Five candidates will face off in South River Board of Education election

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SOUTH RIVER–Five candidates have signed up to run for three open seats on the South River Board of Education.

Incumbents Raymond Baszak, Kevin Nielsen and Cynthia Urbanik will face off against newcomers Elizabeth Lell and Miguel Ribau for the three, three-year terms.

The general election is scheduled for Nov. 5.

Baszak, 52, is the owner of B&W Construction Co. of New Jersey, Inc. for the past 29 years, which is a utility construction company that performs water, sewer and storm sewer repairs for various municipalities and for clients in the private sector.

A 25-year resident, Baszak has lived in the borough with his wife, daughter and son.

“As a board member for the past three years, I have learned how important the board is in shaping the future leaders in our town, state and nation,” Baszak said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of the school board and would like to continue as a board member and be part of the decision process to make the South River schools even better.”

Baszak is the school board liaison for the South River Public Library. In the past, he was an alternate member of the South River Zoning Board and the president of the Corpus Christi School Advisory Council.

“There are many challenges facing the school districts in the State of New Jersey, including the South River School District. I would like to continue the process with improving the quality of education for all students of South River,” Baszak said. “At the same time, we also need to ensure the safety of all students and staff in these changing and challenging times.”

Lell, 46, is a supervisor of mathematics in Edison and has spent 23 years in the education field handling teaching and administration duties.

A 17-year resident, Lell has been the secretary for the South River Little League, a co-advisor for the Corpus Christi Youth Group, a member of the South River Parent Teacher Association, treasurer for the Project Graduation 2019 Committee, an Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development member, a National Council of Teachers of Mathethics member and a New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association member.

Lell previously served on the board, completing an open position for two years, and then was elected to a three year-term. During this time she served on the Instruction, Human Resources and Finance committees, and was the PTA liaison.

“As a past board member, I am aware of the commitment and would like to offer my time, talent and energy once again. As a parent with a child in the district, and one who recently graduated, along with my education background, I can bring various perspectives to discussions,” Lell said. “I am an active member of our community through various organizations where my work ethic and integrity are known and valued. As a family, we live the motto of service to others and I welcome being able to assist in any way possible if elected to a term.”

Lell said the borough’s current administration and school board have worked consistently to improve the overall school system and board goals for specificity in addition to district goals to attain.

“Community outreach, improved test scores, upgraded technology, school safety and aligned curricula are all intertwined with student success from pre-K through high school,” Lell said. “Collectively working alongside administration and the board as a whole, we can all work for the benefit of each student.”

Nielsen, 56, is a lifelong resident who retired from the South River Police Department on July 1.

“I believe that school safety is a big concern to parents and staff. We are trying our best to make the students and staff have a safe teaching and learning environment. I also feel that we need to have more parental involvement in our district,” Nielsen said. “We will be doing more things outside of our schools to try and have the parents more involved in the education of their children.”

Having served on the board for the last six years, Nielsen is the chairman of the Human Relations Committee and also serves on the Negations Committee.

“I enjoy working with the other members on the board and I believe that the district has seen great improvement since we hired Sylvia Zircher as our superintendent and I want to continue to see improvement in our schools,” Nielsen said.

Ribau, 19, currently attends Rutgers University where he is majoring in political science, after which he hopes to attend law school.

“I am running for the South River Board of Education to give back to the town that has given so much to me, the town that I was born, raised and educated in,” Ribau said. “I am an active member of our South River community.”

On March 14, 2018, Ribau explained that he served as host to an in-school town hall event in which students were given a platform to speak on the topic of school security, and he said because of his and his fellow students’ efforts, the schools now have Class III officers protecting the students.

In 2018, Ribau ran for the board and said he was inspired to meet passionate people who truly care about their town.

“In the coming months, I will be speaking on the incredible importance of cultivating a school system for all of us. No matter our race, religion, nationality, socio-economic background, political affiliation, sexuality, sexual identity, or anything else, this is our community,” Ribau said. “Everyone needs and deserves quality education. These are our kids. This is our South River. I hope to earn your vote on Nov. 5 so that we can work together to create a safe, inclusive, and productive environment for all our students.”

Urbanik, 62, is a licensed professional engineer employed by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority as a traffic engineer. She also instructs the Turnpike’s work zone construction safety class at the Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure Technology.

A 38-year resident, Urbanik’s husband Eugene is a lifelong resident.

“I am the vice president of the Board of Education and also serve as the chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee. Also, I am a member of the Finance, Negotiations and Boro/Board Liaison committees. I belong to all the PTAs. I have been a member of the South River Planning Board for over two decades and currently serve as the vice chair.

Urbanik is a St. Mary’s of Ostrabrama Church parishioner, a member of the New Jersey State American Legion Auxiliary, a member of the South River Historical Society and numerous other local community service organizations.

“I was elected to the Board of Education 25 years ago in 1994 and [I] am still serving. The success of our future lies in our children’s education today,” Urbanik said. “There are many career paths available that students need to be prepped for at the K-12 level so they can be competitive in the job market. These careers range from needing a college degree, trade school or the military path.”

Through her job and volunteer activities, Urbanik said she become aware of educational and future career trends. She takes that information back to the superintendent and requests the district’s programs be continually evaluated and updated to meet these needs. She said she keeps the best interests and needs of the students, residents and staff in mind before taking any decisive action.

“During my tenure, we have made great strides in improving our school system and I want to continue giving my time and talent to help shape our students and their future,” Urbanik said. “I bring a great amount of energy and enthusiasm to the table along with experience, dedication and integrity.”

In these difficult economic times, Urbanik said state funding limitations are hampering all school districts in New Jersey, resulting in an unfair burden on taxpayers. The challenge to bring the latest educational tools the borough’s students, staff and administrators expect while watching the cost is a paramount issue.

“In order to ensure taxpayer confidence, our board strives to responsibly manage all funding while providing continuous improvements to academics, athletics and our facilities,” Urbanik said. “Also, the safety and security of our educational environment need to be ensured. If students and staff do not feel safe, the students cannot learn and the educators cannot properly teach.”

Urbanik continued to say, “We have a community that deserves the best education in the safest environment at an affordable cost to our taxpayers. The positive strides this board has made need to continue. I believe that in the past 25 years my role on the South River Board of Education has resulted in a positive impact to our schools.”

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.