METUCHEN – The November ballot will see five candidates, including three incumbents. They are running for the three, three-year seats available on the Metuchen Board of Education.
Incumbents Alicia Sneddon Killean, Jonathan Lifton and Eric Suss will face newcomers Michael Cummings and John “Jack” Hand.
Lifton is seeking his fifth term and Killean and Suss are seeking their third terms. They are running on the Excellence for Metuchen ticket.
Cummings and Hand are running on the Parents’ Rights, Excellence ticket.
The Criterion Sentinel sent out an election questionnaire for candidates to fill out. Below are the candidates who responded in alphabetical order.
Cummings, 56, has lived in Metuchen for 17 years. He is married with two children, ages 16 and 13.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Carolina and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Kean University.
Profession: High school principal at Elizabeth High School Frank J. Cicarell Academy.
In the community: Coached softball and baseball, served on the board of the Metuchen Municipal Pool Swim Team and board of Boy Scouts Troop 14.
Why are you running for a seat for BOE? I’m running for board to provide more opportunities for more students to take an accelerated curriculum including Algebra I for all eighth grade students and more Advanced Placement (AP) opportunities for college bound high school students. In addition, I would like to see an AP Capstone program at Metuchen High School. I’m a proponent of parents’ rights and concerned about the board’s recent willingness to embrace highly divisive political issues without willingness to gather input from parents. As students grow and develop, school should be a place where students learn how to think, not what to think.
What is one area you would like to concentrate on if elected? I would like to be part of a curriculum committee that seeks to expand opportunities for students to take honors level and AP courses. Gifted and talented (G&T) should be a tide to lift all ships meeting the needs of G&T students while deepening professional learning for staff. Ideally G&T should help schools develop and expand best practices.
Hand, 48, moved to Metuchen for its “wonderful schools and teachers” a little over 13 years ago. He has a daughter, who is a freshman at Metuchen High School and a son, who is in sixth grade at Edgar Middle School.
Education: Business degree from The College of New Jersey, formerly Trenton State College. I also minored in art and took many computer science classes, which eventually led me to what I do today.
Profession: I am a software engineer for the video streaming service Tubi. I have a very analytical mind, so my job fits me perfectly. I would like to use my logical thinking (if elected) to help improve things at the Metuchen schools.
In the community: I have volunteered for a number of activities in Metuchen that also involve my kids. I coached soccer for a few years. I participated in Spring Extravaganza when my children were in Campbell/Moss. I was my son’s den leader in cub scouts. I helped organize the daddy/daughter snow tubing trip with a few other dads, which was originally started by another member of the community. Lastly, I have volunteered my time with the organization Metuchen Gives Back making sandwiches, picking up and delivering backpacks to those in need, etc.
Why are you running for a seat for BOE? The last few years have been hard for our children who have had to socially isolate, be masked, and have their educations and test scores suffer. In the beginning we were acting on the premise that it is better to be safe rather than sorry, but by last spring when the superintendent ordered our children to wear masks again, we knew better. We need members of the BOE who will advocate for our children on this and other matters. COVID is behind us, but there are still some who wish for everyone to follow the strictest of precautions.
What is one area you would like to concentrate on if elected? A loving parent is the person most interested in his/her child’s future, so I would like to be the board representative to ensure the parent is considered not just one of many voices, but the most important voice to achieve the very best education for the child. A parent also has a right to raise his/her child the way he/she wishes, so I would like to see the school be more apolitical and concentrate more on academics. Finally, parents are taxpayers, and I would like to be frugal rather than relying on the concept that more money always equals “better.”
Killean, 46, grew up in Metuchen, moved away for a short time after college and returned once she got married. She has three kids – seventh grade, fifth grade and third grade.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from the University of Dayton, master’s degree in education from Rutgers University.
Profession: Supervisor of math and science in the Holmdel Township Public Schools.
In the community: I’m involved in many school and community events, either through activities for my kids or as the chair of the Recreation Commission. I also teach CCD at St. Francis.
Why are you running for a seat for BOE? I am a proud product of Metuchen Public Schools, my mom was a teacher in Metuchen for a long time, and now all three of my children are in the Metuchen school system. Having a full-time career in education myself, I have a deep respect for and dedication to school communities. I am appreciative of all that I gained from my experience as a student in the Metuchen schools and am committed to ensuring that we continue to deliver that same level of excellence in education for our students for years to come.
What is one area you would like to concentrate on if elected? I’d like to focus on getting back to the basics of education. The past few years have been a whirlwind for students, staff, and families. Returning to an academic focus and providing opportunities for students to be well-rounded global citizens, critical thinkers, and problem solvers is something that every district should be striving for right now, and Metuchen is no different. We have a tremendous amount of talent in our schools guiding our children and finding ways to support their needs so that they can help our children grow is very important to me.
Lifton, 54, has lived in Metuchen for 23 years. He is married and has four children ages 23, 21, 17, and 14.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor.
Profession: Owner of L.B. Electric Supply Co. Inc. in Brooklyn, N.Y.
In the community: I have been on the BOE for 12 and a half years, four and a half years as president. I am currently vice president of the board. In addition, I am a member of the Metuchen Planning Board. I am also a former coach of Metuchen Little League.
Why are you running for a seat for BOE? It has truly been the honor of my life to have served my neighbors and friends as a member of the BOE for the last 12 years. We have gone through many challenges as a district over that time, but the board has never compromised its longstanding commitment to teaching the “whole child” and to continuously improve our performance for the children of the borough. The district will continue to have challenges, including a potential large construction project and managing tight budgets in a high inflation environment, but I hope to be part of a BOE that continues to fulfill our commitments to the students and residents of Metuchen.
What is one area you would like to concentrate on if elected? As a construction industry professional and the chair of the Referendum Committee, I would be in a unique position to help the district execute the referendum plans efficiently and effectively should they be approved by the public. In addition, with our teachers’ contract expiring at the end of this school year, I hope to bring my experience as chair of our Negotiating Committee for the last four teacher contract negotiations to the discussions and to help continue the Metuchen tradition of respectful and positive relationships with our teachers and their leadership.
Suss, 57, has lived in Metuchen for 31 years. He is married and has two daughters.
Education: Master’s degree in computer science from Stanford University, bachelor’s degree in computer science from Cornell University.
Profession: Software Engineer
In the community: In addition to being on the BOE, I currently help support a number of local groups. In the past, I have also coached rec league sports including softball and soccer.
Why are you running for a seat for BOE? Long before I was elected to the BOE, I had been involved with the schools. As a parent, I have experienced the schools from first grade through high school. The schools have been great to my family, and I have enjoyed giving back to them. Unfortunately, much of my second term was spent reacting to the pandemic and I feel like I have unfinished business including improving the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) experience, maximizing our investment in technology, raising the bar for all students, and providing the best physical environment for our children in a fiscally responsible manner. With respect to the latter, I have been involved with the upcoming referendum from the beginning and I would like to see it through to implementation.
What is one area you would like to concentrate on if elected? It is hard to pick just one area. I would like to improve the STEM experience at all student levels and grades, provide the best physical environment for our children to learn and grow in a fiscally responsible manner (see the upcoming referendum), increase the transparency of district operations and provide more opportunities for parent involvement, maximize our investment in technology to improve the educational experience of all our children, continue to raise the bar for all students and ensure that they are constantly challenged, and ensure that on a day-to-day basis our schools continue to operate in a fiscally responsible manner.
Polls open from 6-8 p.m. on Nov. 8.