(Editor’s Note: Elections for the South Plainfield Board of Education will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 8. This year, six candidates are vying for three open seats; incumbents Steve Bohn and Deborah Boyle are seeking re-election while incumbent Carol Byrne is not seeking another term. Former members Ernie 'Jim' Giannakis and Pio Pennisi along with newcomers Thomas Cassio and Jennifer Curtis are vying for a seat as well. TAPinto is publishing profiles on each candidate; they will run in alphabetical order.)
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Ernie ‘Jim’ Giannakis, a resident for 30 years, is seeking to regain a seat on the South Plainfield Board of Education. His name will appear on the ballot in ‘Row 1.’
Giannakis was a member of the board of education for three consecutive terms from 2005 to 2015 and served as its president from 2007 to 2011. Last November, he lost his bid for re-election to a fourth, consecutive term.
Professionally, Giannakis works as a food service director for Piscataway Public Schools and, on a local front, is a South Plainfield Ponytail Softball Coach, a member of St. Luke’s Church in North Plainfield, and a member of the Mountainside PBA. Giannakis is also a former vice president of the Mountainside Rotary Club and a former member of the Grant School PTO Executive Committee.
TAPinto South Plainfield recently interviewed all six South Plainfield Board of Education candidates; they were all asked the same questions:
TAPinto South Plainfield (TAPinto): Why are running for a seat on the South Plainfield Board of Education?
Jim Giannakis (JG): I am looking to stop the bullying, the harassment and the personal agendas. It is out of control. The egos have to be checked at the door. What’s going on right now isn’t working and it’s embarrassing to watch what goes on. I want to take a stronger role in correcting that. Boardsmanship is something we have really lost track of.
TAPinto: In your opinion, what is the role of a board of education member?
JG: To give our administration everything they need to run the district the right way. A board member’s job is also to listen and hear what the people of the town are saying and what they want and help get them the right answers to their questions, problems and concerns.
TAPinto: What do you feel are the top issues affecting South Plainfield schools?
JG: Board interference with the central administration’s ability to get their job done – not all of the board, just some of the board – is a big problem. We had a pretty bad mass exodus and we need to ensure that doesn't happen again and that the people in place stay in place. Also, I feel personal agendas are interfering with hiring practices and us being able to get the best candidates for the jobs. I am also concerned about the condition of our buildings and our infrastructure. They are in terrible shape and something needs to be done. I do not know if the referendum is the answer.
TAPinto: What is your position on the bond referendum that will be presented for a public vote in spring 2017?
JG: The referendum is something that really needs to be looked at in depth so that we can determine if it is the right thing for our district at this point. The district is in desperate need of repair but there might be some things in the referendum we don't need to do right now or that aren’t the best money spent. It’s something I would like to support but I just don't know if I can without really knowing all the issues or the reasoning behind them and before we have exhausted all efforts for grants.
TAPinto: If elected to the board, what is the first thing you would look into?
JG: Board compliance and making sure the board is doing what it is supposed to do. I also feel changes need to be made on the board. Right now, meetings are embarrassing and out of control. I would work to recreate the image of South Plainfield’s Board of Education. Also, the preschool program and special services have all types of issues that need to be addressed and I’d also like to look into weeding out all the non-residents attending schools in our district and see that students are returned to their home schools.
TAPinto: What do you like best about South Plainfield Schools?
JG: Our staff and teachers holding this district together through all the turmoil we have been through. That itself is a testament to how great this district is.
TAPinto: Why should residents elect you to the South Plainfield Board of Education?
JG: I’d like to think I would bring stability and common sense as well as historic knowledge. Through all the craziness that has been going on over the past few years, I have always been stable and worked to tone the craziness down. I feel it is out of control now. I want to take the focus off the coming and going of people and put it back on the kids where it belongs. In all the years I served on the board, I never had anything but the best interest of the children in mind. And I have no agenda. I still have a child in the district and I want to make sure she gets the best education possible.
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