JACKSON – Township voters will be choosing four members of the Board of Education when they go to the polls on November 2.
Nine candidates are running for three available three-year terms and two residents are running for one available one-year term on the board.
Board of Education races are supposedly nonpartisan, so there’s no R or D after their name. Instead, candidates can include a short slogan if they wish. The following candidates are seeking a three-year term: Gus Acevedo (Gus for Us), Tzvi Herman, and Megan Gardella. There are three people running under a slate “Teamwork, Commitment, Excellence:” Tina M. Kas, Erica Osmond, and John Spalthoff. Running on the “Moms For Jackson” slate are Akxsi Keegan and Jessica Edwards while Giuseppe Palmeri is running under the banner of “Integrity, Accountability and Dedication.”
Those seeking the one-year term are Allison Barocas (“Teamwork, Commitment, Excellence”) and BonnieSue Rosenwald (Taxes, Curriculum, Spending).
Kas, Osmond, Spalthoff and Barocas are running together as the Jackson4BoE team and their website provided a synopsis of their experience and goals.
Kas said she has a strong accounting background. She has handled the finances for several non-profits in town and she and her husband own a multi franchise company throughout the tri-state area. Funding and finance are a major factor of the Board. She said she is always thinking outside of the box and looking at things from a different perspective. Questioning and listening are her key qualities.
Osmond has a doctorate in education. She said her roles in higher education have offered her experience with creative solutions to building and or maintaining programming during challenging fiscal years. She has experience with sharing/allocating resources to increase opportunity at minimal cost. Her knowledge of the education system is an asset to the board.
Spalthoff was appointed to the Board in February and has spent the past 24 years in education as both a teacher and administrator. He is very versed in the non-public area and its impact on our overall budget. He serves on all committees relating to the non-public responsibilities that “our district must meet while also working to make sure our current programs are maintained. This is an extremely important asset for our community. Our non-public responsibilities are growing exponentially, and we need someone knowledgeable to help navigate those matters.”
Barocas said she is proficient in analyzing and interpreting data. Her strength is in contract negotiations. The BOE needs someone to scrutinize its contracts and negotiate the best deals for our school system. She is a forward thinker and prefers to look for solutions rather than at the problem. Getting stuck on the problem is the problem. She will always be looking ahead instead of backward. Prioritizing the goals of the board is important to her.
Acevedo, who began his term in January 2019, is a retired teacher and has been a resident since 1959. He is a graduate of both the Switlik Elementary School and of the first graduating class of what is now the Jackson Memorial High School Class of 1966. He served the board for almost 20 years before taking a break and believes that as good as Jackson’s schools are, “we must continue to improve them for all students at all levels through the continued appropriate use of taxpayers’ dollars.”
Herman was elected to a one-year term on the Board on January 6. “I have had the privilege of serving on the board of education over the past year. I believe my unique skill set as a small business owner is a strong asset for the district as we continue to grapple with funding cuts and other financial difficulties. Finding common ground and bridging our differences will create a stronger Jackson school district to service the needs of all children.”
Palmeri said “I’m a husband and father of three school-age Jackson students. My passion and drive for running for the Jackson Board of Education stems from the desire to do everything in my power to provide our Jackson children with the best education and opportunities available. My career as a business leader has taught me some strong lessons, the first of which is teamwork and the importance of working with those around you. I will always conduct myself with the utmost integrity and keep Jackson residents’ best interest at heart and hope that the community will give me the chance to help develop our future generations.
Keegan who was born in Venezuela said “I moved to the United States in 1986. I currently hold a bachelor’s degree in business and have over 25-plus years’ experience in the legal field. I lived in Jackson from 1996 – 2005. I recently moved back to Jackson in 2014. I have two children in the district. I am a small business co-owner of Keegan Electric with my husband who is also the Jackson Commissioner and volunteer fire fighter. I would like the opportunity to be a voice not only for our students, but also parents and our community. Having diversity in the BOE is important. I know some parents do not speak the English language; others may be afraid to come forward, and I want to be able to facilitate in filling this gap.”
Edwards said she is a “working wife and mother of three children that attend school in the Jackson school district. I am an involved parent in my children’s life whether it’s academic or recreational. I am running for BOE to help support others like myself that want to keep Jackson supported in elements ranging from lack of funding for professional personnel to continuation of fine arts in addition to helping the community provide our children with the mental care and hands-on education that they need. As an operations manager to a growing laboratory, I know that I can provide and maintain the stability that Jackson needs with the knowledge of protocol and procedure implementation, disaster planning and prevention, team bonding, budget planning and health and safety education. I have a strong background in the qualities that I believe a helpful and reliable BOE candidate should have in order to represent our town.”
Rosenwald said, “I am the proud parent of two children who are the product of the public schools. They were provided with the tools that allowed them to reach the career goals they strove for. As a 12-year BOE member on two Boards of Education I was instrumental in guiding those school districts for all children. I am a “Certified Board Leader” and have been thoroughly trained on a state level. Part of my contributions was the responsibility for rewriting the Policy Manuals of these districts, the roadmap by which the school districts operate on a daily basis. I served on every committee, over time, in both districts as well. I have the ability and experience to develop budgets and have personally negotiated labor contracts and demanded meaningful, substantial and sustainable positive reform in light of decreasing state funding, demographic change, and additional unfunded mandates.”
Gardella said, “as a 40-year resident of Jackson, I was raised by Jackson educators, educated in the Jackson schools, and employed for 10 years as a Jackson School District school social worker. Currently, I am the mom of three wonderful daughters attending the Jackson schools and the owner of a local business where I am responsible for reading and assessing financial statements. Parents and community stakeholders need elected members who can effectively bridge the current communication gap and be held accountable to investigate and educate themselves concerning the pertinent issues.” She supports personal PPE and vaccination choice for all students, collaboration with neighboring townships to provide solutions to resident students in need of transportation outside the township, maintenance of appropriate teaching staff and class sizes, student trade-based and vocational training and continued development of the arts, clubs, leadership programs, sports and other activities.