Three newcomers to politics are looking to claim open seats on the Glen Rock Board of Education on Tuesday. James Chung, Sean Massaro and Liz Carr are asking for your votes on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Two incumbents, Barbara Steuert and Gene Calderon, are looking to retain their seats.
The polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
Given that the storm has knocked out power to the vast majority of borough residents, turnout could be lower than was initially expected.
Read more about the candidates below. They're listed in alphabetical order.
You could say Gene Calderon is a people person. A long-time professor and career counselor at Bergen Community College, the 11-year borough resident says he has both the communication skills and the dedication to help solve challenging local education issues.
"Working with people is a critical factor to being on the board," Calderon says. "My ability to listen to the opinion of others and communicate my own opinion is important to doing board work."
Calderon credited the board with strong fiscal planning but also said the group could stand to improve its communication with residents.
"An immediate goal is to hire the superintendent," he tells Patch. Interim Superintendent Raymond Albano has taken over since David Verducci retired at the end of the 2011-2012 school year. The board is currently interviewing candidates.
Calderon, at Candidate's Night, stressed that the next superintendent needs to mesh well with the entire education community as well as a "good leader."
"Talking leadership is one thing, setting an example of leadership is quite another," he said.
"Another pressing goal is to have a budget come in at zero percent again," he says. "Curriculum, especially in the area of world languages. is also important."
He's hoping residents take to the polls on Tuesday, despite the inclement conditions. It would be nice if they voted for him too, of course.
"Residents should vote for me because of my experience on the board and my ability to listen to and act on community concerns," Calderon says.
Liz Carr knows Glen Rock as well as the ins of education. The mother of two moved to town when she was 11-years-old. After marrying her husband Joe, she knew it was the place she wanted to raise a family.
With daughters, Sydney, a 7th grade student, and Jordan, a 5th grader at Central School, Carr says she knows the "it takes a village" approach is the core of education.
She's also attended nearly every school board meeting for about seven years, so she's familiar with the process.
The high school nurse is heavily active within the Glen Rock community. Carr is on several committees within the Central School HSA and has also served as the president of the volunteer ambulance corps, among other civic groups.
She has four specific things on her mind when it comes to school dealings – the budget, curriculum, finding a new school superintendent, and transparency.
Carr believes she has the chops to serve the town well.
"I have honed an ability to be a problem solver, bringing workable solutions to the table that also demonstrates out of the box thinking," she says. "Being a nurse has taught me how to listen and just as importantly, how to be proactive. I can also lend a voice to provide knowledge in a field that is being discussed with greater frequency in our schools especially regarding food safety."
The mother of two says she'd help allow the community get a better sense of the school system's inner workings if she's elected on Tuesday. As someone who works in a school district, she says she's uniquely qualified to offer inside insight.
"Being a part of my children’s elementary school community provides me with the insight that school is more than just our children, teachers and administrators, that need the support of parents," Carr says.
"We have a great community and so many active parents who contribute to their HSA and support various programs at the schools...Glen Rock is a community and that a school community that serves our children and adults and I want to play a bigger role in the school community which has led me to seek a position on the Board of Education."
Though he said he felt like the "least-qualified" candidate, James Chung told potential voters the Candidate's Night debate he would be ready to serve if called upon.
Chung, the director of a college counseling firm in Paramus, said the district needs a superintendent who can "handle" all aspects of the school system while also providing the "passion" needed to serve effectively.
One of the father of three's big campaign platforms is in trying to find ways to provide even greater opportunities to the high-achieving students.
"Our kids need more opportunities to be challenged," he said. "I want more AP classes, more rigorous American math competitions which could give more research opportunities."
His experience in college counseling would be beneficial on the board, he said. "Competition to get into college is getting scary," he remarked. "With my experience, I can help students to be prepared systematically and strategigically."
Chung also agreed with candidate Sean Massaro that a system needs to be in place to teach younger students to be respectful to limit bullying incidents.
"This is a big challenge for myself," he said. "I feel that I might be the least qualified candidate tonight, but if I am given an opportunity to serve our community, I will happily devote my time and effort," Chung said.
It's rare to see an 18-year-old want to sign up for something as exciting as a position on a local school board. But then again, Sean Massaro isn't your average candidate.
The longtime Glen Rock resident attended borough schools until high school, where he attended Bergen Tech in nearby Paramus. He ranks as an Eagle Scout, works as an EMT and is currently studying nursing at Caldwell College.
"I really think the board would benefit from a young voice," Massaro previously told Patch. "A lot of times students know there's a board of ed but don't know what they do. If I could interface with the younger population, that would be beneficial."
At Candidate's Night, Massaro strongly favored caps on pay for superintendents – citing the compensation David Verducci received for simply retiring – and said that if elected, he'll do what he can to make sure teachers aren't laid off. He said educators need to be in it for the students, not the money.
Massaro, who helped two men escape a burning building nearly a year ago, also suggested education on tolerance begin earlier.
"My big thing is start out right in kindergarten, because that middle school year is where bullying is going to take place," he said. "It's inevitable, because everyone's coming from different elementary schools, so by starting off at a young age and teaching that diversity is a blessing, and not a bad thing, you can really contribute to the anti-bullying programs that are taking place in society."
He may be 18, but Massaro isn't kidding about his candidacy, though it's been in doubt at various points since he first filed.
"A really big thing I want people to realize is that I'm not joking around - I'm serious, and if elected, I'm not going to be (just) 'that college student.' As an Eagle Scout I understand commitment and leadership, and I have good character, morals and values."
If you're looking for a candidate with experience, look no further. For more than two decades, Barbara Steuert has been on the Glen Rock Board of Education.
She has "extensive" experience in all areas of board operations and says the whole board should be commended for "dilligently" working to bring down the rate of tax increases of the last decade, culminating in a zero percent increase to the general fund levey in 2012-2013.
Opportunities and offerings increased for students and staff, she says.
"This has been a result of long term efforts including the difficult decision to outsource certain district personnel, resulting in a $1 million yearly savings; implementation of solar energy programs and building automation systems; contract settlements reflecting current economic conditions; implementation of activity fees; special services working hard to reduce out of district placements; and a whole-board emphasis on doing more with less."
There is some room to criticize the board, she says.
"We constantly struggle with the tendency to micromanage, a common board pitfall. The role of the board is not to run the schools, but to see that they are well run. An NJSBA (New Jersey School Boards Association) rule of thumb: if it is in someone’s job description, the board should not be making the decision."
Like other candidates, Steuert says getting an "excellent" superintendent is a top priority.
She also hopes the board can continue to "offer more for our students and produce a 2013-2014 budget with the lowest responsible tax call possible."
"Vote for me because in these times of financial constraints and seemingly endless state mandates, experience, historical knowledge, and consistency on the board become even more important," Steuert said in her pitch to voters. "As one of the longest serving members, I bring a proven commitment, valuable perspective, financial background, and historical knowledge to the board."