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Four candidates in race for three seats on Howell K-8 school board

HOWELL – Four residents are running for three three-year terms on the Howell K-8 School District Board of Education in the Nov. 5 election. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The candidates are Joseph Tate, Mark Bonjavanni, Laurence Gurman and Cristy Mangano.

Bonjavanni, Gurman and Mangano are current members of the nine-member board that oversees the operation of the school district.

Tate said he believes Howell’s commitment to educating its children makes it a great place to live and raise a family.

“As a father of two and as the husband of a high school teacher, I want to see our education system continue to improve. That is why I am running,” he said. “My experience as a parent, homeowner, spouse of a teacher, and small business owner will bring a unique perspective in an effort to modernize our schools and balance our budget. I want an education system that allows our children to flourish, while remaining affordable for our parents.”

He said he is focused on streamlining services and expenses, as well as on transportation, safety, and technology.

“Our town needs another resident on the board who listens to the needs of the community. I am ready to work hard to make sure the interests of our students and their parents are represented and advanced,” Tate said.

Mangano has lived in Howell for 17 years and is completing her first term on the board. She said that as a board member, she has “worked on many committees, especially ones that engage the community.”

“I live in Howell with my husband and five children. This is a town my husband and I are very invested in and we chose Howell for the good school system. I work full-time as a registered nurse where I enjoy advocating for and taking care of my patients,” Mangano said.

If re-elected, she said she would like to address transparency and fiscal responsibility.

“A few things I would like to work on would be transparency, making sure we are able to work a budget that keeps us fiscally responsible to our community, and community engagement. I think in today’s world, being as transparent as possible with parents and residents is key in gaining their trust.

“The public has the right to know what is going on and as a board we have the duty to make sure everyone is aware of how we operate. With state budget cuts, we have to also be able to stay fiscally responsible and at the same time provide the best education to our students. Our Finance Committee has done a wonderful job at this over the years and will continue to work hard to maintain this,” Mangano said.

“One of my biggest areas of interest is community engagement. What are we without our community’s interaction? I love seeing our community members involved as much as they can be.

“I have sat on the Community Interaction Committee and I think that is where the community can come out and voice concerns they have. It’s a place where we can talk about what is going on in the community and all the positives, but also be able to talk about things we would like to see change, as well as new ideas,” Mangano said.

As he seeks re-election to the board, Gurman said his goals include “providing a quality education for all the students in our schools, using our tax dollars for education wisely and efficiently, and encouraging community participation in the educational process in order to offer our youth, who are our community’s and nation’s most precious resource, the opportunity to develop to their full potential.”

He said current educational objectives that have been adopted by district administrators should continue to be pursued and enhanced.

“These objectives include fostering learning environments that emphasize personalized learning, student empowerment and standards aligned with student growth; sustaining a positive culture of learning while supporting the physical, social and emotional needs of all members of the school community; and transforming educational settings through the use of technology to enhance progressive learning conditions,” Gurman said.

He said the school district’s fiscal health should be addressed by promoting existing practices that include energy savings programs, shared services agreements, central purchasing, inventory controls and long-term financial planning.

“This work (on fiscal matters) is particularly crucial because of the state’s change to the school funding formula two years ago. State aid to our district was cut by $1.2 million last year and by another $1.6 million this year.

“By 2025, according to the revised state funding formula, it is anticipated the Howell school district will be experiencing a total reduction in state aid of approximately $13 million,” Gurman said.

Bonjavanni said he is running for re-election because serving on the school board is a passion for him.

“I have been involved in school board activities for over 20 years. It is a privilege to be able to serve the community in this manner. I am familiar with the activities the district is involved in and the goals and visions that are possible.

“I regularly attend workshops across the state to increase my knowledge and to make sure I have the ability to contribute to the work of the board and the district. I have personal goals when I think about where I can contribute.

“I am aware of the fiscal strains placed on the district because of state aid cuts and have met with legislators to discuss the issue. I understand the educational goals and I ask questions at committee meetings and board meetings to see how I can better support those efforts,”  Bonjavanni said.

Moving forward, he said, “I believe the safety of the children and staff is of the utmost importance and I will always keep (safety) at the forefront. Social-emotional learning is a major concern across the state and nation and I am very active in those activities, attending and serving on committees addressing that issue.

“Lastly, I understand how boards should work. It is not by ‘fighting for’ an issue, it is by listening, having thoughtful conversations and reaching consensus on how the district can continue to shine. It is being willing to spend the time to serve.

“I hope to be fortunate enough to continue to serve. If one is happy with the direction this district has been going in, I will be dedicated to continuing that work,” Bonjavanni said.

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