The Mountainside PTA sponsored a “Meet the Candidates” night at the Beechwood School, which allowed members of the public to pose questions to prospective Mountainside Board of Education candidates.
The election includes two separate races: one between incumbent Board of Education member Carolyn Williams and Jeane Parker for a one-year term, and a three-way race between Cathy Jakositz, Dante Gioia, and Maureen Hess to decide the two open three-year terms on the board. Candidates Williams, Parker, Jakositz, and Gioia were all present at the public meeting, while Hess was unable to attend.
Among the issues the Board of Education is dealing with is keeping all of its educational programs intact—including sports and clubs for the district’s children—all while staying within the confines of an already-tight budget that may force the district to switch to a “pay to play” option for sports and clubs, where parents would play for their child’s participation in extra-curricular activities.
When faced with the choice of doing away with sports or switching to a “pay to play” model, all candidates seemed to be in agreement that having sports and clubs under such a model is a better option than having none at all.
“To have well-balanced and well-rounded kids, they have to have some kind of outlet, or at least try to have it,” said Parker. “It’s essential to giving these kids a really well-rounded education.”
The district is also faced with the possibility of increased class sizes as a result of budget cuts, although class sizes have not approached an uncontrollable level as of yet.
“(The budget) does raise our class sizes a bit to maybe 25 kids in some of the classes, but it’s still a manageable class size,” said Williams.
The candidates all seem to recognize the current state of the economy, knowing that, like most school districts across the state, they have to make cuts in order to be fiscally responsible in today’s challenging climate. This was reflected in their unanimous support of the budget at Wednesday night’s meeting.
“No one wants to make cuts at all,” said Jakositz. “I want to add things to (the budget), but that’s not a luxury we have.”
“What choice do we have? That’s really the issue,” said Gioia. “This is reactionary; we’re doing the best we can with a horrible situation.”
To navigate the choppy financial waters of our times, an approach that is fair and open to the taxpayers of Mountainside township seems to be a policy that all candidates hope to abide by, if elected.
“I’m here to run for the Board of Education to re-balance fiscal responsibility for our children,” said Gioia. “(The Board needs) a fair, transparent fiscal policy.”
Added Jakositz, “I believe the board is only here for one purpose, our kids, and we can’t do that alone here. We are just a representative of what the people ask for, and then we have to disseminate that within the Board of Education to make proper decisions on how this community wants to go. That’s the thing that I see that I’d like to work the most on, and continue to work on creating a more open format.”
The Board of Education election will take place across Mountainside Township from 2-9 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27, which is the same day as the vote on the district’s 2011-12 budget. Voting locations are as follows: Mountainside Borough Hall, which is located at 1385 U.S. 22 East, Community Presbyterian Church of Mountainside, located at 1449 Deer Path, and Deerfield School, which resides at 302 Central Avenue.
For more information, visit the district’s website at http://www.mountainsideschools.org.