Five candidates to run for three open seats on Hillsborough school board

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Voting on Election Day, voting ballot

Five candidates will bid to fill three vacancies on the Hillsborough Township Public Schools Board of Education.

The school board candidates for this year’s Nov. 5 election are Joyce Eldridge-Howard, Gregory Gillette, Paul D. Marini, John P. Oliver and Jean Trujillo.

Eldridge-Howard has 40 years of experience as a public school educator. She was the director of Elementary Education, principal, assistant principal, coordinator/head teacher academically talented program, guidance counselor, teacher, Kindergarten, fourth and sixth grades.

Her educational background includes a B.S. in education from Central State University, an M.A. in Pedagogy from Seton Hall University and Certifications in administration and supervision from Montclair State University.

Gillette moved to Hillsborough in 1993 and was first elected to the board of education in 2007. He also currently serves as chairman of Hillsborough’s Historic Preservation Commission and in the past has served on the Cultural Arts Commission and the Hillsborough-Millstone Municipal Alliance, as well as publishes the local history blog and Facebook Page “Gillette on Hillsborough.”

Trujillo is an engineer by training and previously worked in the defense and telecommunications industries. She is married with three children who attend district schools and volunteers in the community through their activities as Hillsborough-Millstone Municipal Alliance secretary and co-chair of the AlumniCorps NJ area committee.

Marini and Oliver could not be reached for comment for “The Hillsborough Beacon” in time for publication.

In order to provide candidates with an equitable platform to discuss their plans for the school board, all candidates were given the same questions and the same amount of space for their responses.

Why are you running for a spot on the school board? What drives you to public service?

Eldridge-Howard: I have demonstrated a lifetime commitment to public education with forty years of experience as a successful teacher, guidance counselor, principal and supervisor. I work hard and have a clear understanding of the challenges before the board of education.Giving back is very important to me, particularly in areas that benefit children.

Gillette: There is no candidate who has more experience or is better-equipped to handle the challenges in our district that have arisen over the past two years. I volunteer to give back to the community that I call home and that has been such a great place to raise my family.

Trujillo: I’m running for re-election because I care about kids and I want to continue doing something good for the school district. When I see an issue, I want to own it and be part of the solution. I believe I can do this most effectively as a BoE member.

Other than taxes, what would you say is the most pressing issues facing the township schools? If elected, how do you plan to tackle that issue?

Eldridge-Howard: Consistent funding, settling the teachers’ contract and improving facility maintenance are the most pressing issues – they impact our students, staff, and residents. I will continue to assess budget areas that least affect student learning, teacher effectiveness and safety, and to support the best interests of our students, teachers and community.

Gillette: Firstly, my re-election will serve as a mandate to the board that we must settle the teacher’s contract. Second, I will employ the same financial discipline I did after 2010 to put the district on a solid footing and restore lost positions. Lastly, I will hire a highly-qualified superintendent.

Trujillo: Improving communication with the community is key. I propose creating a citizens advisory committee to review and evaluate the school district’s needs, and develop proposals from the ground up. The committee would identify and prioritize improvements, provide recommendations to the BoE and help engage the community to gain widespread support.

How would you say you differ from your opponents? Why should voters choose you?

Eldridge-Howard: The extent, depth and variety of my professional educational experiences sets me apart and demonstrate my strong dedication to student achievement and teacher excellence. My knowledge, background, work ethic and high standards were recognized throughout my career. Re-election would allow me to continue meaningful work for the success of all students.

Gillette: I have considerably more experience and a proven track record of fiscal responsibility and transparency. I respect the wishes of parents and taxpayers. I advocate to improve the working conditions of our employees and for improvement of the services provided for our special needs students.

Trujillo: I do my homework and then I do the needed work. I actively represent Hillsborough at the state and county levels. I’m a certified board member, a member of the NJSBA Legislative and Finance committees and this year, I advocated for Hillsborough at the state Assembly and Senate budget hearings.

What, in your opinion, makes Hillsborough Township somewhere you want to serve?

Eldridge-Howard: Hillsborough needs caring community servants who have commitment, genuine interest, problem solving ability and willingness to collaborate for the greater good of all. I have those qualities, and plan to serve the students, teachers and our community for all of the right reasons and to the best of my ability.

Gillette: Hillsborough is a community that cares very much for its youth in general and for education in particular. We see this in its enthusiasm for the achievements of our students in the classroom, on the athletic field and in all they accomplish. I welcome that passion.

Trujillo: I love Hillsborough. My husband and I moved here in June 2002 and our oldest child was born later that year. She’s now in eleventh grade and our youngest is in fifth grade. I am fully invested in Hillsborough as a parent, homeowner and fellow resident.