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Three incumbents, former board member race for seats on Jamesburg school board

JAMESBURG–Four candidates will face off for the three open seats on the Jamesburg Board of Education.

Incumbents Kerryann Holster, Edward Herban and Michelle Scott are seeking to retain their seats against former board member Anne Luck-Deak, with each of the seats available for a three-year term.

Election Day is Nov. 5.

Herban, 49, is an attorney at a solo law practice and has been a resident for 19 years.

While currently finishing his first three-year term on the board, Herban said he has served as chairman of the Personnel Committee and is currently serving as chairman of the Policy Committee. Prior to his tenure on the Board of Education, he served as chairman of the Sayreville Recycling Commission and as chairman of the Sayreville Cable Television Advisory Board.

Before deciding to run for the school board, Herban said, “I was content being in the periphery. My wife suggested that the town was having difficulty recruiting qualified [board] candidates and that I could help out there. I agreed with her but dismissed the idea because it was already Election Day and I wasn’t on the ballot. Well, she ended up doing more than suggesting, she began a write-in campaign on my behalf and I ended up winning a seat that year.”

Herban said over the past three years, he has learned how critical the role of board member is and feels that he can contribute to that need.

“I decided to run again because I feel that I have not completed some of the tasks that I set out to complete this term,” Herban said. “My runningmates [Holster] and [Scott] and I have some ideas that will improve the quality of education for students while making the cost of education financially attractive to current and potential taxpayers.”

Herban said there are several issues that he and his runningmates want to tackle in the next term. First and foremost, they want to improve the quality of the education product they deliver to their students.

“Next, while we have been able to add a lot of resources for our students – we’ve facilitated new curricula at many levels and subjects, we’ve added co-curricular classes like art and music and have been instrumental in the return of extracurricular activities such as band, choir, and sports like soccer, basketball, etc. – we need to continue efforts like these,” he said.

Herban said he and his runningmates have overseen several capital improvement projects that include remodeling many classrooms to facilitate the district’s new full-day pre-kindergarten program, replacing the boiler at John F. Kennedy Elementary School, and remodeling the bathrooms and have added air-conditioning in many areas of the buildings.

In the future, Herban said that he and his runningmates are proposing to implement programs that will empower students and their parents to make choices for their own education.

Being part of a district where its high school students attend Monroe Township High School during their high school years, Herban said they have already charted a plan to encourage more of their students to take advantage of other higher education options such as attending the Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Technologies, Middlesex County Academy for Allied Health or a trade school.

“The challenge we face is that the grants and additional aid can disappear if the state runs into deeper financial troubles. We need to plan for that contingency and work harder on our cost-saving initiatives,” Herban said. “That’s why it’s important to elect our team that is both experienced and focused on efficiency. You’ll see on the ballot, our designation name is ‘experience and efficiency.'”

Holster is a Realtor with Red Door Real Estate in Monroe and has been a resident for more than 17 years.

“Having been on the board for [more than] four years I have experienced seeing many positive changes and implementations taking place within our schools benefitting the children of our community in many areas,” Holster said. “We as a board have been able to bring back many programs that were cut years ago due to budget difficulties. Being able to bring the arts and sports back to our children has been a wonderful feat.”

Holster said, “As I have played an integral part in these developments, along with my runningmates, Herban and Scott, I feel we have already come so far and look forward to bringing many more advancements and betterments to our children. Therefore, I look forward to contributing my ‘experience and efficiency’ to these further developments.”

While currently being the chairperson for the board’s financial committee, Holster said she was a member of the negotiations committee, a member of the policy committee, a member of the safety and security committees and liaison to the Parent Teacher Association.

“Our district is up against many capital issues in the near future. We are in need of expanding our buildings as well as upgrading them. These projects are going to require seeking out any and all options via grants, etc., that may be available to us,” Holster said. “Along with our business administrator, I plan to work together to fulfill these needs at an optimal cost to the taxpayer. In addition, a constant focus needs to be placed on the day to day programs that our teachers and administrators need to provide the best quality education we can give our children. Again, all of this comes at a cost.”

Luck-Deak, 41, is a district organizing coordinator for the Communications Workers of America and has worked for the company in various capacities for 19 years.

An 11-year resident, she is a member of the Kingston Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 Ladies Auxiliary, a member of the Kingston Presbyterian Church, co-leader of the church’s Grief Support Group and is currently on the Board of Deacons, and a South Brunswick Community Development Corporation/CIL Woods board member.

Luck-Deak served on the school board in 2018.

“I had a great experience serving on the Board of Education during my one-year appointment last year. Since that time, I have continued to follow the activities of the board and feel it is an important time for my voice to be included,” Luck-Deak said. “As a single mom of a third grader, I know both the importance of a strong education for the children in our community and the stress of making ends meet as a homeowner. I feel that if elected I will once again bring an important perspective to the board as an advocate for our children and our community.”

Luck-Deak said she intends to advocate for building upon the successes of the last several years within the school district.

“I will pay special attention to enhancing those initiatives and programs that I see as directly benefiting students and the community including dual language immersion, preschool and special needs education, arts and recreation activities, as well as expanded availability of supports for social-emotional learning,” Luck-Deak said.

Scott, 45, is a part-time hairstylist for Act 3 in the Freehold Raceway Mall, a makeup artist who specializes in on-location bridal parties, and a National Flood Insurance Program flood certified independent adjuster.

A lifelong resident, Scott is the chairwoman of the board’s Personnel Committee and also sits on the Tech and Facilities Committee, where she was previously the chairwoman. She also sits on the board’s School Safety and Security Committee.

Deciding to run again for her seat on the board, Scott said she wants to continue contributing to decisions that improve the district schools.

“I want to continue to be the voice that supports our children in the district and for the taxpayers who elected me. I want to continue working on things from the bottom up before we can improve things at the top,” Scott said. “I am a strong supporter of the arts and will continue to be outspoken and passionate about the returning of chorus and band to our district, programs lost several years ago when we experienced major budget cuts with less state funding. Our children need the arts to become well-rounded individuals with a creative outlet. This past school year, we implemented a band program and brought chorus back three years ago.”

Scott said that science, technology, engineering, art and math have also been added to the district’s middle school curriculum. If she is re-elected, she would make sure those programs continue, grow and blossom.

“We have a long-range facilities plan which includes significant updates to our schools in the coming years.  We have already made major improvements to our facilities that you can visually see as you walk through our school and I would like to continue to be an active part in those decisions,” Scott said. “As a board member, along with my fellow directors, we helped implement new math and science curriculum, expanded our pre-k to full day for three- and four-year-olds through a Preschool Education Expansion Aid grant. While I’ve served on the board, we have been cost-efficient for our taxpayers while we made vast improvements to the climate and education of our students.”

Scott continued to say, “I want to continue the work that we, as a board, started. As a member of our School Safety and Security Committee, I look forward to continuing to work on the goals we are beginning to achieve and implement in our school district.”

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.

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