(Editor’s Note: Five candidates are vying for three open seats on the South Plainfield Board of Education. Incumbents Keith Both and Pio Pennisi are both seeking re-election to their second consecutive three-year term, former members Ernie 'Jim' Giannakis and Chere Glover, along with newcomer Kristine Keefe are also looking to secure a seat. Both, Giannakis, and Pennisi are running together as the 'Proven Team' ticket. TAPinto will be publishing, profiles on each candidate; they will run in alphabetical order as follows: Both, Giannakis, Glover, Keefe, and Pennisi.) 

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Keith Both, a resident of South Plainfield for more than 20 years, is seeking -re-election to his second consecutive term on the South Plainfield Board of Education (SPBOE). He is running on the 'Proven Team' ticket with current SPBOE member Pio Pennisi and former member Ernie 'Jim' Giannakis. 

"When you begin looking at the recent history of our board of education, you see that the vast majority of us work together for a common goal, which is to continue improving and enhancing our district," said Both. "As a current member of the BOE, I want this to continue and I hope that my fellow citizens agree and vote for 'A Proven Team,' which is made up of Pio Pennisi, Ernie 'Jim' Giannakis and myself."

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A 1989 graduate of Piscataway High School and a 1993 graduate of Maine Maritime Academy (MMA), Both is currently employed in the transportation and logistics field, serving as a project manager for LPL Projects & Logistics, USA. He is also retired from the US Navy Reserves as a Commander, serving as a Strategic Sealift Officer. 

Both and his wife, Michele, a paraprofessional for the district, are parents to four boys who are currently enrolled or who went through South Plainfield Schools. On a local front, he volunteers with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, Special Olympics, the South Plainfield Junior Baseball Club (SPJBC), and the South Plainfield Wrestling Club. Additionally, the Boths continue to be hosts for the Rutgers Medical Students Pediatric Rotation/Special Education program and run the Buddy Walk of South Plainfield, which has been held annually in October for the past 16 years. 

Both joined the SPBOE in 2018 and, over the past three years, has chaired the Special Education Committee and served as a member of the district's Shared Services, Curriculum, Finance, Buildings and Grounds committees. He is also on the Motorola Ad-Hoc Committee and liaison to the Special Education Parents Advisory Council. 

"When I ran three years ago, my perception of what I would be doing is not what I am doing today. At that time, I thought that, as a member of the board, I would be doing the same thing as the borough council, but it's nothing like it," said Both. "As a BOE member, our job is not to micromanage but rather to set policies from afar and make sure the district is running and meeting the needs of the taxpayers, students and staff."

At the time he joined the board, the district was in the midst of working through a large project list funded by a $28 million referendum. Over the past three years, he said, everything on the 'to do' list has been completed on time at or under budget, freeing up funds to tackle and accomplish other projects at no additional cost to residents.

"The district looks great, the buildings look amazing on the outside, and, on the inside, they are also now being improved with new lockers, window treatments, painting, and more with funds budgeted through the referendum and without an additional impact the taxpayers," Both said.

He feels that the central administration currently in place, along with a board comprised of members that put their professional and personal experiences and expertise to use, has made a big difference in South Plainfield over recent years. 

"A few years ago, the district had revolving doors and it was disheartening. Now, we have a solid central office staff in place and that gives you confidence that we are truly going in the right direction," he said. "Additionally, the board itself is 'well-rounded' with its members putting their various backgrounds to use to ensure South Plainfield 'advances as a district.' 

"We are nationally ranked in the state and have been recognized as a top 100 school," he said. "There are so many accomplishments that can be visibly seen. We are truly going in the right direction."

Both said he hopes residents will re-elect him to the South Plainfield Board of Education so that he can continue to work for the betterment of the schools, students, teachers, staff and community. "We are working as a team, getting stuff done, and that is the biggest thing," he said. "There is proof that the board is doing its job and I have been a part of it and I want to continue to be a part of it because I want to see this district succeed – not just for my own children but for all the residents of South Plainfield."

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