, and K-5 Applied Sciences Supervisor in Roxbury, opened the evening welcoming the moderator, panel and public since the LRS PTO representative couldn’t make it. Curtiss shared that the League of Women Voters is a “non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.”
Curtiss then turned the microphone over to Bobrow to go over the debate format for the public. Each candidate was given a two-minute opening statement followed by three prepared questions from the moderator. Those questions were
- What are your priorities for the district in the coming year? Why and how did you select these issues?
- What do you see as the opportunities and challenges in the district?
- What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?
Each candidate had one minute to answer each question. The panel’s responses for the first two were similar with echoed sentiments of post-graduation possibilities, grant opportunities and safety and security. Overall, the night’s responses seemed heavily weighted toward STEAM, technology, and safety.
For the first question, Champagne shared that she would like to explore post-graduation options for the students. “We should make sure our students are adequately prepared for life after graduation," she said. "We have this outdated sentimentality that our parents instilled in us that after high school, you go to college. College, unfortunately, is not right for everyone. I want to make sure children are supported and understand that there are other options. I was at the Board of Ed meeting last night and they have started to explore the implementation of Roxbury Pathways which will allow for existing curriculum to be used so that students can see what their future might hold in careers in STEAM, technology, communications, and law enforcement.”
Champagne also touched on the use of technology and how it should be used responsibly by the students and staff to make sure they are protected.
Colucci mirrored those thoughts on technology and safety, but emphasized that the district should seek more grant opportunities to assist with funding challenges and the overall budget.
Pilkington said he is willing to look to the community and businesses to help with funding opportunities to advance his platform of “progress, transparency, and accountability that factors in how we can work together as a community to usher in new ways of learning and teaching with a slant towards the real world while balancing cost, a huge concern.”
He said he hopes to leverage contacts he has made to access grants and opportunities to advance technology and learning for the students of Roxbury. He said his goal will be “to provide real world, shoulder to shoulder opportunities to work together to solve problems in new and innovative ways and to work alongside our teachers and administrations to make sure they are given the tools necessary to provide the best education possible while mitigating costs.”
Bocchino, a teacher in the Randolph School District, said implementing a "Genius Hour" into a student’s day allows them to become self-guided learners with an open mind as opposed to the lecture series of educating.
Bocchino also commended Roxbury on its security initiatives begun last year with the implementation of ALiCE and the security vestibules. “We’re off to a good start, but we need to be ready to go if, God forbid, they are asked to make decisions throughout the day," she said. "And we have to make sure, as a board of education we need to be sure we are supporting them with every single resource they need.”
As to how each candidate views the board’s roles and responsibilities, each shared that they needed to be accessible and accountable while working with the teachers, students and administrators to ensure the best possible education for the students while keeping an eye on the bottom line to be sure tax dollars are being spent responsibly. The candidates also understood that their role is to help set goals and policies for the district with the children being the primary focus while working cohesively together.
As a closing to the evening, Bobrow reminded everyone to be sure to go out and vote Nov. 7 and “take a friend to vote.”
Individual candidate statements and biographies below were provided to the public at the Meet the Candidates Night. Statements are listed in alphabetical order.
Joseph A. Bocchino IV
Joe and his wife Kristina are six-year Roxbury residents. They have two sons, age 2 and a newborn.
Professionally, Joe is an elementary public school teacher for the past ten years. He has taught grades 3 thru 5, and currently second. His passion for education began at a young age, sparking his love for teaching. He was honored as his school’s Teacher of the Year in 2014. Joe has been engaged in all aspects of education consisting of curriculum writing, evaluation, health and safety, and current teaching methods.
- Bachelor of Arts in History
- Fairleigh Dickinson University
- Master of Arts in Education
- Fairleigh Dickinson University
- NJ Excel – Educational Leadership
- NJ Teaching Certificates
- K-5 Elementary
- K-12 History
Community and Education Involvement
- MCCEA Member
- Summer camp coordinator in town at a local business
- Curriculum writing and development
“While my wife and I were house hunting, one of our top priorities was outstanding schools. Roxbury has so much to offer students of all learning backgrounds. I want to ensure that Roxbury continues moving in the right direction.”
“Student safety and providing the necessary resources to our teachers is of the utmost importance to me. Roxbury’s current board is doing an outstanding job to ensure the safety of our students, and I want to work with the board to ensure that the board will continue moving in this promising direction. What the board currently doesn’t have is a current educator serving on the board. I can provide insight on what teachers need to succeed since I have firsthand knowledge and experience in this field. I look forward to contributing my years of educational experience to the Roxbury Board of Education to meet the common goal of providing the best education for our students, and the top resources for our teachers.”
Heather moved to the Landing section of Roxbury with her husband Craig, an English teacher in New Jersey public schools, 13 years ago. They have an 11-year-old daughter who presently attends Lincoln/Roosevelt Elementary School.
Heather graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Drew University in Political Science and Spanish in 1998. Professionally, she is a paralegal at a medical malpractice law firm, and has worked in the legal profession for over 20 years. She handles all phases of litigation, translates for clients and attorneys (English/Spanish) and handles many sensitive and confidential matters for her senior partner. Many of the clients she serves are catastrophically disabled children with a wide variety of educational and medical needs.
Heather is proud of her involvement with the schools and with the community at large. She is a member of the Roxbury Women's Club, served as president of the Nixon Elementary School PTA, is a parent volunteer for her daughter's Girl Scout Troop, tutored English as a Second Language to adults, volunteered for Partners for Women and Justice and organized and ran the Great American Bake Sale in Landing for three years.
If elected, Heather would like to focus on issues involving communication, education and culture and climate sensitivity. With respect to communication, she wants to establish lines of communication with parents and teachers via a representative of the Board attending PTA/PTO meetings, as well as making the Board of Education website more streamlined so that individuals can better access information. With respect to education, Heather wants to ensure that all children's potential is maximized and supported. Additionally, students need to be supported and guided should they decide to go into the military, a trade or directly into the workforce rather than continuing with post-secondary education. With respect to culture and climate, Heather wants to ensure that HIB compliance is adhered to and to raise awareness with the staff and administration of religious holidays that some students may be observing, such that those students are not precluded from attending important school events or tryouts for activities.
"As a parent with a school-aged child, I have a vested interest in ensuring that all our children are able to learn, succeed and thrive in the classroom and in life. I want to work to ensure that families and teachers have access to information and tools which will enable them to advocate for our children's education."
Anne and her late husband Bob moved to Roxbury 22 years ago. They have two children Joseph and Dana, both graduated from the Roxbury school system in 2001 and 2009.
Anne is a very active member in the Roxbury community. She is a member of Saint Therese Church, founding member of Saint Therese Youth Group, trustee for V.F.W. Auxiliary Post 2833, friends of Roxbury Social Services, Rosary, past member of Roxbury (lax, field hockey and football) parents club.
Anne is retired administrative assistant from Essex County Vocational School in Newark, NJ. She currently is a certified home health aide.
- 1980-1983 School bus driver Irvington School District
- 1983-1985 Paraprofessional Irvington School District
- 1985-2011 Administrative Assistant to the principal Essex County Vocational School
“My intentions are to work cooperatively with other school board members in a positive way to benefit the students of Roxbury.”
- All students needs are met
- The budget is used wisely
- Roxbury school board maintain advance reputation
"I’m proud of our community and school district, and feel I can leverage my broad understanding of education, community, and my volunteer spirit to contribute to the future success of Roxbury schools.”
Eric J. Pilkington
Eric and his wife Nicole moved to Roxbury nearly 16 years ago. They have two daughters: Ava (13), an 8th grader at Eisenhower Middle School, and Lila (11), a 6th grader at Lincoln/Roosevelt. Both are honor roll students, competitive athletes, and active in various clubs and the performing arts.
Professionally, Eric is a Senior Principal/Partner at Boston Consulting Group, a top management consulting firm. There, he is responsible for creating and building technological and innovative solutions for Fortune 100 companies. Prior, he was Head of Go-to-Market, Digital, and Partner Strategy at IBM Watson. A proven thought leader in technology, Eric was named as a top influencer in Digital Health, AI/Cognitive Computing, and Virtual Reality by Forbes, Fortune, and Fast Company magazines, and is also a Contributing Editor at DigitalTrends.com.
Eric graduated Magna Cum Laude from Rutgers University with degrees in Political Science and Applied Economics. He currently chairs the Rutgers Design Thinking for Business Innovation program, and has taught/been a guest lecturer at Princeton University, Columbia University, MIT, and The New School University.
Eric is a retired United States Marine and also a former Division I/III athlete (baseball, football, and ice hockey).
Education and Community Involvement
- Head Coach – Girls Basketball (6 years), Girls Soccer (5 years)
- Athletic clinics and workshops – Baseball
- Roxbury Robotics Club – Mentor*
- Imagination Station rebuilding
- Stage assembly/crew – various school plays and programs
- Grassroots education advocate
- Girls in Tech, Board Member
- Women Who Code, Board Member
- IBM Diversity in Tech, Co-founder
“As a town, Roxbury has so much to offer and our schools are no exception. While I am proud of the progress our schools have made in recent years, I think we can always do more. I want to bring a fresh perspective to the board – to leverage my leadership, business acumen, creative problem-solving skills, and strong background in STEAM to improve education, balance spending, and improve communication and transparency on key educational issues and policies."