I recently came across a TAPinto West Essex Letter to the Editor touting to be a guide for Fairfield voters with respect to the upcoming West Essex Board of Education (BOE) seats on the ballot this year. The recommendation by the author was to vote for the incumbents based on the premise that there is no need for change since the incumbents had done good things for the district over the past 6-9 years they have served, and would continue to do the same for years to come.
As part of this guide for Fairfield voters, the author attempted to put down the two write in candidates, Tom DiNardo and Mike Russo, as only running the basis of “MERV filters”. In reading this, I felt the obligation to respond and advise all Fairfield voters to take the time to write in the names Thomas V. DiNardo II and Michael Russo on their ballots because both men are running not for MERV filters, but to put our children first, represent our community with transparency and bring a new perspective to the BOE.
For those who do not know, the upgrade to MERV 13 filters was one of the four excuses given by the West Essex Superintendent (a representative of the BOE decision-making) as the reasoning for postponing the opening of the schools for in-person learning. Other excuses provided were the need to install air conditioning units in the middle school, the need to get plexiglass shields, and the need to address staff needs. Many residents, including myself were extremely upset with these excuses for not opening the schools to in-person instruction as originally planned. I personally emailed the Superintendent (copying the BOE members) questioning the validity of the first three excuses and looking clarify the vague excuse to address staff needs. In the response to my email inquiry about staff needs, the Superintendent stated that “As employees become eligible for different types of extended leave options, it can create disruption in the instructional program”. For the full details of my email and the response by the Superintendent, please click the link here.
The fact of the matter is that the Superintendent and the BOE for the West Essex Regional School District were not being transparent on the real reasoning for the postponement of the schools opening. I was not as upset with the employees opting to take leave as I was with the lack of transparency by the administration on the issue. I was frustrated with the system and looking to vote all members of the BOE out of their seats if possible. I was investigating how to get on the ballot to run for the BOE myself in order to help make a change for my three children and the community, until I found out that Tom DiNardo and Mike Russo had already done so for the same reasoning.
As many of you already know, both Tom and Mike are active members of the Fairfield and West Essex community, each donating their time and effort to help the children of Fairfield and West Essex in various capacities; and are now looking to expand their role to bring transparency to the West Essex BOE and to put our children’s interests back to the forefront. I fully support them to represent the Fairfield community on the West Essex BOE, and based on the 200 + lawn signs I see around town, many of my neighbors are willing to take the time to write their names in on the ballot too. For more details on their background and their BOE election bid, go to their Facebook page: @ElectDinardoRussoWestEssexBOE For assistance writing in your vote for Tom and Mike on the mail in ballot, click this link.
I want to point out that I have no ill will towards the incumbents. All BOE members volunteer their time to help serve their community without any payment, compensation or perks. It is a true civic duty and to be applauded. However, I feel that just as with other elected officials, being in office for extended terms tends to bring complacency and a feeling that those in office know what the community needs better than the community itself. Both incumbents have served for multiple terms, and it seems to me that they have lost sight of the most important aspect of the school district. It is not the budget items or the status of Superintendent contract salary; it is the needs of the students. In person instruction is more important than MERV filters. As the current BOE administration does not understand this, the only option for Fairfield residents is to take the time to write in Thomas V. DiNardo II and Michael Russo on the ballot for West Essex BOE.
One final note. I noticed that the author of the TAPinto Letter to the Editor that I referenced shares the same last name as Ray Stampone, the third incumbent from Fairfield on the West Essex BOE. Although it is not uncommon for one incumbent or their family members to recommend re-election of other incumbents, I find it ironic that someone related to Ray Stampone would attempt to belittle the write-in candidates, since Ray won a seat on the West Essex BOE as a write-in candidate himself in the 2018 election.