Elections for the South Plainfield Board of Education will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 5. This year, five candidates are vying for three open seats; incumbents Deborah “Debbie” Boyle, Tom Cassio and Jim Giannakis and are seeking re-election while Chere Glover and Bill Seesselberg are vying for a seat as well. TAPinto emailed all five candidates the same questions, the candidates answers will be published one per day this week unedited. This is the last of the five profiles, if you want to voice your opinion, send a letter to the editor to TAPinto South Plainfield. If you have a question regarding submitting a letter to the editor please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Family moved to South Plainfield in 1962—attended SP schools from second grade through HS—graduated 1972
Graduate of Temple University 1976
Member of the South Plainfield Elks #2298, Youth Activities Chair
Member of the SP Public Celebrations Committee
Previously served three terms on the Board of Ed, chaired and served on many committees, served as VP (1 year) and President (2 years)
Served on negotiating committees and worked with staff associations to achieve viable contracts in a timely manner with minimal work issues.
Two sons, also attended SP schools from K-12
I have always looked to improve the community that I love. I’ve seen South Plainfield grow over the past 57 years, and while I am proud of whatever contribution I have made, I do not participate for recognition—I step in to help improve the town wherever I can.
Why are you running for re-election to the South Plainfield Board of Education?
I’m running to return to the board of education because I found my previous time on the board very rewarding. Seeing the positive results our students accomplish as a result of the resources the board provides is a great measure of the hard work every student and staff member does every day. As a graduate of the South Plainfield school system, along with my two sons, I have a personal connection to the schools. I see where we have been and can appreciate what we have achieved. However, I share the visions of many of our community as to what additions and new directions we can develop in our town. Increased test scores, educational excellence recognition, and increased student opportunities both inside the classroom during the school-day and through extracurricular activities are achievable goals in the near future.
In your opinion, what is the role of a board of education member?
The role of the board of education is to set policy and see to it that the policies are followed and the educational goals are achieved. This is done by hiring a superintendent who can also see where we want to go and lead us there. The superintendent hires administrators and staff to put together the plan to achieve these goals and implement them in the classroom to inspire our students. While the staff reports to the superintendent, the superintendent is accountable to the board. The board does not assign tasks or manages the district but sees to it that the district is run well.
What do you feel are the top three (3) issues affecting South Plainfield schools?
Opportunity—offering the students a wide variety of opportunity in academics, athletics, arts and activities. Giving them options in all grades to be challenged and reach personal achievement and satisfaction in their school careers, and readying them for 21st century careers.
Funding—We can do many things given if funds are available, however the outlook for the state portion of our funding is bleak. Our state portion has been relatively flat, or even lower, than previous years. Expenses go up every year, and we need to continually balance the costs needed to continue our journey with our available budget. With our state funding being diminished, and a limit on how much we can raise through taxes, other funding sources need to be sought. Grants and other contributions have been awarded to our district through the efforts of our teachers and administrative staff—this should be continued and expanded to assist in funding our programs and facilities.
Staff morale-Our teaching staff is our most important resource—their knowledge and efforts in the classroom are the basis for educating our students. Their commitment and expertise should be adequately recognized within the limits of the funding available through the district budget. A tough task, however I was a part of the last few negotiations with the associations and I hope to be a part of those sessions again and work with their members.
If elected/re-elected to the Board, what is the first thing you would look into?
Before I left the board last year, I was putting together a plan to review and reassess the stipends offered for various extracurricular positions offered within the SPEA contract. Some of these positions have not been evaluated for many years, as to their need and/or stipend amount. There may also be some activities that need to have advisor positions created to increase the learning opportunities offered to our students. This would need to be a part of the upcoming contract negotiations.
What are some of your accomplishments as a member of the Board (incumbents)?
While I was on the board, we hired a permanent superintendent, ending the period where we had to rely on interim superintendents. A permanent superintendent can set long-term goals and see them through. These goals can be in curriculum, staff, and facilities. Having leadership at the top that has a dedication to our district is important.
We also had the 2017 referendum passed, and the projects were begun right away. Unlike other districts, the board implemented diligent oversight and kept the projects on track and within budget.
What do you like best about South Plainfield Schools?
The dynamics between the students and the teaching staff. I’ve seen a lot of respect from both sides to the other. In the classroom, on the playing field, at musical performances and other community events, our students are prepared to represent our schools with pride through the talents, dedication and support of our teachers, coaches and advisors.
Why should residents elect/re-elect you to the South Plainfield Board of Education? What makes you the candidate of choice?
There is currently a lot more tension among certain members of the board, more so than when I was a member. I’m not saying it will be solved should I return, but I have a history of working with other board members, if they are willing to work with me. I also realize this should be a board comprised of nine members, all with ideas, talents, expertise and opinions that need to be respected and taken under advisement. Board members may not always get their way, but by working together and supporting strong, novel, and viable ideas our district can move forward with greater achievement. The key to this is reliable communication with trust within the board, rather than just having discussions with officials outside of the board.
Is there anything else you would like voters to know?
In the past year since I have been off the board, I had the opportunity to work with students as a volunteer assistant to the high school spring musical. Seeing the talents of these students up close, as well as their dedication to academic requirements and sports commitments made me aware of the dedication to the activities and responsibilities required by our students throughout the school year. Although my exposure was limited to the performers, crew, and musicians associated with the show, I got the impression that these students were an accurate representation of the entire high school student population. And this dedication by the students was fostered in the earlier grades by the teachers and education they had the good fortune to experience in our excellent schools.
What line are you on the ballot?