WARETOWN – The Township of Ocean’s first school board meeting took an unusual twist with the appointment of a member to replace the winning candidate in the November election.
Despite making a desperate plea for voters to ignore her name on the ballot, Marie Leaming defeated incumbent Daniel Eberenz by a nearly 17 percent margin. Leaming got 1,621 votes compared to Eberenz who got 1,143 votes.
Leaming, who worked for the school district for 29 years, retired last July after escaping layoffs in the previous year. Subsequent to registering as a board of education candidate, Leaming learned that her volunteer position as a board member could jeopardize her public pension.
“I was told that I needed to wait 180 days until September 1st before I could even consider a volunteer position,” Leaming said. “I thought I did my due diligence before I put my name in. Even though I actually started retirement as of July 1st, the pension people told me the 180 days ran from September 1st.”
Ballots were already printed when Leaming attempted to withdraw her name. When the returns came in naming her as the winner, the long-time district staff member declined to take a seat on the school board.
Eberenz was the only one to apply for the vacated seat and will serve the board for one additional year. Next year’s ballot will include a two-year seat, as well as two, three-year positions that will open up when Board President Dr. Shawn Denning and Kelly Zuzic’s terms expire.
“I’m thinking about what I want to do next year,” said Leaming. “I really hoped to be on this year as there are important things coming up.”
Among the items of particular importance includes the selection of a new superintendent. Dr. Chris Lommerin announced his plans to retire this year, which many see as a cost savings for a district buckling down financially.
Denning said that 13-14 people submitted applications in response to the district’s outreach looking for someone to take the lead next year.
“We are just going through the resumes and plan to start conducting interviews,” Denning shared. “Our plan is to combine the superintendent role with a principal position.”
Ocean Township Schools currently has a principal in both the Priff School and Waretown Elementary School. Although Denning did not identify which of the principals has applied for the hybrid role, the board president said one of the two expressed interest in the position.
Board members plan to hold a special meeting in executive session to conduct the interviews and make a determination as soon as possible.
Denning also attempted to clear up confusion regarding the new supplemental school taxes that were passed by referendum in November.
“When people get their next tax bill, the two increments they’re getting are going to spread over four quarters,” said Denning. “It won’t be over two quarters.”