Ciak resigns from Sayreville school board following controversy

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SAYREVILLE – After more than a quarter century of service to the Sayreville School District, recent controversy has led to the resignation of the Board of Education’s longest-serving member.

The resignation of Kevin Ciak became effective on March 15 and was retroactively accepted by the board on March 17. Ciak’s vacant seat will be filled by appointment at a future board meeting for the remainder of the year and his unexpired term, which runs through 2021, will be on the ballot in the Nov. 3 election.

Ciak joined the Board of Education in 1994 at age 19 for a total of 27 years of service. Prior to his departure, he had been the longest-serving member of the board. He had also been serving as board president in 2020 for a third consecutive year and held the position for a total of 10 times during his tenure.

In addition to the Sayreville School District Board of Education, Ciak was a member of the New Jersey School Boards Association and the National School Boards Association and had served as president of both boards. A lifelong resident of Sayreville and graduate of Sayreville War Memorial High School, Ciak is credited with launching the Vision 2030 initiative, which works to focus the district on providing the skills that students need for the future.

Ciak’s resignation follows the arrest of John Denuto, formerly a teacher at Sayreville Middle School, who was charged on Feb. 15 with multiple counts involving the alleged sexual assault of a minor. The incident allegedly occurred at Ciak’s home in 2016. Ciak has not faced any charges and stated that he was unaware of the alleged incident.

After Denuto was charged with sexual assault, Ciak was absent from the previous board meetings on Feb. 18 and March 3. Members of the public questioned his status on the board and whether he should remain a member during the March 3 meeting.

With his resignation official at the March 17 meeting, board members honored Ciak for his many years of service in Sayreville.

“I wanted to thank Kevin Ciak for his years of service to our district,” said Carrie Kenny, who joined in 2019 and is the most recent member of the board. “As a new member to the board, he, like all of you, has been patient and answering my many questions and taking the time to explain things to me on more than one occasion. Over the past year since I’ve been on the board, I never once doubted his dedication and commitment to making this district the best it could be.

“Although I feel he made the best decision, based especially on public perception, I know that it must have been a grueling one,” she continued. “I just want him to know that I am sympathetic to how his tenure on the board came to an end and that I wish him well.

Board member Lucy Bloom added, “I also want to thank Kevin for his 26 years of service to the county, to the state and to the National School Boards Association. It really saddens me that his brilliant career as an advocate for public education has fallen victim to the court of public opinion.”

“I’ve known Kevin since I taught him in the seventh grade,” board member Karen Rubio said. “It has been an honor and a privilege to watch him as the leader in here and the county. It pains me terribly that this board will not have him here and I told him that personally, but I wanted to make that public as well.”

Board President Anthony Esposito, who succeeded Ciak in the position, praised Ciak for what he considered to be a selfless action.

“We lost someone who put basically half his lifetime, maybe more, into public education,” Esposito said. “I personally think it was the right decision. I’ve been in talks with Kevin for a couple of months and my honest opinion was that I thought he should have done this because the district is bigger than he is and he knows it. He did the right thing because Kevin always puts the district first.

“I do want to thank him for his service,” he continued. “We have a long road ahead of us with [coronavirus] and with this referendum coming up. We’ll just come together as a board, we’ll take this new board member whoever he or she is, and we’ll take him in. We work very well together and we’ll get through this.”