SOUTH ORANGE/MAPLEWOOD, NJ (UPDATED) – School board member William Gaudelli had decided not to run for a second term in November partly due to new job responsibilities, but also because he feels it’s important to add new voices to the board.
“I feel like I’ve contributed a lot and it’s time for someone else to step up,” he said in a telephone interview on Monday.
Gaudelli announced his plans in a letter last week. He noted that he is taking the position of department chair at Teachers College, Columbia University. He chose to announce well before the July 28 filing deadline “so that people interested in serving have time to consider the possibility.”
He was elected to the board in April 2011. His term expires January when board members elected in November take office.
“It’s been a great education for me, and I would recommend it highly to people to serve on the Board of Education,” he said.
Gaudelli said one important lesson he learned was that while election campaigns are often divisive, it’s important for board members to put that aside and work toward consensus. “It’s really easy to sow dissention in the district,” he said. Once a decision is made, however, he said the board members should back the decision. “Preferably, the board will speak with one voice.”
The current board has achieved this unity, he said. “It’s a significant change,” he said, “much for the better.”
Another achievement he pointed to was the deleveling at the middle school, coupled with the international baccalaureate curriculum.
“I do think that’s a step in the right direction,” he said, “raising standards for all kids and supporting them across the board.”
He also said he felt the district had met its initial goals in closing the achievement gap.
“There remains a lot of work to be done here,” he said. “I don’t think anyone here is not aware of that.”
The departure of Schools Superintendent Brian Osborne, who is leaving to take another position, may temporarily slow momentum for change on the board, Gaudelli said. The district plans to appoint an interim superintendent in September and hopes have a new superintendent in place in January.
“We don’t want to rush the search,” he said. “We want a good, solid search.”
He added, “You’ve got to have a good relationship between the board, the super and district.”
In his letter, he indicated his willingness to talk with anyone who is interested in running for the Board of Education. He stressed that while many people might think they’re not qualified, they don’t have to be experts in education to serve on the board
“We don’t understand, really, what the board is supposed to do until we serve on the board,” he said. “(It’s about being) really be open to listening and learning.”
UPDATED: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Guadelli's term expired in November.