I am writing to support Jann Skelton and Jill Marcus in the upcoming election for two seats on the West Essex Board of Education (WEBOE) as an individual, not as a member or on behalf of the North Caldwell Board of Education (NCBOE). I know both candidates personally, and have worked with Jann Skelton on the NCBOE for three years. In addition to my personal experience on the NCBOE, over the last several months I have attended many West Essex Board of Education (WEBOE) meetings and familiarized myself with the concerns of numerous parents. Like many in North Caldwell, we moved to town because of the strength of the schools. I want to continue that positive trajectory.

Jann challenged the NCBOE to think strategically, 10 years into the future, and this has been instrumental in our conversations around future development. A challenge for the WEBOE has been transparency and the engagement of parents as stakeholders.  Information is power, and while there are proper limitations on what a Board of Education can share with the public, there is a great deal that can be shared. Jann was responsible for engaging the community in a meaningful way. Many decisions were altered and improved because of community feedback. Jann is poised to add immediate value to the WEBOE.

I have observed Jill Marcus as a member of our community since she moved here. She is vested in our West Essex schools until 2030, when her youngest will graduate high school. While I do not think it is a prerequisite to have a child currently in district to be a contributing Board of Education member, I do believe it is a valuable perspective. Jill’s background in the private and nonprofit sectors, along with her collaborative nature, make her a good fit as a new member. I am impressed with her willingness to take a risk, jump in this race, research the issues, and how much she values education for our children. Jill will bring all this, and more, to her role on the Board of Education.

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There is great pride in our community for the West Essex schools, and there is so much to be proud of. Identifying opportunities for improvement and growth does not diminish that pride. There has been fear and some negativity around a contested election for these positions. We should not fear change. Healthy competition forces us to do better. We should not fear high standards. We should not fear people in our community passionate about working in our best interests. We should fear a failure to strategically plan for the future of our schools.

Even if you think this election does not affect you because you do not have children in West Essex schools, these decisions do affect your property values. Directly. When I moved to North Caldwell 10 years ago, West Essex was in the top 10% of New Jersey schools. The most recent lists show that it has dropped to the top 35%. Both school decline and progress can take years. Let’s get ahead of the curve. I firmly believe both Jann Skelton and Jill Marcus will help us get there. So get out and vote on November 5th and tell 3 friends too!


Mindy Opper

Brentwood Drive in North Caldwell