WAYNE, NJ – Long-time Board of Education (BOE) member Catherine “Cathy” Kazan was elected for the first time as the BOE President at the annual reorganization meeting held on January 2.
Kazan was nominated by Sean Duffy and his nomination was seconded by the newest BOE member, Dawn Kumar. Eileen Albanese, who had served as Board President for two years in the past was nominated by Don Pavlak and former President Michael Bubba was the second.
This year’s BOE President and Vice President elections had a different format.
In the past, the elections were made by nominations which were made by whoever shouted out a nomination the fastest; then, in the order of nominations received, votes were taken on a yes or a no basis for each individual. The first individual to receive a majority won the election. This meant that if three people received nominations, but the first one nominated received a majority, no votes would then be cast for the other nominees.
Kazan felt this was not the best way to determine BOE leadership and lobbied over the course of the past year to make things more democratic.
She was successful and the new process played a role in her election as President.
With two members nominated for President, Albanese and Kazan, the Board Members wrote their choice between the two on ballots that were read off by William Moffit, the BOE business administrator:
- Michael Bubba voted for Albanese
- Suzanne Pudup voted for Kazan
- Eileen Albanese voted for Albanese
- Don Pavlak Jr voted for Albanese
- Matthew Giordano voted for Albanese
- Dawn Kumar voted for Kazan
- Stacey Scher voted for Kazan
- Kathy Kazan voted for Kazan
- Sean Duffy voted for Kazan
Kazan won 5-4 and took her seat at the center of the Dais.
The newly elected President has been a Wayne resident for twenty-eight years and first ran for the BOE in 2012. When asked why, she replied: “At the time, I thought the district was heading in the wrong direction. There was a lot of major changes going on, all at once. It was turning the district upside down. Parents were concerned; teachers were concerned; staff was concerned; I was concerned. I was a regular at the podium, and I was quite vocal about it.”
“When I didn’t see any response to the concerns of the community,” continued Kazan. “I thought the only way to correct the course was to run.”
Kazan was asked about some specific examples of why she was concerned. “Board members were choosing curriculums instead of the professional educators and the people we had hired for that purpose,” she replied. “The Superintendent at that time was also removing all the educational department heads at the high school levels and was replacing them with administrators and vice principals. Which, in my opinion, would have a negative impact on how our curriculum is delivered and how our teachers were mentored by those department heads. And, it seemed to me that on paper it was an increase in cost.”
Kazan ran in 2012 and lost, but the next year she won a seat on the BOE to fill a one-year unexpired term. In 2014, Kazan ran and won again this time for a full three-year term and was re-elected once more in 2017 for her current term which expires at the end of 2020. The new BOE President plans on running again for another three-year term this November.
“My professional career started as a paralegal,” said Kazan. She then moved into the insurance industry working for AIG in worker’s compensation. Following this, she began working for her husband Dr. Nabil Kazan, who had started a medical practice. “We collaborated on his business for twenty-five years,” she said. “Then he retired two years ago, which means I retired.”
“But all along the way, I did many volunteer stints in the community,” Kazan continued. She volunteered for the PTO for many years and served as Head Treasurer for the Wayne Council of PTOs, managing the Treasurers of fourteen schools, performing audits and tax returns for the $1.5Million non-profit. Kazan served on the PTO until her son Julian graduated from Wayne Valley High School in 2010 and has since graduated law school.
Kazan continues to volunteer as a board member of the League of Women Voters and is finishing up her second year as President of the Wayne Democratic Club.
She will not be running for a third term as the Democratic Club President. “I decided that after two years of trying to do it all, it was too much,” she said. “My time is better spent in my role on the Board of Education. I was elected by the residents of Wayne to do a good job and I intend to continue to do that.”
“My campaigns for the board were not done through the Democratic organization,” she said. “I keep them separate.”
Kazan was asked to name some challenges coming up for the Board of Education in 2020.
“We already have a vision for the future that’s in place. It’s important that we continue in that direction,” she said. “Our budget process is going to begin immediately. We need to discuss future plans and make sure the budget keeps us on track with our goals for the Early Childhood Center, for the upcoming Kindergarten implementation as well as several upgrades to infrastructure projects.”
At the end of her first meeting as President of the BOE, Kazan spoke briefly, saying: “Thank you for putting your faith in me in electing me as your President. “I look forward to finishing out the school year and accomplishing our goals together as a team. I look forward to working with everyone.” She then congratulated Pudup who won the election for BOE Vice President and officially welcomed Kumar to the Board.
During her interview with TAPinto Wayne, Kazan admitted to a Faux Pas during the meeting. “It was an over site on my part, not to thank Mr. Bubba for his year of service as outgoing President, ” she said. “I will correct that at my next public meeting, though I’ve already apologized to Mr. Bubba for the over site.”