Jessica Grillo, William Herbert and John Mason have unofficially each won a seat on the Hopewell Valley Regional School District’s Board of Education after the general election on Nov. 5.
Each seat is a three-year term on the board.
The election results are unofficial until they are certified by Mercer County.
Grillo will represent Hopewell Borough on the board after securing 218 votes. She was competing against Elizabeth Maziarz, who had collected 212 votes during the general election.
Grillo stated previously to the Hopewell Valley News that she ran because she had a deep sense of commitment to the community.
“Currently, every board member is between 45-55 [years old], and while that is a very important demographic, it could be helpful if one of the nine board members represents the next generation; the many families with young children not yet in school who have invested in the community,” she said. “The district and the board have many people with education backgrounds and I believe that my business, human resources and communications background can add a needed dimension.”
Grillo also explained what two top challenges she would address if on the board.
“Transparency in board operations and communication stood out as an opportunity for improvement during the most recent budget cycle. I am skilled in presenting information in a digestible way for people, can engage the community for feedback and translate that feedback into action,” she said. “We also have an opportunity to take a hard look at return on investment of our per pupil cost, which is the highest in Mercer County. I believe we can examine the cost and return together, as board and community, to determine if there is any opportunity for optimizing or addressing any areas.”
Five candidates vied for the two open seats to represent Hopewell Township on the board during the general election on Nov. 5.
Herbert collected 1,800 votes and Mason secured 1,628 votes to win the two seats. Incumbent Peter DiDonato did not win re-election as he received 1,058 votes on Nov. 5.
Herbert and Mason ran together as a slate under the slogan of Integrity and Fiscal Responsibility.
Herbert stated to the Hopewell Valley News on why he decided to run.
“I’ve wanted to give more back. Second, my concerns about increasing evidence of additional needed student support,” he said. “Finally, the budget process.”
Herbert explained what he sees as the biggest challenges facing the district.
“Our biggest challenge is preparing students for life after high school. The district does well getting students into colleges, but numbers aren’t quite as promising keeping them there. Further, all students must be equipped for success, whether attending college, trade school, work, or the military,” he said. “Our second challenge, which is often related to the first, is addressing issues related to bullying, inclusion and equity (i.e. racism, gender, differently-abled, and income disparity.)”
Mason said he decided to run because serving and giving back to his community and school district comes naturally to him.
“I do believe that our district could better prepare students for their futures after leaving school. The models for educating students should focus less on memorizing information and more on teaching students the skills needed to be successful members of society,” he said. “Also, the Board’s last budget revealed significant opportunities for improving the entire process.”
Mason also described what he sees as the top challenges facing the district.
“The most important challenges facing our district return to priming students for life after graduation. We must strengthen mental health and social-emotional supports,” he said. “Another challenge pertinent to Hopewell Valley is exposing students to a more diverse society. A number of disturbing cases of racism have occurred in our community over the past year, and I feel strongly that the only way to counteract these issues is to introduce more culture and diversity into our programs and teach our students at an early age to be inclusive and open.”