OLD BRIDGE – Seven candidates – three incumbents, a former board member and three newcomers – will vie for the three, three-year terms open on the Old Bridge Board of Education in the upcoming election on Nov. 2.
Darin Accettulli, 51, has lived in Old Bridge for 17 years. He is married with two daughters, ages 15 and 11.
Accettulli earned a high school degree and attended some college. He is employed as a Realtor, speaker and life coach.
In the community, Accettulli is an online influencer, and motivational speaker for truth-mental health and the Constitution of the United States.
Accettulli is seeking his first term.
“I believe in the Constitution of the United States and code of ethics,” he said. “Currently that is not being followed and laws are being broken, especially in regards to our children. I’m a parent, not a politician, and will stand for the rights of all our children.”
If elected, Accettulli said one of the areas he will concentrate on is leadership.
Salvatore J. DiPrima, 63, has lived in Old Bridge for 27 years. He is married with two adult children and one granddaughter and another on the way.
DiPrima earned an associate’s degree in business administration from Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, New York. He is employed as a branch operations manager in the financial services industry and is a freelance photographer.
In the community, DiPrima has served as a member, officer and awarded life membership of the Leroy Gordon Cooper School PTA, served as a member and officer of the Carl Sandburg Middle School PTA, served on the Old Bridge High School PTSA and served on the Middlesex County PTA.
He previously held the positions of coach, manager, secretary and safety officer of the Laurence Harbor Little League and although not active, he is a third-degree knight with the Knights of Columbus in the Saint Lawrence Council.
He has volunteered in the concession stand at Lombardi Field at Bob DeMarco Stadium for the past 19 years and he is one of the founding members of the Cliffwood Beach Neighborhood Association, a social group formed to keep neighborhood residents apprised of what is going on in the neighborhood, mainly through social media.
DiPrima is seeking his fourth term. He has served as vice president twice, president, and recently attained certified board member status. He has chaired the Athletic/Food Service/Medical Services committee currently called Athletic/Extracurricular and has been an active member of various other committees including negotiations during his tenure.
“As a sitting board member I have been a part of what I like to call the ‘renaissance’ of our school district for the past nine years, but we have more work to do,” he said. “We cannot become stagnant or complacent. Some of the accomplishments attained during my tenure are the implementation of full day kindergarten, the iPad initiative, defeat of the attempted charter school, the Old Bridge High School (OBHS) Shoprite, the RTI (response to intervention) program, keeping programs intact amidst multimillion dollar state aid cuts, attaining District of Character status, and our first and second ever Blue Ribbon Schools. Working as a Board of Education (BOE) member is an ongoing process, which I would like to continue to be a part of.”
As a board member, DiPrima said they are responsible for all areas and all children.
“We have an obligation to our teachers and staff, our community members and of course our students to provide the most comprehensive and fiscally responsible learning environment possible,” he said. “Of course the past year and a half have required special attention to the safety of our students and staff. The pandemic has put us in a place no one has ever been before and we are successfully working through it through everyone’s hard work and diligence.”
Richard J. Dunn, 52, has lived in Old Bridge for 23 years. He is married to Kristine and they have two children, a daughter, 22, and a son, 17, who is a senior at Old Bridge High School.
Dunn earned a bachelor’s degree in history/political science with a concentration in secondary education from the College of Staten Island. He attended New York University School of Continuing Education for professional certification and advancement. He is employed as a senior vice president of real estate and external affairs with Paramount Assets in Newark.
In the community, Dunn is a firefighter for the South Old Bridge Fire Company where he has served for 18 years, and currently is chief of the department. Additionally, he has served as secretary and vice president of the fire company and has assisted with teaching fire prevention education and instruction in Old Bridge schools with Fire Marshal Thomas Hart.
Furthermore, he is an active member of the PTSA and the Special Education PTA and participates in many school community events and activities.
He also served on the Old Bridge Township Planning Board as an alternate member in 2017.
Dunn is seeking his fourth term. He has served as president twice during his 10-year tenure from 2011 to 2021.
“I am seeking re-election to the BOE not only for my fondness and admiration for our schools and students, but to ensure that the quality of education provided to our children is the finest and that every child has a fair and equitable opportunity for achievement and success,” he said. “Additionally, there are so many challenges on the horizon that will adversely impact our schools such as the excessive sequestration of state aid, the need for new school buildings, introduction of universal pre-K and COVID-19 pandemic-related issues which require an experienced board member who is principled and who will lead for what is in the best interests of our students and taxpayer.”
Dunn said “school facilities are aging and with new residential development coming to fruition, there will be a need for new schools and improvements along with school consolidation and redistricting to save precious dollars.”
“The new residential construction is occurring in areas in Old Bridge that do not have elementary schools, which will necessitate new facilities,” he said. “With the implementation of universal pre-K looming, space in our buildings will become a premium, causing challenges to provide appropriate learning environments. A fundamental strategic plan for facilities and planning is essential since new facilities will be required along with consolidation of schools as cost savings measures. Larger and strategically located elementary schools are required in Old Bridge.”
Kelly Ellis-Foster has lived in Old Bridge for 23 years. She is married to John has two children, who are graduates of the Old Bridge School system.
Ellis-Foster earned a bachelor’s degree from The State University of New York Potsdam and a master’s degree in business administration from Monmouth University. After 30 years with Honeywell International, she retired as a director of communications organizational development and learning. She now has a small consulting business.
In the community, Ellis-Foster has volunteered in numerous community activities including serving as founder of Old Bridge Glass Slipper, trustee of the Old Bridge Alumni Path Foundation, co-chair of the Old Bridge Relay for Life, member of the Old Bridge YMCA Advisory Board, member of the Old Bridge Marching Knights Parents, leader for Girl Scout Troop 1816 and leader of Cub Scout Pack 129.
Ellis-Foster is seeking her third term.
“I am proud of the accomplishments of our district during my years of service,” she said. “In triumph and tragedy, we have shown that we come together. Over the years we have made great improvements while facing unplanned challenges. As a board member and district, we are always looking to improve and continue to do the best for our students.”
As a board member, Ellis-Foster said she has “always listened to and treated people with respect, even if we disagreed on specific topics.”
“In divided times, we need people who can work with diverse groups and come together for solutions that move our district forward,” she said.
If re-elected, Ellis-Foster said there are several areas that are critical to focus on.
“This year it will be a priority to assess the current state of our students, both academically and emotionally,” she said. “Identify and address any educational gaps and provide the services to correct and set students up for success. In addition, we need to monitor the social and emotional well-being of our students and make sure they are provided any assistance. The other critical area is in the infrastructure of the district. We have aging buildings and need to update our strategic plan with a roadmap of addressing the structural issues and pending growth in housing development in the town.”
Lisa Lent, 44, has lived in Old Bridge for about 20 years. She has one son who is a graduate of OBHS and is currently serving as a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.
Lent earned a master’s degree in accounting and business. She is employed as a director of human resources for a Broadway Theatre Company for the past 25 years.
In the community, Lent volunteers for several animal charities, serves as treasurer for the Old Bridge Animal Volunteers Charity and volunteers with the South Old Bridge Volunteer Fire Department.
Lent is seeking her second term. She previously served on the board from 2017-20.
“I am running for the BOE because I feel that my business and accounting background can help navigate our district through the many challenges we are facing,” she said. “Fiscal responsibility is key for our success. Between getting our students back into school and the budgets cuts, it is important to have BOE members who strive to ensure that our children have the best environment for learning.”
If re-elected, Lent said one of the main concerns she would like to concentrate on is the budget.
“We have been charged with major budget cuts so we need someone who will help keep fiscal responsibility,” she said. “I can make the difficult budget decisions to help create an environment that benefits everyone.”
Leonardo Marchetta, 40, is running on the “Putting Kids First” ticket. He has lived in Old Bridge for 11-plus years. He is married and a father of three children, who are Old Bridge students.
He is a graduate of Xaverian High School in Brooklyn, New York. He is employed as a first responder to natural gas leak emergencies and pipe fitter for IBEW Local 3.
In the community, Marchetta is an active volunteer and head coach.
Marchetta is seeking his first term.
“I am running because I feel that the current board has not done enough to support our children’s educational needs and ensuring the district is run properly,” he said. “I have seen them ignore the needs of the students and the voices of the parents. The current board has been reactive, not proactive, and our students and residents deserve better.”
If elected, Marchetta said one of the areas he would like to concentrate on is “bringing transparency back between the board and the parents” beginning with the school budget.
“Our residents and parents deserve to know and understand where and how their taxes are spent,” he said.
Jay Slade, 54, is running on the “Children First” ticket. He has lived in Old Bridge for 17 years. He is married with two daughters, ages 10 and 8.
Slade attended Brooklyn College and the College of Staten Island. He is employed as a financial advisor.
In the community, Slade is involved in the PTA at his daughter’s school.
Slade is seeking his first term.
“I am running for a seat on the BOE because I am a concerned parent and taxpayer,” he said. “I trusted the system, but I could no longer sit idle and watch non-decisions being made especially through the pandemic and especially with the upcoming curriculum changes.”
If elected, Slade said one of the areas he would concentrate his efforts on is fiscal transparency.
“I feel that funds have been misdirected and could be utilized more efficiently,” he said.
Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 2.