WEST ORANGE, NJ — Meet West Orange Board of Education candidate Christopher Diaz.

Diaz, a 14-year West Orange resident, lives in town with his wife, Nicole, and his daughter, Lillian, a seventh grader at Liberty Middle School. In addition to running for the one open seat on the West Orange Board of Education, Diaz is also an attorney and a special needs advocate. He is a graduate of Seton Hall University, where he received a B.A. in English and minored in Political Science.

Q: Why are you running for board of education? (Again, if incumbent?)

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A: I am running for the Board of Education because it is the fulfillment of my 20 year commitment as an advocate for parents, teachers and special needs students.  I believe that it’s time to return Accountability back to the Board of Education.  I also feel that it’s time to improve Children’s Programs and Student Success.  Finally, it’s time for Transparency.  These issues form my A.C.T. Platform.  I am a dad and an active member of our community.  I’m an independent voice for change.

Q: Why do you feel you deserve the job?  What qualifies you for it?

A: I believe that I am the most qualified candidate for the Board of Education.  As a practicing attorney and Special Needs Advocate I have been fighting for Board Reform over the last two years.  I have made a career of advocating for the voiceless in the arena of Special Education.  I have stood up on the tough issues before the Board and pressed them to STOP secret testing policies, to apply for Foundational Grants to lower taxes and to simply follow the law.  I have fought these fights when others have remained silent.  My advocacy, community involvement and experience in the law has hopefully earned me the votes of my fellow residents.

Q: How do you feel about property taxes in West Orange?  Please explain.

A: Clearly, our property taxes are too high.  We can all agree on that.  Yet, there is something we can do about it.  The Board of Education passed a resolution 2 years ago to apply for foundational and Corporate Grant monies to help offset the costs of programs in our district.  In that time, we have applied for not one single dime of those monies.  This initiative is even in our “Strategic Plan”.  However, the board has failed to act.  Our Town Council hires a Grant Writer to obtain funds, yet the Board does not.  This is a simple way to help lessen the burden on the taxpayer and if elected, I will make it a priority to no longer leave these monies on the table.

Q: Apart from running for the board, in what other ways are you involved in the town?

A: I have been an advocate and outspoken member of our community.  I can often be found at Board of Education meetings pressing our Board Members to live up to their duties and obligations.  I have also helped bring “Girls On the Run” to West Orange.  In addition, every year my family proudly sponsors the Bubbles for Autism Event in our district, which helps raise funds for Autism NJ.  I am an enthusiastic sports dad and supporter of Girls Basketball and a proud Girl Scout Dad. I was also Redwood Elementary’s first and longest running “Class Dad” and chairman of The first Redwood “Monster Mash” Fundraiser.

Q: Tell us about your other career.

A: I have been a practicing attorney for 20 years.  My focus is on advocating for special needs students and parents.  I have litigated in every county in our state and was a founding member of the Rutgers Race and The Law Journal.  I have lectured on the Art of Negotiation at Shippensburg University and have extensive experience and practice in consensus building and negotiation.  I will use these skills along with my understanding and application of the law to help guide our Board of Education toward the promise of delivering on an exceptional educational experience for our children.