Independent News Briefs, March 9


The Keyport Public Schools have moved to a mask-optional model as permitted by Gov. Phil Murphy during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

New Jersey’s school mask mandate was lifted on March 7 and Keyport administrators moved to permit students, staff members and visitors to the district’s schools to stop wearing a mask if they chose to do so.

School district administrators are not permitted to prohibit the use of facial coverings by individuals, according to a press release from the Governor’s office.

In a letter to the community issued prior to March 7, Keyport Superintendent of Schools Lisa Savoia wrote, “It is important for families to encourage dialogue about the choice you will make regarding the wearing or not wearing of a mask.

“During your family dialogue, please include that it is everyone’s right to make the choice that is best for them and their families. The decision to wear or not wear a mask should not be criticized or questioned,” she wrote.


The 2022 Garden State Film Festival will take place in person from March 23-27 and in a virtual manner from March 28 through April 3.

According to a press release, the festival’s organizers have announced that Middletown high school student films to be be screened include:

• “A Fistful of Pasta,” directed by Middletown student Joseph Guzzone, Tyrone Shields and Tom Hernandez. The film’s premise it that two cowboys, Penne and his brother Tony Rigatoni, run into an unwelcome Staten-islander, Angel Hair. The film is a spoof of a spaghetti western.

• “Immersion,” directed by Middletown student Stephen. In the film, a teenager is playing video games when a power outage has an unexpected impact on his evening.

• “The Lighthouse-Italian Ice,” diredted by Middletown student Tyrone Shields, Joe Guzzone and Thomas Hernandez. In the film, two men must tend the lighthouse while it is closed for the winter season.

• “The Love That Remains,” directed by Middletown students Maura Collins and Darla Matches. Two people fall in love and watch their relationship unfold before them, but something is off.

• “Entropy,” directed by Middletown student Morgan Scasny. The film provides a look at how things fall apart.

• “Growing Up,” directed by Middletown students Maura Collins, Sophie Jackson, Sasha Harris and Abby Badrick. In the film, a girl reminisces about her childhood.

• “Mooby’s Popup 2021 Doc,” directed by Middletown student Sophia Haber Brock. A fictional fast food chain, first introduced in a controversial 1999 film, has crossed over into the real world at the Jersey Shore with some interesting patrons.

• “Submergent Music – A Guy Named Pete,” directed by Middletown students Maura Collins, Jay Fielding, Grace Wilson and Erika Ridgway. The film is a short documentary about a drummer and engineer named Pete.

• “Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash Re-opening,” directed by Middletown student Sophia Haber Brock. The film presents a visiting to the new Secret Stash comic book shop in Red Bank on its soft opening.

Screening times and ticket information can be found at


A Monmouth County grand jury has returned a two-count indictment against a former manager of a Hazlet automotive repair shop who is accused of stealing approximately $90,000 from his employer over 15 months, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced on Feb. 28.

Joshua Chisenhall, 39, is charged with second degree theft by deception and second degree computer theft, according to a press release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

A joint investigation by members of the Hazlet Police Department and the prosecutor’s office Financial Crimes Bureau determined that while Chisenhall was employed at AAMCO, Route 36 South, Hazlet, he would allegedly pocket cash payments for services and then falsify invoices, indicating the customers had instead made credit card payments.

The scheme allegedly resulted in tens of thousands of dollars of stolen funds collected from January 2020 to March 2021, according to the press release.

Chisenhall was criminally charged in October 2021 and now faces trial. If convicted of either charge against him, he would face up to 10 years in state prison, according to the press release.