Five candidates are seeking three three-year terms on the Upper Freehold Regional School District Board of Education in the 2021 election.
Of the school board’s nine members, seven are residents and representatives of Upper Freehold Township and two are residents and representatives of Allentown. This year, all three seats on the ballot are for representatives from Upper Freehold Township.
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 local polling locations on Nov. 2.
The terms of board members Howard Krieger, Brett Williams and Michele Anthony will end in December. Anthony is not seeking re-election.
The candidates seeking the three-year terms are Krieger, Williams, Stacey Blecher, Daniel Glenn Bruggers and Marisa Felice-Makar.
Bruggers did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
Blecher, a resident of Upper Freehold since 2002, is a retired attorney who practiced employment law on behalf of management for large private law firms for 32 years and was the assistant general counsel for JPMorgan Chase for more than 20 years.
As a volunteer, she is a member of the school district’s PTA, a trustee for the Upper Freehold Regional Education Foundation (UFREF) and a trustee for the Allentown-based Give Back Foundation.
“From 2005, when the oldest of my three children enrolled in pre-kindergarten, I have been a very active parent in the district. My years of running the Newell School book fair, participating in the PTA and serving as a trustee for the UFREF have provided me with an in-depth knowledge of the district.
“Partnering that knowledge with my legal background and ability to clearly sort through ideas and concerns as part of a team will allow me to continue to give back to the district as a valuable, invested member of the board.
“As an attorney, I often acted as a mediator among parties with strong disagreements and even stronger emotions. Personal politics aside, board members must mitigate important issues in a fair, data-driven manner with the best outcomes for students and the school community.
“My legal experience also will be valuable when reviewing contracts, applicable law and policy documents,” Blecher said.
If elected, Blecher said areas of focus for her will be addressing the board’s responsibility to gather data about student needs and available resources to help children thrive in a safe and effective school environment; increasing community involvement in board meetings; and ensuring that the education, safety and well-being of every student in the district is always at the forefront of board decisions.
Felice-Makar, a resident of Upper Freehold for seven years, majored in psychology and managed financial centers for large American-based banks before becoming a stay-at-home mother for her three children. She has served on the Redbird Band Parent Association for four years.
“I was actually asked to run by local community members,” Felice-Makar said. “While I have always been an active parent in our schools, attending every board meeting and volunteering for anything and everything, I have also been a voice in our community over the past 18 months.
“I have been defending our taxpayers and school-aged children in this community, dedicating a vast amount of time to help create ways to reduce the undue burdens of remote learning. This advocacy has made me a liaison for the community with the district.
“Currently, due to the forced shutdown and remote learning schools experienced, the district is approximately five months behind in educational standards. I will be able to help the district create unique ways to help our children catch up on the educational months they have fallen behind.
“My career of managing financial institutions will only be a benefit to the board and district from a financial aspect. Separately, I am well educated on the various bills that run through the Legislature that affect our schools, our funding and the health and welfare of our children. Having battled against over-reaching bills for many years, I eagerly bring this knowledge and expertise to the table,” Felice-Makar said.
If elected, Felice-Makar said areas of focus for her will be serving as a voice for all taxpayers; and bringing balance, common sense, transparency and autonomy into the district’s schools.
Krieger has been a member of the school board for 18 years and is currently the longest-serving member.
A resident of Upper Freehold for 31 years, he worked as a district manager at Pathmark Supermarkets before becoming the finance and human resources director. He then became the owner of three Friendly’s restaurants until his retirement.
Krieger is a member of the executive committee of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, which governs high school sports in the state.
“I am seeking re-election because with 18 years of board experience, I have the longest institutional memory and can help many of the newer board members,” Krieger said. “My children benefited from past board members who volunteered their time to make our schools better and I want to repay them by helping our district’s current students.
“My education (MBA in finance), my background in labor relations and my management experience makes me able to contribute to the running of the business aspects of our district,” Krieger said.
If re-elected, Krieger said areas of focus for him will be holding down costs to keep the district within its 2% budget cap; beginning work on the district’s five-year strategic plan; and continuing to represent the interests of the senior population.
Williams has been a member of the school board since 2018. Professionally, he works in financial services. He is the treasurer of the Upper Freehold Redbird Baseball and Softball Executive Board, where he has served for 12 years.
“I seek to continue to make positive contributions to the education and daily experience of our students.
“I am proud of our recent board accomplishments, from win-win negotiations with the teachers union, to building the new turf field, to saving freshman sports and saving taxpayers more than $1 million from the roof referendum.
“It is my goal to make an even greater impact in our schools going forward. My experience in finance and negotiations has been an asset during the roof referendum, field improvements, and difficult decisions,” Williams said.
If re-elected, Williams said areas of focus for him will be developing solutions to help children who have fallen behind academically as a result of remote learning; addressing the psychological impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and providing resources to address those concerns; and continuing to provide expertise in finance, negotiations and budgeting.