Mike Gesario is an elementary school teacher in North Caldwell. He’s a graduate of James Madison University and Montclair State University. He is 41 years old. His wife, Tamara, is a teacher in Verona. They have two children: Mattingly, a third-grader at Noecker, and Brady, a kindergartener at Noecker.
Q: Why are you running for the Board of Education?
Roseland’s Noecker School is a terrific place. The school’s reputation was one of the reasons my wife and I moved our family to Roseland before our daughter began kindergarten.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t strive to make the school better. If you listen closely to the people who know our school the best, you’ll discover that there are certainly improvements we can make to benefit our children, our teachers, and our community.
I would direct readers to Tap Into West Essex’s article “Community Members Voice Concerns at Roseland Board of Education Meeting” from April 28, 2018 (link: www.tapinto.net/towns/west-essex/sections/education/articles/community-members-voice-concerns-at-roseland-boar) to get an overview of some of the concerns raised by parents at a Board of Education meeting last year. It’s sufficient to say here that I believe our Board of Education should be more open and transparent, that we need to continue to support and strengthen our Special Services Department, and we need to improve the overall culture of a school that has seen far too much turnover in the last nine years.
I am a father and a teacher. I’m running for a seat on the Board of Education because I want to know that I am doing what I can to make sure my kids - and your kids - go to the best school possible. That means having dedicated teachers, new technology, and expanded opportunities in a safe and caring environment.
Q: Why do you feel you deserve the job? What qualifies you for it?
It is true that I don’t have any prior experience on the Board of Education. I’ve heard that a lot since announcing my intentions to run for the seat. I also didn’t have any experience as a teacher prior to 2010 or as a father before 2011, and I’d like to think I’ve done a pretty good job so far in both of those areas. The New Jersey School Boards Association also has mandatory training meant to assist new board members. I’ve never shied away from hard work and am looking forward to this new challenge.
Meanwhile, what I do have is years of experience in an elementary school. I teach in a district very similar to Roseland and understand an elementary school from a variety of perspectives - as a teacher, education association member, parent, and citizen. I have a network of educational professionals - teachers, administrators, and board members - ready to assist me. I have the ability and desire to work as a member of a team in order to benefit a learning community (I do that every day in a school similar to Noecker). Thanks to my career in journalism, I also have the skills that will allow me to effectively communicate the board’s goals to the superintendent and to the community.
I promise that the students at Noecker will always be my top priority. I promise to be open and fair in my dealings with the community, and I promise to represent the school and community with integrity and honesty. I will listen to opposing views, treat others respectfully, and work as hard as necessary in order to ensure the school is well run and providing our children with the best possible opportunities.
Q: Tell us about your other career and/or other ways you are involved in the community.
For the past nine years, I’ve been a 5th grade teacher in North Caldwell. I also participate in an after-school tutoring program and a before-school enrichment program at the school. I’m also one of the leaders of the North Caldwell Education Association. Last year, I was a class parent for my daughter’s class at Noecker. The class took a field trip to a reptile farm last year and I wound up holding a Burmese python - proof that I’ll do just about anything for my kids. I’m also volunteering with my son’s Lion Cub Scouts this year.
I previously worked in journalism and I still work part-time in that field. Though I like what I do at my part-time job, I often say I look forward to the day when I only have to work one job. So trust me when I tell you that while I certainly want to give our kids the best opportunities possible, I also know that the people of Roseland work hard to support their families.
Q: What do you believe is the most important issue in this local election? How would you change it?
I believe there are several important issues facing Noecker, including potential increases in enrollment, the need for greater transparency from the board, and the need to continue to support and strengthen our Special Services Department.
My top priority is bringing stability, professionalism, and honesty to our Board of Education, and as a result, to our school as well. I believe that changing the tone of our Board of Education can improve the overall climate of the school. With a level-headed approach, a willingness to work with others, and a background in education, I believe I can help make Noecker an even better school for our kids, our teachers, and our community.