SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The South Plainfield Board of Education’s (SPBOE) last meeting of 2019 ended on a ‘high note’ with performances by the high school orchestra, band and choir. Additionally, the board, most adorning ‘ugly sweaters’ took the time to extend well-wishes to outgoing member Ernie ‘Jim’ Giannakis. 

During the Dec. 18 meeting, the South Plainfield High School (SPHS) Chamber Choir, led by Dr. Donna Kregler, performed a selection of holiday classics and there was also a performance from 12 of the choir students who participated in The College of New Jersey Honors Choir. Additionally, the SPHS Jazz Band, led by music teacher and band director William Haughwout, along with SPHS Orchestra, under the direction of Diane Lee, also entertained attendees, administrators and board members with a selection of holiday tunes. 

“The performances from our jazz band, orchestra and chorus were just outstanding," Superintendent of Schools Dr. Noreen Lishak told TAPinto South Plainfield. “This is my favorite board meeting of the year, when we get to showcase our high school music students. We are very fortunate in our school district to have such talented students."

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In addition to being the last meeting of 2019, Wednesday night’s gathering was also Giannakis’ final one as a member of the BOE. A longtime board member who served four non-consecutive terms and was board president for four of his 12 years, Giannakis lost his re-election bid last month. 

At the meeting, SPBOE President Doug Chapman recognized his friend and board colleague and presented him with a plaque commemorating his service. 

“It is my honor to be the person who gets to stand up here and recognize Jim Giannakis…” said Chapman, describing the outgoing board member as a ‘man of knowledge, wisdom and integrity.’ “He doesn’t seek recognition for the things that he does for the board, for the schools, for the children, for the community…”

Chapman noted that, in addition to being a ‘very effective board member,’ Giannakis ‘left a very positive imprint on this district.’ “…Hopefully, there are going to be more imprints from you in the school district in the future, if not sitting on the board of education but in the other ways you have always helped out…” Chapman said. “You have made a difference in the board of education and the school system in South Plainfield and I hope you know you very appreciated for that.” 

Several members of the SPBOE also extended their thanks and well wishes to Giannakis. 

“I want to say thank you so much to Mr. Giannakis…Over the past two years that I have been on he board, he has been a mentor…[and] to reiterate what Mr. Chapman said, he has a big heart and he doesn’t do things for recognition.” 

SPBOE Vice President Tom Cassio, who has served on the board with Giannakis for the past three years, added, “…We didn’t always agree… but I truly appreciate your input and you will be truly missed.” 

“I just don’t think people realize how much you really do, [that] you are always out there for everyone else,” said fellow SPBOE member Pio Pennisi. “I sometimes make fun of you because you’re so generous with everybody all the time, but you always have the kids [and] district and your friends and everyone at heart and I just don’t think that people realize that…”

Giannakis thanked the board and commended them, along with the current administration, including the superintendent, assistant superintendent, business office, and head of building and grounds, for everything they have done and the ‘stability’ they have brought to the district over the past three years.

“Now, we are on track to be a [place] where people want to come and where people want to work…I owe all that all to the central administration…it has come along way…” he said, adding that the current SPBOE is ‘the single best board’ he has worked with over the years.

“This board today, for the most part, is one of the most solid boards I have worked with. Everybody has intelligence, everybody has understanding, and, most importantly, everybody up here has common sense…and they do the right thing for this district,” said Giannakis. “Thank you for these years. It really has been an honor and a privilege sitting up here…Thank you for all the kind words and thank you to the public for allowing me to sit up here for as long as I have…”

The South Plainfield Board of Education will hold its annual reorganization meeting Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the high school media center. Throughout the year, meetings take place at 6:30 p.m. on the second and third Wednesday of the month, unless otherwise noted. For additional information, visit

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