Three spots are up for grabs on the Hillsborough Township Board of Education (BOE), and there will be four new faces trying to be elected to the school board.
Jason Albanese, Allison Laning-Beder, Krzysztof (Chris) Golas and Elaine Jackson are the four candidates running for the BOE. All parties are taking their first stab at becoming a part of the school board in Hillsborough, each running for a three-year term.
Jane Staats, Lisa Maroun and Christopher Pulsifer are not seeking re-election.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking but I’m taking the plunge and want to go all-in,” Albanese said. “I feel people need to have their voices heard and that there needs to be change.”
Albanese has been a Hillsborough resident for the last 12 years and has two children currently enrolled in the school district.
A 10-year Navy veteran, Albanese was a police officer in the Bridgewater Township Police Department for 10 years before having to retire due to injuries sustained on the force.
Since Albanese retired, he dove into work in the finance world and before that was a substitute teacher for both the Hillsborough Township Public Schools and the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District.
The biggest proponent of Albanese starting his campaign to be on the BOE was after having no success the last couple of years with getting answers from the school district about certain issues going on, he said.
Albanese describes himself as a “research” person, always looking for ways to solve problems, and believes the school district needs to allow more transparency from residents and students.
That starts with taxpayers in the town having a say in what the school district puts money towards in regards to upgrading facilities and curriculum, he said.
“Taxpayers need to have a larger say in the spending and curriculum,” Albanese said. “Board members need to come together to allow people in the township to speak. They’re paying these teachers’ salaries. They should have a voice.”
Albanese added that students also need a voice in regards to helping make decisions on curriculum, clubs and other resources the school district should be providing them.
Reviewing the school district’s policies is another area Albanese wants to address if elected.
“We need to see what policies are working and which ones need to be revisited,” he said.
With his experience as a police officer, Albanese believes he has the tools to be able to communicate with all parties if elected to the board and help the BOE make the right decisions for the students and teachers.
“My ability to sit down and listen to both sides of an argument as a police officer has worked for me in training problems,” Albanese said. “I’ve been a counselor and a shoulder to cry on. What I’ve learned has helped me communicate well with others.”
Allison Beder, who has over 10 years of teaching experience, also believes the BOE needs to do a better job communicating with district stakeholders.
“If elected, I will work to improve communication and accountability in an environment where discussion is conducted in a respectful manner,” she said. “While disagreements are inevitable, we need to remind ourselves that we are all working toward maintaining a successful and supportive learning environment for all of our children.”
Beder has lived in Hillsborough for the last 13 years. She currently has three children attending Hillsborough High School, Hillsborough Middle School and Auten Road Intermediate School, and is a stay-at-home mom.
She also volunteers as president of the Hillsborough High School Choir Parents Association.
Beder received her bachelor’s degree from New York University and has a master’s degree in education at the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education.
Along with over 10 years of experience as an elementary school teacher, Beder believes she has the training and experience to be on the BOE and help the board provide the best possible education for the students.
The primary reason that Beder is running for the BOE is to improve the mental services in the school district, particularly in response to the coronavirus pandemic, she said.
Beder said she will be an advocate for providing the necessary mental health tools that students and faculty need to grapple with the challenges brought from COVID-19 and beyond.
“I believe that health and safety in our schools must remain at the forefront of the district’s goals,” Beder said. “The emotional impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for years to come. The district should apply for state, federal and private grants to support the inclusion of mental health resources and support within the schools.”
Chris Golas works in law enforcement and is also a general contractor and business entrepreneur. He has lived in Hillsborough for the past 11 years and currently has two children enrolled in the school district.
Golas is running for a spot on the board in his efforts to make things better for current students and teachers and future generations to come in the school district. Helping out the taxpayers is another key part of Golas’ campaign, he said.
Being the treasure of PBA Local No. 382 chapter for 6 years is an experience that Golas believes will be helpful for him if elected to the BOE.
“Being on the PBA board allowed me to advocate for my fellow employees and bring issues to the board to better the work environment,” Golas said. “It also helps build unity and camaraderie amongst the members. Being a trustee also taught me financial and budget control skills which would be beneficial for addressing the current budget issues.”
Transportation and making any needed upgrades to the school buildings in the district to provide a safe and clean learning environment for students and teachers are a couple of areas Golas would like to address if elected.
Bottom line, Golas wants the best for the current and future students that come through the Hillsborough Township Public Schools, he said. Being transparent is important to him and he feels that he and other need to be that way to address any issues that aren’t helping the kids get the best education they can, he said.
“I am not a person to sugarcoat anything, hide anything or lie about anything,” Golas said. “I may say some things people will not like to hear and I don’t care. The reality is people actually need to hear it. Our children need positive and strong support from their educators to help mold leaders for the future of our community and the world. Not to just sit around waiting to see what they will be told to do next.
Elaine Jackson is an IT business systems analyst in the health insurance industry and has been a Hillsborough resident for just under 25 years. Her oldest child recently graduated from Hillsborough High School and her youngest is currently a student in the high school.
During her time as a Hillsborough resident, Jackson has been a parent volunteer for her children during various activities.
Jackson does not have experience working in education but believes parents can offer a valuable perspective on the educational experiences of their children. This includes setting an atmosphere in the school district to help children grow into healthy and successful adults and providing the school district with the best possible resources to educate the students, she said.
“I believe it’s important to have a diverse and fair representation of community stakeholders on the board,” Jackson said. “ As kids get older it’s still important for parents to have a presence in their educational experiences, especially as they prepare for continued education or vocational careers. Parents who presently have children in the school district can offer relevant feedback regarding how decisions could impact the educational experience.”
Jackson also believes her professional experience can bring “valuable feedback” to students as they prepare for their future careers after graduation.
As for issues she would like to address in the school district, Jackson breaks it down into three sections:
Parents should have ease of access to the curriculum, and it should be factual and free of perspectives. Teaching methods that encourage students to think critically for themselves are important for fostering this type of growth at an early age.
Finding an effective balance of making sure students are emotionally healthy while simultaneously teaching skills that will help them develop into confident, independent and thoughtful adults is an important goal to strive for.
Safe and equitable transportation to and from school, and safe and healthy learning environments, must be available for students.
Election Day is Nov. 2.