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Metuchen board reorganizes with focus on school space needs

METUCHEN – Justin Manley, who was appointed as board president of the Metuchen Board of Education, vowed the newly seated board will take steps in the new year to prepare a plan of action to address the school space needs for 2020 and beyond.

“We’re going to take steps to collect our needs and wants and we’re going to prioritize and come up with a facilities plan. … We will figure out what it’s going to cost to get there and prioritize again,” he said.

Manley pointed out that the board is looking forward to feedback from the public.

“We will host forums in the coming year for you to provide feedback,” he said. “We will move at a pace so that we can hear from everyone who may want to participate. Once we are complete with those tasks, I hope we can confidently approach the taxpayers with a plan and ask permission to execute [the proposed plan] sometime in 2020.”

Manley addressed the board and the public at a reorganization meeting on Jan. 8. At the meeting, he was sworn in along with board newcomers Michele Cook and Chris Alan Derflinger.

In the November election, Manley was re-elected to serve his second term and Cook and Derflinger were elected to serve their first, three-year terms.

Board member Eric Suss was appointed to serve as board vice president.

Manley thanked his fellow board members for their trust and support in appointing him board president. He noted he volunteered for the position to advocate for the students, teachers and the physical schools of the district – Moss School, Campbell Elementary School, Edgar Middle School and Metuchen High School.

In his address, he noted he, along with board members Alicia Killean, Brian Glassberg and Derflinger, were graduates of Metuchen High School.

“I think it’s a testament of the education we received and the quality of our teachers that we are all here,” he said. “It is further evidenced Alicia, Brian and Chris have chosen education as their career choice.”

Manley said he applauds the borough’s leadership and efforts in making Metuchen one of the most desirable places to live.

“Just last week, Mayor [Jonathan] Busch called for many things in his State of the Town address,” he said. “Two areas of focus could affect the board, the expanding of recreation space in the borough as well as the due diligence of ways to reduce the tax burden.”

Manley said he accepts the mayor’s call for the borough and the board to work together.

Former board members Aileen McGuire and Merrill Lunt did not seek re-election. During their last board meeting on Dec. 11, then board President Dan Benderly recognized the board members.

“Since 2012, Aileen McGuire brought a background of experience and passion as an educator to the district,” he said.

Benderly said McGuire focused on the well-being and education advancement for students; provided students with the essential skills, both academic and non-academic, to be successful members of the 21st century of lifelong learners, provided professional development to staff; and maintained fiscal efficiency and accountability.

During her time on the board, McGuire served as vice president, chair of the Curriculum Committee, chair of the Athletics Committee, and was a key participant in the World Language Curriculum Task Force, Benderly said.

As for Lunt, Benderly said she may only have served one term on the board; however, he said she had made a significant impact in her time on the board.

“Her leadership in the policy committee [led to diverse changes from] the start of a co-op sorts program enabling our students to play new sports to improving the HIB [harassment, intimidation and bullying] processes in communication with our parents,” he said. “She’s been our representative on the New Jersey Education Services Commission raising focus of our children with special needs and how we can best serve them.”

Benderly said in his years serving as board president, Lunt has been invaluable as board vice president.

“She has been a sounding board, partner and conscience,” he said.

McGuire said the past six years on the board have gone quickly.

“It has proven to be very rewarding both personally and professionally,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed serving the Metuchen community advocating for all the students, for all the families, and for implementing those rigorous and engaging programming and scheduling.”

Lunt said it has been an honor to represent the school district and to advocate for all the students.

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