‘Meet the Candidates’ for South Plainfield Board of Education

Tom Cassio, Jennifer Curtis, Deborah Boyle, and Pio Pennisi along with Steve Bohn and Ernie 'Jim' Giannakis are seeking a seat on the South Plainfield Board of Education
The candidates for South Plainfield Board of Education presented platforms and answered resident questions.

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The annual South Plainfield Board of Education Meet the Candidates Night took place Thursday in the high school auditorium. At this time, the six candidates vying for three open seats on the board had the opportunity to present their platforms and answer questions posed by attendees.

This year, incumbents Debbie Boyle (Line 4) and Steve Bohn (Line 2) are seeking to hold onto their seats while Tom Cassio (Line 3), Jennifer Curtis (Line 6), Ernie ‘Jim’ Giannakis (Line 1), and Pio Pennisi (Line 5) are looking to garner a spot; both Giannakis and Pennisi have previously held seats on the board. Election of board members is at-large and terms are three years.

Throughout the evening, all six candidates fielded a handful of questions pertaining to the bond referendum, including but not limited to, position on the proposal and opinion on its current contents. Other topics of discussion focused on administrative stability – or lack thereof over recent years; meeting attendance; special services issues; building and other infrastructure concerns; district finances; goals if elected/re-elected; and thoughts on what it means to be a board member. Additionally, the candidates were asked to present their views on board term limits and questioned about conflicts of interest.

Sign Up for E-News

Thursday’s Meet the Candidates Night, in its entirety, can be viewed 

Election of board of education members takes place with the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Brief bios on each candidate are as follows:

Steven Bohn

Steven Bohn (Line 2) is a 23-year resident and retired sheriff’s officer with the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department. He was first elected to the board in 1995 and served three consecutive terms. He garnered a seat again in 2008 and lost his bid for re-election a second term. In 2013, he garnered a seat once again and is currently seeking a second consecutive term.

“South Plainfield is a great community to live in and raise a family in. Our school system offers a variety of programs for students and we need to continue to address issues as a whole,” said Bohn, adding that being on the board is a team effort with the board of education, staff, community and students. “Being on the board of education is not an individual action but a team action,” he said. “We need to work as a team with open, positive communication.”

As a member of the board, Bohn said his goal is to work together as a team. “Being a board member, you are one of nine people. You don't have to like one another or agree, but you still have to work together,” he said, adding that if re-elected, he will work to continue setting police, bring common sense and listen to the needs of parents, students and teachers. “That is the reason we are here,” Bohn said.

Deborah ‘Debbie’ Boyle

Debbie Boyle (Line 4), a resident since 1997, is seeking re-election to her fourth term. She is also president of both the Middlesex County School Boards Association and South Plainfield Middle School PTSO as well as a member of the Middle School Safety Team and both the South Plainfield High School Hall of Fame Committee and the Leadership Team. Boyle also chairs the borough’s Public Celebrations and Shared Services committees, is co-chair of the Mayor’s Wellness Committee, a member of both the Cultural Arts Commission and the Environmental Commission/Green Team, the financial secretary for the South Plainfield Business Association; and a member of the Suburban Women’s Club.

As a member of the board, Boyle said she is passionate about attending school events to witness, firsthand, the district’s ‘multi-talented students in music, arts, sports and academics.’ She feels the school system, like a table with four legs, needs the board of education, administration, teaching staff and students to work together to succeed.

“It’s not just about ‘I’ – it’s about being a team member. We need to keep the table balanced, continuing to be very supportive of our teachers and staff and our central office and be there for when they reach out for our recommendations,” Boyle said, adding that residents should re-elect her to the board of education because she is a voice and an advocate. “I like to be a voice because I think it is important to speak up and speak out,” she said.  

Thomas Cassio

Thomas Cassio (Line 3) is a lifelong resident and co-owner of Twin City Pharmacy & Surgical. He is safety trustee for the South Plainfield Junior Baseball Club (SPJBC), a member of South Plainfield High School Baseball Booster Club, and a recreation baseball manager as well as an All Star Baseball coach, recreation basketball coach, and travel basketball coach. He has also managed rec T-ball and teener ball.

“I am running for the board of education because I feel that I am at a point in my life where I can contribute more to our community,” said Cassio, noting that as a business owner, his knowledge and understanding of ‘budgets and payroll management and maintaining infrastructure while factoring in deprecation’ would be ‘valuable’ to the district

According to Cassio, if elected, he will help ‘monitor how the district is run, not run the district’ and will ‘bring stability and open the lines communication.’ “I feel my business background and my service on the baseball board has enabled me to learn to listen and value others opinions and still achieve common goals,” he said. “I am non-partisan and have respect for diverse points of view and will approach each decision with an open mind, making strategic choices for the well-being of the district and, most importantly, for the education of our children.”

Jennifer Curtis

Jennifer Curtis (Line 6), a resident since 2001 and a paralegal for 25 years year, is involved with the Riley School PTO and last year served as an adult mentor for South Plainfield High School’s (SPHS) Tiger Tech Robotics Team.

“I am running for the board of education because I believe that change and new ideas as necessary for progress. Without change, we are doomed to repeat past mistakes,” said Curtis in her opening remarks. “We must positively move forward with [Dr. Lishak] and I feel there is so much work to be done by the board of ed at this time.”

Curtis said she is seeking election to the board for ‘all the right reasons,’ including ensuring that all children of the South Plainfield School District receive ‘a great education.’ "If elected, I vow to fix the difficult issues facing the district and to make it better," Curtis said. 

Ernie ‘Jim’ Giannakis

Ernie ‘Jim’ Giannakis (Line 1), a resident for over 30 years, is a food service director for Piscataway Public Schools and a South Plainfield Ponytail Softball Coach. He was a member of the board of education for three consecutive terms (2005-2015) and, last November, lost his bid for re-election to a fourth, consecutive term.

If elected, Giannakis said he would ‘drive the process’ to attain Blue Ribbon status for all South Plainfield Schools, take a ‘harder look’ at the district’s special services department, preschool program, and facilities, and work to better control enrollment of students who do not belong in the district. “These are top line priorities and I would work hard to provide all the necessary resources to ensure success,” Giannakis said.

Residents, said Giannakis, should elect him to the board of education because he sees it as a ‘truly important commitment’ and is seeking to ‘bring and maintain much needed transparency and unity.’ “As board members, we help the guide the future of our students. They deserve the best education and experience we can provide…we need to go the extra mile for all of them and we can only do that if we understand and actually hear what people have to say…” said Giannakis.

Pio Pennisi

Pio Pennisi (Line 5), a resident for 55 years and a retired superintendent who served much of his 35-year career in the Dunellen School District. Pennisi was a member of the board of education for three consecutive terms (1990-2010) and also filled unexpired vacated seats in both 2011 and 2012. He ran, unsuccessfully, for a seat on the board in 2014.

Pennisi feels his years of experience as a superintendent and board member would be an asset to the district. “As a former board member and superintendent I have unique experience in understanding the importance of a strong relationship between a board, central office administration, staff, and community,” Pennisi said in his opening remarks.

Pennisi said his goal, if elected, is to have a ‘cohesive, collaborative board that respects everyone’s opinion and understands their role as a policy maker.’ “We strong leadership like we currently have in the new superintendent and support from the board I know that this district will move forward and provide all of its students with more opportunities… “ he said. “The only way for this to happen is if everyone knows their roles and makes this a place where great educators want to come and stay. I know I have the experience and desire to do just that.”


TAPinto South Plainfield is South Plainfield’s only free daily paper. Sign up to get all the news as it happens at and follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter at @SoplainfieldTAP.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

South Plainfield

The Athlete of the Week Christopher Shine Baseball

The South Plainfield High School baseball team is continuing to have a successful 2018 season with a record of 15-9. This past week, the Tigers went 4-0 beating out of conference foes North Hunterdon, Montgomery, and Bernards.  They finished the week with a win in the first round of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament, over Carteret.   A major contributor to South ...

The Athlete of the Week: Jillian Holoboski Softball Pitcher

The South Plainfield Softball Team had an exciting week of action where the team saw Coach Panzarella break the all-time win total in NJ. The Lady Tigers got things rolling by defeating John F. Kennedy 3-2 on Monday.  South Plainfield then traveled to Perth Amboy for a night double header and crushed the Panthers 14-0.  On Wednesday they beat Colonia 5-1. The competition for the week ...

Holy Savior Academy Presents ‘The Sound of Music,’ Eighth Graders Inducted into Thespian Society 

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Holy Savior Academy's Drama Club performed 'Getting to Know: The Sound of Music' on May 3 and May 4. 

Holy Savior Academy's Drama Club just finished its fourth year and has performed six shows. The Drama Club is run under the direction of Susan Loughlin, Daneile Micale and Eva Tripodi. This year’s production, which featured a cast ...


Mario Guido Abbruzzese, 70, died on Wednesday, May 16, 2018 at St. Peter’s University ...
Read more

Letters to the Editor

Recreation Commission President Responds to Council Candidate Keefe

May 18, 2018

My name is Bill Cochrane and I am President of the South Plainfield Recreation Commission. A press release from Borough Council Candidate Kristine Keefe has recently come to our attention. In her press release Ms. Keefe states and I quote “Over the last eight years virtually nothing has been done to improve our parks and recreation program.” When this was brought to our attention at ...

Colin Berry and Cody Decker Earn Bachelor Degrees from Rowan University

May 18, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Colin Berry and Cody Decker, both of South Plainfield, received Bachelor degrees from Rowan University last week during commencement exercises.  Both young men are 2014 graduates of South Plainfield High School.  


Berry earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Marketing and was awarded to the Deans List for the fifth time.  He served as ...

Community Happenings


May 12, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - On Saturday, June 2, 2018 from 11AM to 5PM, the John E. Riley PTSO (JER PTSO) will be hosting its first ever Food Truck Festival!


Come out for a good time while supporting a good cause! Proceeds from this event will go to replacing the 2 broken playground structures at John E. Riley Elementary School costing approximately $80,000. 11+ food trucks including ...

Holy Savior Academy to Hold 7th Annual 5K Run & Family Walk in June

May 12, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Calling all runners and walkers! Holy Savior Academy will hold its 7th Annual 5K Run and 1 Mile Family Walk on Saturday, June 2. Proceeds from this year’s family-friendly event will benefit the school’s academic, athletic, and extracurricular programs.

“Holy Savior Academy’s annual 5K offers the school an opportunity to provide other ...

The South Plainfield "Autism Awareness" Event

May 8, 2018

The South Plainfield Mayor’s Wellness Committee and the South Plainfield Public Library in conjunction with community volunteers hosted the Borough’s first Autism Awareness event at the South Plainfield Public Library on Sunday April 29, 2018 from 2:00 to 4:00 PM. This “Afternoon of Awareness” was designed to help connect parents with important resources in order to help ...

Plainfield Animal Hospital

On Friday, April 20th, 2018, a South Plainfield resident responded to South Plainfield Police Department to report a fraudulent incident which occurred at Plainfield Animal Hospital, located at 2201 Park Ave, South Plainfield, NJ.  According to the victim, on April 4th, 2018, she and her husband brought their   family pet rabbit to the animal hospital to be euthanized due to the ...

Staying Fit at the Senior Center

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Staying fit and getting plenty of good exercise is a high priority at the South Plainfield Senior Center, located at 90 Maple Avenue in South Plainfield. Classes on health issues and a wide range of physical exercise are available almost daily.

The Walking Group meets every Friday, weather permitting, starting on May 18 and going through October. Participants meet at the ...

Upcoming Events


Sun, May 20, 1:00 PM

Open House, Edison

24 Orchard Street, Edison NJ- Open House

Real Estate


Sun, May 20, 1:00 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Somerset Patriots vs. Long Island Ducks Baseball ...


Mon, May 21, 6:00 PM

South Plainfield

South Plainfield Soccer Association Travel Team ...


Tue, May 22, 6:00 PM

South Plainfield

South Plainfield Soccer Association Travel Team ...


Tue, May 22, 6:30 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Somerset Patriots vs. Sugar Land Skeeters ...

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink Sports


Wed, May 23, 6:00 PM

South Plainfield

South Plainfield Soccer Association Travel Team ...


Diegnan & Ruiz Bill to Establish Grant Program to Develop Dual Language Immersion Programs Advances

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. and Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz to establish a grant program for school districts and charter schools to develop dual language immersion programs was released from the Senate Education Committee today.


“The best way for a student to excel in a foreign language is an immersion program,” said ...

South Plainfield Motor Vehicle Office Tentatively Scheduled to Open May 21st

Dear Mayor:

I would like to provide you with an update regarding the Motor Vehicle Commission’s (MVC) new, modernized South Plainfield Agency.  At this juncture, if we receive the Certificate of Occupancy on Friday, May 11, as expected, the anticipated “soft opening” to the public will be Monday, May 21, 2018. 

We will schedule a ceremonial ribbon cutting shortly ...

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press, 2018)

            What is the “final frontier” on the Earth's surface? Many people would say Alaska, the 49th state, which was added to the United States fifty years ago. Once one has traveled to that remote land, it is impossible to forget the magnificence of the terrain and beasts. Floating by ship in Glacier Bay, surrounded by ...


And here is (ACHOO!!) some more (ACHOO!!) news from (COUGH!!) South Plainfield Library:

            First, our previously-postponed Holi program, celebrating the Indian festival of colors, has been postponed again.  Due to predicted inclement weather, it has been rescheduled to Saturday, July 21st, from 11AM to 1PM.  Let’s ...

TAPinto Featured Franchisee: Steve Lenox of TAPinto Paterson

This week's feature will focus on TAPinto Paterson's franchisee, Steve Lenox. Find out how the current owner of a public affairs firm went from a former State Director for Senator Frank Lautenberg to a proud TAPinto franchisee for New Jersey's third largest city.


Q. When did you join

I joined in September, ...

Suburban Woman’s Club Welcomes You

The Suburban Woman’s Club of South Plainfield is welcoming new members. Enjoy creative fund raisers, interesting activities while participating on standing committees, informative monthly programs, and the camaraderie of women whose efforts enhance the community. The club meets at 1:00 PM on the first Thursday of each month, September through June, at the American ...

Suburban Woman’s Club Has A Successful Fundraising Year!

After what can easily be described as a successful fund-raising year, The Suburban Woman’s Club of South Plainfield met on May 3rd at the American Legion Hall in South Plainfield to decide how to allocate the funds that were raised.  President Diana Cotone called the meeting to order and thanked April Bengivenga and Joyce Dieterle for the delicious refreshments provided.

The ...

Press Releases

Rotary Club to Hold 91st Annual Track and Field Meet

May 15, 2018

North Plainfield, NJ -The oldest service club of the three Plainfield's will hold their most important annual community service project on June 6 at the Hub Stine Athletic Complex in Plainfield.

Long a mainstay in supporting the North Plainfield and Plainfield communities, the Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield will offer an afternoon of friendly but determined competition to young ...