MARLBORO – Residents in Marlboro will elect four members to the Marlboro K-8 School District Board of Education in the 2021 election. Three three-year terms and one two-year term are on the ballot.
The 2021 school board election is being held with vote by mail ballots; with early in-person voting at 10 polling locations throughout Monmouth County on nine days later this month; and with in-person voting at polling locations in Marlboro on Nov. 2.
Running for the three-year terms are incumbent board member Kathleen Amster, Angelo Del Giudice, incumbent board member Paul Ferland, Elizabeth Sugarman Lawrence, Sean McCauley, Valentina Mendez, Aldo Patruno and Christina Russotto.
Running for the two-year term are Jessica Piernik and Debra Venedam.
Del Giudice, Mendez, Patruno and Piernik could not be reached for comment.
When nominating petitions were filed earlier this year, Kelly Dowd, Andrew McCormack and Irene Dekhterman were running for three-year terms on the board. Those residents subsequently dropped out of the race.
Each candidate was asked to discuss issues that are important to their campaign and how they would address each issue, if elected.
Amster said, “As a current board member, I believe it is the responsibility of elected officials to be a check and balance for the administration. The administration has influence over the tax rate and budget of the school system.
“The elected officials need to ask questions about how our money is being used for the best interests of the children and the taxpayers. We need to have a balance between these interests and the wants and needs of the school administration.
“It is my belief the board needs to be transparent to the residents of Marlboro. Asking questions in public with a respectful dialogue will allow for open communication between the public and the board.
“As a mother of five children who have attended or are attending the Marlboro school system, I am passionate about all children receiving a fair and appropriate education.
“As an advocate for children through my work as a volunteer for children with special needs, I have come to understand all children deserve the best possible educational experience that we as citizens can provide,” Amster said.
Ferland said, “I am running for the board because a great school district not only helps our kids, but it makes our town a great place to live, which is good for everyone. I do not like the divisiveness that permeates our town. We need the ability to see and understand both sides of an argument; a valuable skill I believe I can bring to the board. It’s a skill that has no agenda.
“I look at each issue on its own. Weigh the pros and cons. Ask questions and learn. And ultimately, I make a decision on that issue with the singular goal in mind – does this help our schools improve?
“We should all want what is best for our schools and though we might disagree on what that is, it is my belief we will only achieve our goals through civilized, rational, although passionate, debate and a genuine attempt to understand each issue.
“My goals are to keep our kids safe and thriving, which involves police in schools and figuring out ways to live with COVID that minimize the physical and emotional toll, get air conditioning in all schools, and push our schools toward modernization,” Ferland said.
Lawrence said, “I am running for the board for the same reason I became a social worker, because I care about the well-being of my community.
“I support any initiative that keeps our children safe, including fully supporting police presence in our schools, safeguarding all anti-bullying measures, and finding a fiscally responsible path to equip our classrooms with air conditioning.
“I believe we can be kind to one another, while holding each other accountable. I believe through collaboration and transparency is how we strengthen our schools and our community. I believe our strength is in our diversity and our commitment to unity. I believe we don’t have to be disagreeable when we disagree.
“It is my Jewish faith that compels me to find ways to repair the world, to be an ally, to seek solutions and common ground. I am running because I believe a great public school system is the bedrock of any vibrant, nurturing community, but we can always do better. I loved growing up in Marlboro and I am proud to raise my daughter here,” Lawrence said.
McCauley said, “Service to others has been a lifelong bedrock and is why I seek this opportunity to build upon and improve the Marlboro school district for our community and children.
“I look to leverage my 12 years of teaching and educational leadership knowledge, five years as an Air Force officer, an MA in education, and the many service projects to improve the district.
“My goal is to ensure students’ success and safety while being fiscally responsible by continuing support of current initiatives, such as having the Marlboro police secure our children and promote improvement projects and policies.
“The first project I will support is air conditioning in every classroom by allocating portions of the current budget freed through the completed roofing project.
“September and June are months where students are fighting fatigue and thus cannot fully take advantage of their academic periods. Creating a comfortable environment offers an opportunity to concentrate on studies while mitigating wellness concerns.
“My experience, education and management skills are an asset to our town, district, parents and, most importantly, our children,” McCauley said.
Russotto said, “As an educator and literacy instructional coach in the New York City Department of Education for over 11 years, I have always had a vested stake in pedagogical practices and curriculum.
“I hope to use the knowledge I possess from inside and outside the classroom to represent the parents in this community in attaining the best education for their children. My volunteer experience as vice president of the PTO at the David C. Abbott Early Learning Center allowed me to collaborate with parents and teachers to support our school community.
“I also serve as a board member of the Big Steps for Little Feet Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that raises money and awareness in efforts to assist medically fragile babies and their families in the NICU at Monmouth Medical Center,” Russotto said.
“As a Marlboro community member for over 14 years, I have experienced both the general education and special education sides of our school system. I want to be an advocate for parents whose children have special needs, so their children can be afforded the services they need to succeed academically, socially, and emotionally.
“I am running so parents do not need to look any further than this school district to educate their children in a free and appropriate manner, as well as to ensure there is a fiscal responsibility to the community.
“I am running to give the community the voice, transparency, honesty and integrity they deserve in their school board, because every school board should put children first, give parents a choice and make positive changes that better their community,” Russotto said.
Venedam said, “I have actively attended board meetings throughout the years and have publicly questioned the board on issues such as lack of transparency, curriculum loss during COVID-19, early contract approvals for administrators and the management of annual budgets.
“A few of my goals if elected are to rebuild the trust of the community by ensuring that constructive discussions/questions would publicly take place between board members during meetings before voting on policies, budgets and/or personnel contracts and not through individual email discussions, and to ensure the administration is fiscally responsible in how they manage the district’s annual budget, especially now as the federal government continues to provide additional funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is an unprecedented election year with four seats open. During this critical time, we need board members who are going to prioritize the needs of our children first and not the administration,” Venedam said.