Five candidates will vie for three seats available on Woodbridge BOE in November election


WOODBRIDGE – Two incumbents and three newcomers will vie for the three, three-year terms available on the Woodbridge Board of Education in the upcoming election.

The general election is on Nov. 2.

Board member Ezio Tamburello is not seeking re-election.

Sue Bourdin, 48, who is running on the Best Schools Around ticket, has lived in Woodbridge for 14 years. She is married with one daughter, 13, who is in eighth grade at Woodbridge Middle School (WMS).

Bourdin earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from William Patterson College. She is a “small business owner, but more importantly mom.”

In the community, Bourdin has served on the board for the PACE Extended School Year program for the Advancement of Children for 10 years and is a parent advocate and support for other special needs parents. She serves on the PTO for WMS and she has been involved in Buddy Ball for many years.

Bourdin was appointed on the Board of Education (BOE) in May 2018. She is seeking her second term.

“I am running to continue the progress we have made over the past few years,” she said. “I want to be a voice for our community, our teachers and staff. It takes a while to understand both the role of a board member and the logistics of serving. I am three-and-a-half years in and have learned so much; however, I am still learning what it takes to be a great board member. I feel working with the new administration, meaningful change will take place and I need to be a part of that. I love the students we serve and want the best for them.”

If re-elected, Bourdin said she will continue to advocate for the district’s special needs children and work on more inclusion – not just academically, but socially and outside classroom activities and clubs.

“Making room for and including these kids will do a world of good for all,” she said.

Daniel Harris, 35, who is running on the Best Schools Around ticket, is a lifelong resident of Woodbridge.

Harris earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration from Saint Joseph’s University. He is employed as deputy executive director and legislative director to New Jersey Assembly Speaker, New Jersey General Assembly Majority Office.

In the community, Harris is co-coordinator of the bi-annual Colonia Cleanup; member of Mayor’s Advisory Committee; member of American-Irish Association of Woodbridge; vice president of Legislative Affairs to Middlesex County School Boards Association; member of New Jersey School Boards Association Legislative Committee (District 19 representative); co-coordinator of Keasbey Block Party; and board member of Bowl for Hunger Inc., a non-profit organization.

Harris is seeking his fourth term.

“Since I began my service to the board, I believed that boards of education need members that are fully committed to providing a comprehensive educational experience to every student, everyday,” he said. “Our children do not get a ‘do over.’ In our return from the disruption caused by COVID-19, I am as committed and energized as ever to helping students and parents regain the routine of classroom learning, in-person extracurriculars and the socialization and other supports that our students have long benefitted from. I believe that our current board and our new superintendent are fully committed to these same values as well.”

Harris said one of his greatest passions is working on the annual school budget.

“Our budget reflects any district’s priorities and values and, of course, dictates every expenditure from personnel to curriculum to our facilities,” he said. “Equally as important, the budget is 80% funded by property taxes so it is important that any board member thoroughly scrutinize how those tax dollars are spent. Our taxpayers have long trusted our board to deliver value for their tax dollars and I take that role seriously.”

Amber Jarrett, 42, has lived in Woodbridge for 10 years. She is married with two sons – her oldest is a 2019 Woodbridge High School (WHS) graduate and her youngest is a sophomore at WHS.

Jarrett earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Penn State University and a master’s degree in education leadership, management and policy from Seton Hall University. She is employed as a teacher.

In the community, Jarrett serves on the Youth and Education Committee of WONAC (Woodbridge Organization of Neighbors Advocating Change) and in that role she said she has met with numerous student groups and teachers in the district to hear their perspectives on district initiatives, operations and curriculum.

As a district parent, she has been actively involved in her sons’ schools as a PTO member and parent volunteer.

She said she has regularly attended and spoken at BOE, Town Council and Human Rights Commission meetings and has advocated locally for issues related to equity and inclusion, environmental concerns, increased transparency and improved representation and communication.

Last school year, Jarrett organized a community desk building project that built and delivered 114 desks to local students – free of charge – as they learned from home. She also collected and distributed essentials to local families during the pandemic: school supplies for local students, schools and organizations and books to help teachers build more representative classroom libraries.

Jarrett is seeking her first term.

“I believe in quality public education and my background has prepared me well to strongly advocate for the best interests of students,” she said. “Education plays a vital role in our communities and I am keenly aware of the challenges schools, families and the teaching profession have faced during the pandemic. I want to ensure that others have a voice in making educational and administrative decisions. If elected, I look forward to partnering with school leaders, staff, students and the community to improve student achievement and ensure equitable access to high quality curriculum/instruction and meaningful learning experiences throughout the district.”

As a large district, there seems to be a disconnection between the district office and individual building leaders, Jarrett said.

“The lack of a cohesive vision causes inconsistencies in decision making, implementation of initiatives and instructional quality and often results in poor communication with families,” she said. “I would, therefore, like to focus on strategic planning, involving the community, school employees, students and other stakeholders to establish short/long-term goals/objectives for the district and to identify needed support and resources for achieving those goals/objectives while still honoring the uniqueness of individual classrooms/buildings and the diversity of the students/neighborhoods they serve.”

Thomas E. Maras has lived in Woodbridge for more than 50 years. He has two adult children.

Maras has served as a domestic and international senior corporate executive with two major engineering and construction corporations specializing in domestic and international procurement, contracts, logistics and business development.

In the community, Maras serves as a community activist on matters related to community development, schooling, government policies and spending.

Maras is seeking his first term.

“As an individual who left high school early, obtained a GED, attended trade school for industrial pipe fitting and then pursued undergraduate studies in business and real estate, I have a profound appreciation for the value for a good education and for the educators who gave me mine,” he said.

Maras said with his background he sees the world as a highly challenging and competitive business environment.

“Through my domestic and international business and life experiences, I honed my negotiating and business skills as well as my abilities to work effectively with people from different cultures and customs,” he said. “As a board member, I would use my business, life experiences and skills to work with other board members, educators and parents to achieve the best possible educational outcome for all students in the district.”

An important challenge to overcome is “the educational and developmental damages the COVID-19 virus has caused and continues to cause in our schools,” Maras said.

“Not just for students, but for teachers, staff and parents as well,” he said. “As students are returning to classroom learning, new fears regarding the COVID-19 Delta variant has given rise to students especially the youngest students wearing masks throughout the day.”

Maras said he does not support Gov. Phil Murphy’s mandates on masking.

“The mandate should provide for greater parental choices on the matter of school curriculums especially those which cover diversity, equity and inclusion,” he said. “I strongly support parental input and oversight.”

Jenny Perez, 42, who is running on the Best Schools Around ticket, is a lifelong resident of Woodbridge. She has a 21-year-old son, who is a WHS graduate. Her nine-year-old son, who passed away, had attended Indiana Avenue School 18.

Perez is a graduate of Woodbridge Township Public Schools. She is employed as an executive assistant with the office of the chancellor-provost at Rutgers University.

In the community, Perez serves as a commissioner of the Woodbridge Township Housing Authority, previously served as a charter member of the Woodbridge Human Rights Commission and serves as president/co-founder of David’s Touch Foundation, a Woodbridge-based non-profit organization.

Perez is seeking her first term.

“I am running for the board to be able to serve the students and institution that embraced me and my two sons,” she said. “I am eager to give back to the community and the township that has been my home my entire life.”

If elected, Perez said she plans to work closely with the Special Services Department to address students’ mental health and by engaging with their families to provide all of the resources needed so that each student has the same opportunities to excel and be their very best.

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 2.