JACKSON – Voters had to decide between three candidates for only two spots on the Board of Education.
Their decision saw a big victory for challenger Megan Gardella who picked up 10,903 votes representing 44.55% of the vote. She ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the board last year but this time around she won.
Incumbent Board member Allison Barocas of Victoria Circle will retain her seat on the Board with 7,498 votes representing 30.63% of the vote. Barocas won election last fall filling an unexpired term.
Incumbent Board member John Spalthoff of Ruby Court received 5,865 votes in this election. He was appointed to fill an unexpired term early last year and lost in last fall’s election. He was unseated by Gardella’s win.
Gardella told The Jackson Times that she ran for a Board seat again because “I have a stake in the Jackson educational system. I am not only a taxpayer; I am a parent of three school-age children. In my opinion students are the main focus.”
She said the Board’s deep cuts in state aid funding has “put pressure on district administration to evaluate ways in which to balance a smaller budget with required spending, all while hoping to maintain the superior programs for which Jackson is touted.
“Schools are one of the backbones of any community, therefore difficult discussions need to be had regarding current and projected student enrollment, population and programming needs for the current demographics, along with a review of building usage and possible redistricting,” she added.
Gardella said, “the challenges ahead will focus on the balance of funds to programs. The state requires that all school districts fund special education services, transportation, along with auxiliary and remedial services for students who attend non-public schools in town.”
“As a trained social worker, a former Jackson School District child study team member, a mother and a business owner whose main position is to scrutinize spending and budgeting, I believe I bring a perspective that is well-rounded,” Gardella added.
Gardella is a lifelong resident of Jackson. “I attended Jackson Schools, and was a former district employee for 10 years before resigning to be with my family seven years ago. I have three daughters. One is at each Jackson school level: high school, middle school, and elementary.”
Barocas joined the Jackson Board of Education in January.
She told The Jackson Times, she is also concerned about the diminished stated aid funding. “Until the school funding formula is fixed, the board along with the administration can look to cut costs efficiently without it directly affecting the education and experience for our students.
“The budget was balanced, curriculum wasn’t cut, routes were bid on, and the district saved money. Our administration has been working with local legislators and other districts, who are also feeling the cuts from the state, to draft a bill that would help remedy the financial burden on the public-school budgets,” Barocas added.
Barocas has more than 20 years of expertise as an analyst and negotiator in the pharmaceutical industry. “My volunteer activities included coaching Flag Cheer and Peanuts Soccer. I was an HC Johnson PTO board member for two years and ran the Adopt an 8th Grader 2020 Facebook page during the pandemic to ensure our kids received the same celebrations and recognition as if they were in school that year.”