UNION, NJ — Last year when seven candidates threw their hat in the ring with the hope of winning one of the seats on the board of education, it was heralded as an unprecedented number. Flash forward and that record took a hit this year when 13 candidates submitted petitions to run for the three open seats and one unexpired one-year term.
According to Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi, the 13 candidates submitting the petitions by the July 27 deadline included the three incumbent school board members David Arminio, Thomas Layden and Guy Frances, in addition to Steven Le, Jeffrey Monge, Giuliano Farina, Samuel Wright Jr., Sharnette Clarke, James Louis, Carl Cole Sr., Maria Sanagustin, Nancy Minneci and Mary Lynn Williams.
Le and Farina submitted their petitions for the one-year unexpired term, while the remainder applied for one of the three-year terms up for grabs.
Le, who was appointed to fill an unexpired seat for four months last year and went on to run unsuccessfully for a three-year seat in the November election, was one of the candidates recently interviewed by a school board ad hoc committee that will be selecting a candidate to fill the unexpired term of Richard Galante, who resigned abruptly in June.
Although Galante’s term does not expire until the end of 2016, the board is only legally permitted to select a candidate to fill the vacated seat until the end of the year. The remainder of the term is then put on the November ballot for voters to decide who they would like to see fill the seat.
Also interviewed for this seat was Monge, a candidate in the 2014 election who dropped out, and Farina, who ran unsuccessfully to fill the unexpired term of former Democrat assemblyman Joe Cryan. The remaining candidates are unknown at this time.
Much has changed on the Union Board of Education since 2014. For one, since the last election two new board members took their seats and Arminio was moved into the president’s seat.
Immediately after these changes took place, there was concerted effort on the part of the board to be more transparent with the public. This was evident most recently when Arminio decided to hold public interviews for the candidates interested in filling a portion of Galante’s unexpired term.
Previously all candidate interviews involving unexpired terms were held behind closed doors.
However, Arminio told LocalSource several weeks ago that after mulling all the possibilities, there were only positives for holding the interviews in a public forum, pointing out that while it had never been done before, there was no reason to shut the public
out of this process. It was, he explained, a choice to be more transparent.
The ad hoc committee is expected to present the candidate they felt was best suited for the seat to the full board on Aug. 11. In turn, the board will vote on the measure and the candidate then will take the seat as a full board member until the end of the year.
Monday when Arminio was asked about the unprecedented number of candidates interested in serving on the board, he admitted he was more than pleased, but had some reservations.
“If each of the candidates are running for the right reasons for the three available seats, which is the betterment of our district and for the kids, then it is a wonderful thing,” he said.
He did not, though, focus on those who may not be running for the right reasons. Instead, he preferred to see this interest as a turning point for the board and school district.
“To have so many individuals interested in the education of our young people is admirable and can only mean that we are going in the right direction,” Arminio added, wishing all the candidates good luck.
The school board president also praised the school superintendent for working closely with the board.
“Under the leadership of School Superintendent Greg Tatum the school board has made some important changes that will make our school district stronger,” Arminio stressed, adding “I know the town’s old motto still holds true: What helps youth helps Union.”