Edison BOE reorganizes with new faces, new leadership, and a move to put forward another bond referendum

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EDISON – The Edison Board of Education reorganized with some new faces, new leadership and the move to put forward another bond referendum in March.

The board voted to approve a resolution authorizing a bond referendum to be held on March 10 at its reorganization meeting on Jan. 6 at the Education Center. Board members said the passage of the resolution is to essentially reserve their spot for the March ballot.

“We are still working on details of what’s going to be in the referendum,” said board member Ralph Errico, who was nominated to become board president. “We still have some work to do and we may even have a special meeting before our January meeting to gather thoughts.”

Board member Shivi Prasad-Madhukar abstained on the bond referendum resolution. She said she was in favor of the building and school construction, but did not have enough information.

She said she would like the demographer to update the demography report to include current census data, migration data and new construction happening in the township.

Voters came out to the polls on Dec. 10 and defeated the $189.5 bond referendum. With students literally learning in closets and trailers and eating lunch in classrooms, the need for more space in the Edison Public Schools has been evident.

Currently, Edison Public Schools, which has 19 buildings – two high schools, four middle schools, nine elementary schools, one intermediate school, one primary school, the education center and the operation of a preschool program – has 2,919 students without a seat.

For the past year, the district had been working with SSP Architects, Bridgewater, to address the overcrowding issues. They came together and proposed a referendum to provide the necessary additional space to the six neediest schools in the district – John P. Stevens High School, Edison High School, John Adams Middle School, James Madison Intermediate, and John Marshall and Lincoln elementary schools – not only to fix the overcrowding issues now, but for future generations to come.

At the reorganization, incumbent Xiaohan “Shannon” Peng was sworn in for her second term for the three-year board seat, former board member Shivi Prasad-Madhukar was sworn in for her second term and newcomer Carol Bodofsky was sworn in for her first term.

Ralph Errico was nominated to serve as board president and Falguni Patel was nominated to served as board vice president.

“As we embark on a very important year for our students, staff, parents and residents, let’s all work together to provide nothing but excellence,” Errico said. “Entering a new decade there are many concerns and issues before us. With all of the board along with students, staff, residents and our counterparts on our town side there’s nothing we can’t accomplish if we work together, nothing at all. I know we all have our own opinions and ideas, but that is what a great open transparent government is all about. Votes and ideas may not go your way or the way you want, but we all understand we must move forward in the best interest of our students and district and do the best we can.”

Errico said the board’s promise to the residents is to listen and take in all ideas.

“Let’s get 2020 going and be the best educational system in New Jersey,” he said.

Patel said she is “honored and humbled” to serve as board vice president. She said every member on the board has his or her own strength and passion – Elizabeth Conway and Bodofsky with special education, Prasad-Madhukar and Peng with curriculum, Errico with athletics, Beth Maroney with the Wingman program, Yuna Chen with her work with policy and food services and Jerry Shi, who she said has spent an incredible amount of time over the last two years tackling overcrowding and looking to save every last dollar.

“These are just some of the many strengths of these individuals,” she said. “Each and every member strives to do what’s in the best interest of children. If we continue to support each other and focus on strengths, we can really accomplish a lot this year especially under the leadership of our superintendent Dr. [Bernard] Bragen and the rest of the incredible administration and staff. We are only as strong as we are together.”