Three new Weehawken Board of Education members will soon be voted in, possibly along with the district’s $23.6 million dollar proposed budget. The nine members of the board serve three-year terms on a rotating basis. Of the five candidates running, two are incumbent.
Once the new members are elected, the role of president and vice president will be determined when the board nominates and votes for them during a reorganization meeting held on April 26.
Residents will have the opportunity to vote on Tuesday, April 17, from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Richard Barsa Current Board of Education President, Barsa has served on the board for 22 years. When he was first appointed, he said, the school district was failing to the extent that it was about to be taken over by the state.
“We’ve accomplished bringing it from the verge of state takeover to one of the top school districts in New Jersey,” he said. Barsa explained that his main reasons for running again are to keep the taxes stable, and to provide resident children with the highest level of education possible.
“With budget cuts and limited revenue, I hope to continue to keep all programs intact and to offer and update state-of-the-art educational opportunities in this ever-changing world of technology,” he added.
Barsa is himself a Weehawken graduate, as is his son, and he has lived in the town most of his life. He worked on Wall Street in upper management for ITT Corporation in the budget department for more than half his 30-year career, and is the current finance director for the township. He is an Elk and serves on the planning board.
“I feel working with Mayor [Richard] Turner and the Township Council, the Board of Education, and the staff in the district enabled us to turn the district around to the highest standards and provide an excellent education for the residents’ tax dollars,” Barsa said.
Joseph Rutigliano Having served on the board for 27 years and lived in the town for 35, Rutigliano feels he has a working knowledge of and significant experience to offer to the district, should he be re-elected.
“I am very proud of our successes as one of the top districts in the state, as well as one of the top Hudson County urban cities in terms of student achievement,” Rutigliano said. “At the same time, we’ve managed to keep costs under control, and as a taxpayer and former educator, I feel these two go hand in hand.”
Rutigliano is retired, but serves on the Hudson County School Development Plan Committee and has been the Hudson County School Board president for two terms. He worked as a fiscal monitor in Paterson where he surveyed and controlled state finances, taught and served as a school administrator in Hoboken for 36 years, and was the director of programs and education at the Hoboken YMCA for 12 years.
“I plan to continue to work to get the most we can from the little we get,” Rutigliano said. He referenced the inevitability of further reduced state funding next year, “which is a challenge in itself,” he said. “Being retired makes me more available to maintain a dialogue with the superintendent as to how to best serve the community, which includes both the children and the taxpayer.”
The new candidates
Ildefonso Acosta After he was born and raised in Puerto Rico where he obtained a science degree, Acosta moved to New York City and then to Weehawken in 2004 with his wife and two children.
“As a parent with children in the school system, I plan to reach out to fellow parents and encourage them to get involved,” Acosta said. “It is essential our school system provide children with the necessary education and skills that enable each child to pursue any professional goal they desire.”
Acosta has spent the past 17 years as an environmental scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency. When not working, he is a volunteer coach for the Weehawken Babe Ruth League and donates his time by getting involved with school activities such as breakfast with Santa, movie night, and book fairs.
“I would bring a lot of experience collaborating with public and private stakeholders, managing budgets, and a lot of energy and enthusiasm to work with the other board members to do everything possible to maintain and improve the quality education provided in Weehawken’s school system,” Acosta said.
Gabrielle Jonas With a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Chicago and a master’s of science in journalism from Columbia University, Jonas comes from a family of educators and is state certified to teach English. She taught eighth grade as a student teacher at Weehawken High School and went on to teach at High Tech High in North Bergen until she left to raise her twins.
“As a school board member,” she said, “I would continue to ask relevant questions, as I’ve noticed that this school board tends to vote after very little discussion.” Jonas is an active member of the PTPA at Daniel Webster School and the PTA at Roosevelt, and an avid district volunteer. She has also attended many board meetings.
“Although minimal discussion does speed meetings along, there should be more give and take of perspectives on issues before they are voted upon, and I will not be shy about making that happen,” she said. “At the same time, I also look forward to being part of the team of superintendent and board members that have made such impressive advancements in our township’s educational system thus far.”
Greg Moran Originally from Australia, Moran has lived in the states for 20 years, and in Weehawken with his wife and two children for six. He wishes to run for the board because of his love for the Weehawken school system, but also because he feels the board “needs more of a parental voice,” he said.
Moran has volunteered at various school functions, helped coach his daughter’s softball team and his son’s soccer team, and volunteered for this past season’s recreational soccer program.
“Parent participation is an incredibly important factor in children’s well being and success, and education is the foundation of their lives,” he said. “It would be great to see more parents attending monthly meetings, asking questions, and engaging in the issues that lead to policy making and keeping the board on track with regard to accountability.”
Moran is currently the Director of Operations for Christian Action Asia, a charity that saves children’s lives on the Tibetan Plateau. He has extensive large operation management experience and has managed budgets over $20 million.
“I would like to build stronger relationships with colleges for our students, to understand how best to prepare them and have them accepted at competitive colleges,” he said. “My working life has given me the skills to provide a real contribution to the board’s operations and budgeting issues.”
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org