BERKELEY – Funding, student opportunities, and diversity topped the topics of discussion as school board candidates spoke about what mattered to them.
The Central Regional Board of Education is made up of Berkeley, Island Heights, Seaside Heights, Seaside Park, and Ocean Gate. There are three, three-year terms on the ballot for Berkeley.
School board candidates are not allowed to put their political party; instead they use short slogans.
Incumbents Louis Tuminaro, Denise Pavone-Wilson and George Dohn are running under the slogan “Experienced, Honest, Dedicated.”
Donnie Clyburn, Carol Cousins, and Glenn Bradford are running under the slogan “Integrity and Values.”
Tuminaro has worked for the NJ Turnpike Authority for 24 years and is currently an equipment trainer/supervisor. He was on the local Berkeley Board of Education for nine years and the Central Regional Board for six. He has also been on the local Zoning Board.
Pavone-Wilson worked as a paraprofessional for Lacey Schools for 14 years and as a principal’s secretary in Seaside Heights for ten years. She was on the Berkeley Board for six years and Central’s for 21. She has also been involved in the Bayville School PTA as a president and vice president, and president of the Central Regional Football Club.
Dohn recently retired at the rank of Captain after 27 years as a police officer in town. He was on Central’s board for six years. He had lost in last year’s election but was appointed to fill the spot of someone who stepped down this year for personal issues. He’s also been the deputy coordinator of the Berkeley Office of Emergency Management, Chief of Pinewald Pioneer Volunteer Fire Company, life member of the Berkeley Emergency Response Team (Hazmat), member of the Knights of Columbus, and former president of the SOA and PBA.
The three candidates listed above chose to answer questions from this newspaper as a team.
“Over the last two-plus years during the COVID-19 pandemic that prompted forced school lockdowns, our students have suffered academically and socially. It has been our objective to get student learning back on track. The Board has implemented academic and social solutions to address our students’ issues. We have introduced double periods (80 minutes) of English and mathematics in the high school. We have hired several new Social Emotional Learning counselors to work directly with students suffering emotionally,” they said.
School safety is another concern. “Will all of the recent school tragedies across the nation, it is vital to make our school district safe for students. The Board recently hired two new school security officers in addition to the township police officers that are already employed during school hours. These highly qualified security officers will analyze the workings of the school campus and establish procedures that will thoroughly tighten security for the district. In addition, the Board approved security cameras, magnetic entry key cards for staff, and the installation of safety glass on doors and windows,” they said.
“Healthcare costs have increased 15% and prescription coverage has increased 7%, totaling 22% in one year,” they said. “The Board is considering ways to stabilize these increased costs such as an in-district healthcare facility and partnerships with other local school districts similar to what Toms River, Brick, and Long Branch School Districts have done. Such in-house medical facilities and partnerships help to substantially control healthcare costs and additionally save taxpayers money.”
When asked what new things they would like to do for their district, they said “As long-time Central Regional Board of Education members, we have continually brought forth innovative ideas to help fund the district without burdening the taxpayers. This year, we are considering the creation of an endowment fund similar to that of Princeton University where the endowments are invested and gains are used to fund the needs of the district. This could potentially help to make the district more self-sufficient and less reliant on taxpayer monies. Additionally, a successful endowment fund could help to lower taxes.
“The Board recognizes the importance of post-secondary education for our seniors but realizes that costs of colleges/universities are increasing…an endowment fund could help to also fund scholarships to help students’ finances for these institutions. Central Regional awards scholarships annually to students but we hope to grow this funding source this year.
“Several years ago, the Board created the Humanities Academy, a partnership with Georgian Court University, where students can earn up to 30 college credits prior to high school graduation. The Board has created the JROTC program for students that are interested in military service. In addition, the Digital Media Academy is an opportunity for students to earn college credits for those looking to pursue careers in photography, graphic design, media publication, TV production or marketing. We are considering the creation of additional academies that may concentrate on vocational academies,” they said.
Bradford has been a truck driver for 10 years. He formerly held an office in Lakewood as a Fire Commissioner for 3 years. “While I was there, I held the positions of Secretary as well as Vice President. I kept a surplus of $7 million.
“I was a part of the organization called S.T.E.P.S. (Solutions To Ending Poverty Soon), where we helped the homeless in ‘Tent City,’ as well as helped all get jobs, build up credit to rent or buy affordable homes,” he said.
“One of the biggest problems I see in the district is not enough diversity. Too many individuals are feeling excluded, and not included. As a BOE member, we need to be the first line of defense against exclusion, and not just say we embrace inclusion. But actively participating in it,” he said.
“What I bring to the BOE is a fresh outlook on why minorities are not having a good experience in this district. And find out why individuals who identify differently from others, are also not feeling like they matter, or their thoughts on what they need to help their whole school experience be a good, memorable one,” he said.
Cousins and Clyburn did not respond to this newspaper. Megan Bowens filed as a candidate and had no slogan. She withdrew from the race in the summer.
The Seaside Park representative on the Central Regional Board of Education was Tracy Mianulli for a number of years. She resigned this year because she moved out of town. She was replaced in May by Rita Kelly.
Mianulli’s term finishes out at the end of 2023. Therefore, Kelly is running to keep that seat until the end of next year. She is being challenged by former Seaside Park mayor Robert Matthies.
For the Seaside Park local board of education race, there are two, three-year terms available. There are also two candidates: Jasmin D. Grasso and Gary Yedman. These are both incumbents.
For the Seaside Heights local board of education race, there are two people running unopposed for two, three-year seats: Timothy Smith and James Boyd. Anthony Storino is running unopposed for a two-year seat.
For the Berkeley Board of Education, there are three, three-year terms. Michele Shedlock, James Coffey, and Megan Ornstein are running unopposed under the slogan “Bringing Berkeley Together.”
The Ocean Gate School Board election has one candidate for a three-year term, incumbent Aaron Gottesman.
For the Island Heights board of education, there are two people running unopposed for two, three-year terms: Robert MacNeal and Dana Weber.