School board candidates square off in upcoming election

UNION COUNTY — In addition to state, county and local municipal elections, Tuesday, Nov. 8, will also see Board of Education candidates square off and seek votes. Although many of the candidates have catchy slogans, in much the same manner as their cohorts on municipal councils and committees, the key element missing for BOE candidates is party affiliation.

Berkeley Heights

President Michael D’Aquila is not running for reelection, although Vice President Angela Penna and incumbent Sai Bhargavi Akiri, whose slogan is “Building the Future,” are among those running to fill three open seats, each a three-year term. Challenging them are Gale D. Bradford, whose slogan is “Commitment to Community”; Douglas Grober; Neil D. Hemann; Ayana Joseph, whose slogan is “Students Teachers Community”; Dipti Khanna, whose slogan is “Academics & Accountability”; and Natasha Pogrebinsky Joly, whose slogan is “Education First!” Sarah Achenbach, Jodi Cear, Todd A. Najarian, Margit Erika Pedraza and Herbert Waddell have withdrawn from the race.


Board of Education Vice President Thomas Lewis and member Lorraine J. Aklonis, running under the slogan “Experience-Knowledge-Empathy,” and newcomer Kristen Hickman, whose slogan is “Education Is Key,” are running unopposed for the three open seats with three-year terms.


Nicole Sherrin Kessler is not seeking reelection, leaving Brett Dreyer and Patrick Lynch as the only current members seeking another three-year term. They are challenged by
Thomas Grasso, whose slogan is “Academics Safety Modernization”; Francis N. Riccio III; and Susan Shaw for the three open seats. There is a vacant seat with a term that expires December 2024, and Christine Bradley; Brian Lopez, whose slogan is “Stop the Wokeness”; and Jessica Soltys are running for it. Brian T. McCarthy withdrew from the race.


Incumbents Stanley Neron and Diane Barbosa, and newcomer Isaias Rivera, all campaigning under the slogan “Moving Education Forward,” are running unopposed for three open seats with three-year terms.


Fanwood has two seats with three-year terms on the Scotch Plains–Fanwood Board of Education, one of which is open. Incumbent Amy Winkler is running against challenger Gary Morris.


Maureen “Mo” Crawford and Linda Koenig are running unopposed for two of the three open seats, each with three-year terms.


Incumbents Vice President Laquana Best, Donald Howard Jr. and Pinchas Shapiro, whose slogan is “Children First Team,” are running for three open three-year terms against Oluwashola “Shola” Adedeji, Al-Nisa S. Tucker and Derek J. Vertreese, whose collective slogan is “Building Better Schools.”


Running unopposed for three three-year terms are incumbents Robert Beiner, whose slogan is “Expect Education Excellence,” and Anthony Laudati, and challenger John Ferreira, whose slogan is “Putting Kids First!” Incumbent Mark Jankiewicz withdrew.


Brianna M. Armstead, Dayanara Rosado Quezada and Sasquia Carrillo, whose collective slogan is “Putting Children First,” are running unopposed for three three-year terms.


Incumbents William “Bill” Dillon and Carmine Venes and challenger Michael Goodwin are running unopposed for three three-year terms. President James Ruban Jr. is not running for reelection.

New Providence

Incumbents Bernadette C. Cuccaro and Joseph F. Walsh, whose collective slogan is “Proven Leadership,” are running for two three-year terms against challengers Kristen Empson-Hayden, whose slogan is “Growth. Respect. Community,” and Brian R. Gardner, whose slogan is “Education, for All.”


Lynn Anderson-Person, Carmencita Pile and Shatera Smith, whose collective slogan is “Bridging the Gap,” are running against Azim A. Gray, Willie Hembree and Shonté Smith, whose collective slogan is “Empowerment Through Education,” for three three-year terms.


Incumbent Laura Giacobbe and challengers Joe Toma and Timothy Antisz, whose collective slogan is “Rahway’s Children First,” are running unopposed for three three-year terms.


Member Angela Alvey-Wimbush and President Courtney A. Washington, and challenger Leslie Ann Woody, whose slogan collective is “Moving Children Forward,” are running against Shondelle C. Wills-Bryce, whose slogan is “Our Children Matter”; and Georgette Bradshaw, Johnathan Frazer and Stephanie Falana, whose slogan is “Roselle’s Children First,” for three three-year terms.

Roselle Park

Incumbent Michael-Ann Regan is running for one of the three three-year terms against challengers Lucy Figueiredo, whose slogan is “Imagine Believe Achieve”; Cindi Mago, whose slogan is “Voice for Parents”; Jennifer Makar, whose slogan is “Common Sense Wins”; Chris Monroe; Paula Ramos-Santiago; and Vruttesha Vyas. Ursima Edwina Calenicoff, whose slogan is “Yes We Can”; President Loren Harms, whose slogan is “For the Children”; and Christopher Shoemaker, whose slogan is “Academic Excellence Today” are running for the two two-year unexpired terms.

Scotch Plains

There are seven seats with three-year terms on the Scotch Plains–Fanwood Board of Education, two of which are open. Incumbents Nancy Norris Bauer and Stephanie Suriani are running against challenger John Greenblatt.


Incumbents Meredith E. Murphy and Hilary Turnbull are running against challengers Jerome “Jerry” Fernandez; Karen Paschkes, whose slogan is “Excellence in Education”; Omar Shanawani; and Adriana C. Silva, whose slogan is “Education.Family.Community”; for three three-year terms.


President Mary Lynn Williams, Vice President Nancy Minneci and challenger Dicxiana Carbonell, whose collective slogan is “Experience and Results,” are running for three three-year terms against April Y. Carter, Deysi Viviana Fajardo, Guy A. Francis, Ronnie McDowell and Grisel Morales. Kevin Costello, Jeffrey P. East, Stefan J. Erwin, James Louis, Greg Nasta, Rafael V. Prisco, Jay Spinelli and Wesley Woodford have withdrawn from the race.


Incumbent Thomas W. Byrne is running unopposed for one of the three three-year terms.