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BOE: A President for a President

Former president Reilly announces candidacy as current President Vallerini bows out—Lenhard will retain seat.

As one school board president declined to seek another term, another stepped up.

Board member Michele Lenhard and former president Charles Reilly submitted candidacy petitions yesterday, district spokesperson Debra Anderson said. With only two candidates for the two available seats, Lenhard will retain her position, and Reilly will replace current President Joseph Vallerini.

Following a six-year term on the school board, Vallerini discussed his decision to leave in an e-mail to Ridgewood Patch.

"Now is the time for other qualified, talented, and thoughtful people to confront [issues] and to continue to sustain the exceptional quality of the Ridgewood Public Schools," Vallerini wrote. "I am proud of what has been achieved during my time on the board. It is time for me to move on."

In his statement, Vallerini said his board experience "has been incredibly positive, informative, and fulfilling. I will be always grateful for having been given the opportunity to be an advocate for our students, our parents, our teachers and our administrators."

A last minute applicant, Reilly decided to run over the weekend after learning of a vacancy.

"The district's going through difficult financial challenges, and I thought they may benefit from my experience," Reilly said. "A more immediate concern was that there wasn't too many people running."

Not only did Reilly serve the board from 1990 to 2005 and as its president, but Reilly was the New Jersey School Board Association's president, as well.

Unable to comment specifically on issues, Reilly wants to determine whether it's beneficial for the district to switch eligible teachers from traditional health insurance to a PPO plan. The district announced last week that insurance rates would increase 25 percent this year.

"There's going to be tough decisions. Obviously, we have to deliver a quality education with reasonable class sizes, but possibly parents will have to fund more co-circular activities," Reilly said.

The outgoing board president, Vallerini participated in the recent hiring of Superintendent Daniel Fishbein and the district's December success in passing a major renovation and construction plan through a bond referendum. He named those moves as two major accomplishments.

"The district has finally gotten a superintendent who has provided the stability that we sought for a few years," he said. "We succeeded in passing the bond referendum to expand and renovate our schools to bring them into the 21st century."

Vallerini is confident to turn over the reins, "It has been a great ride. Now it's someone else's turn."

Lenhard was not able to comment before publication. However, in her candidacy announcement earlier this month, the sitting school board member talked about her reelection bid.

"I would like to thank the residents of Ridgewood for electing me in April 2007 as a representative to the Ridgewood Board of Education," Lenhard said in a statement. "Three years of board service has given me a greater understanding of the complex issues that challenge us today."

With only two people running for the two available seats, Lenhard and Reilly's elections are most likely assured. It's the second consecutive uncontested election following Vice President Robert Hutton's reelection in 2009.

Residents will vote April 20 for the candidates and the budget. The term begins shortly thereafter, with a reorganization meeting to determine the new board president for the five-member body.

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