Since I chose to retire from the BOE, I have thought a lot about the years that I served. Starting in 1978 and ending in 2017, I’ve been involved with the schools for 38 years, 22 as a board member during numerous stints.
Over the years there have been a long list of superintendents, and an even longer list of business administrators. When I started the superintendent was Leonard Tobias, the assistant superintendent was Stanley Godeleski, and the BA was Howard Roder. As I ended my tenure on the board for the last time the superintendent is Noreen Lishak , the assistant superintendent is Mary Malyska, and the BA is Jim Damato. I must say, I am extremely pleased with the administration as it is constituted today. Admittedly, we as a district have had our ups and downs, with central administrators, but I think we got it right this time.
Over the years we have had a full replacement of our building administrators. When I first got on the board in 1978 we had what was fondly named the Pennsylvania mafia. Most of our administrators, both central and schools all hailed from our neighboring state. We now have a whole new generation of principals, supervisors and directors, ready to take our district into the future.
So many changes have occurred over these years. When I look back, the district and our schools have changed greatly, and, then again, not so much. When I first ran for the board, the teachers were in the parking lots with black armbands, fighting to get a living wage. The losing board members took us to court, not believing that they could have lost, and how dare the union support us. Obviously, the ALJ disagreed with them. I believe we now provide our staff with a living wage and work with them to make sure we respect one another.
We took on many projects over the years, some big and some small. I was a part of boards that enclosed the open spaces in the high school, making it a viable learning environment. We built a new elementary school, changed the configuration of the district several times. Closed Grant Elementary School over my very loud objections in 1981 and transitioned it into an administration building and then opened it again as a central grade five building years later. We put a new roof on the high school without having to bond by saving our money till we had enough to do the job. We replaced the majority of AC units at the same time. We expanded Grant School at the same time we built Roosevelt and upgraded the electrical systems in many of the buildings. When we went to full day kindergarten we made our elementary school’s compliant over one summer of intense work to get them ready for the little ones. There were many others, but you don’t need a laundry list.
We also had years when not a single cent was placed in Capital Outlay because of budgetary restraints and raids on our funds by the state of New Jersey. Obviously, that was not a good idea, which I made clear I wasn’t happy about. Did you ever feel like a lone voice, crying in the wilderness? There was even a year when no money was allocated for snow removal, you can imagine what happened that year can’t you?
The district is now placing another referendum before the people of South Plainfield. I was happy to be a part of making it happen and look forward to doing whatever I can to help make this project a success. There comes a time when major projects must be done that can’t be accommodated within the operating budget, this is one of them.
Last year I made the final determination to not run again, and, in effect, retire from the BOE. As much as I enjoyed the work and the relationships that were built, it was, in my opinion, time to pass the baton. I have entered a new phase in my life and I think the BOE is in a stronger position then it has been in for several years. I am sad to leave, but excited by my future endeavors. I want to thank the voters for giving me the chance to serve South Plainfield, and the various boards that granted me the opportunity to serve as VP for six terms and as president for two.
I am proud of all the accomplishments over the years and look forward to new horizons and involvement in what is to come for me. Thank you all.