Voters on election night declined to give Ridgewood BOE member his wish to hammer out a new teacher contract, opting instead to elect opponent Jim Morgan to serve a one-year term on the Ridgewood Board of Education. Incumbent bested contender , winning a three-year seat by roughly 400 votes.
The newcomer and former president of the Ridgewood Education Foundation gained 1362 votes, edging out Hutton, who claimed 1135 in a hotly contested, sometimes contentious race.
A retired CFO, the high school neighbor campaigned largely opening up the board to greater transparency, a more "critical" look at budgets and a promise to ask the tough questions. Morgan , and fared well in his home turf, scoring 215 votes to Hutton's 104 in the RHS districts. He also won B.F.'s districts convincingly, with about 80 more votes than his opponent.
"I'm looking forward to it," Morgan said of serving a one-year term. "I'm looking forward to what I wanted to do for a long time, to bring openness and transparency to the board."
He continued: "We're servants of the people, representatives of the people. I'm looking forward to representing all elements of the community, not just the ones who voted for me – I want to reach out to the ones who didn't vote for me as well. The board members represent everybody in the village, not just one side."
His opponent, Hutton, a nine-year incumbent, ran a campaign largely centered around settling a new contract with teachers.
Neogiations with the Ridgewood Education Association (REA), which began 18 months ago, . The teachers rallied at a recent school board election, claiming the negotiating process has been "disrespectful" and not done in good faith.
Hutton disagreed with the teachers' characterization but hasn't shied away from pointing out that salaries and benefits account for 55 percent of the budget. Given the restrictions in raising taxes above 2 percent annually, reaching an equitable agreement with teachers is crucial, he has stated.
Hutton left the before he could be reached for comment.
The other school board race, which pitted retired CFO Vince Loncto against education attorney Gina Damasco, drew much less public attention.
Loncto, who was after the sudden resignation of Charlie Reilly, campaigned by saying his background in finance would be an asset to the board and taxpayers. Voters apparently thought so too. With 1395 votes, Loncto was the highest vote-getter Tuesday night.
"I just want to thank my supporters and prove worthy of the trust they put in me to maintain the excellence of the Ridgewood schools," Loncto said, adding he was pleased the budget passed.
The retired CFO in interviews and at candidate forums frequently cited statistics he says can lead to no other conclusion than Ridgewood schools being top notch.
But, he added, efforts need to be taken to bring the taxes down without adversely impacting students' educational opportunities. Loncto also expressed hope a director of technology could be hired to help quarterback efforts to advance the district's tech savvy.
Damasco, an RHS graduate employed as an attorney at the Department of Education (DOE), had hoped her skill set would catapult her to victory. The attorney has spent time analyzing construction contracts, teacher contracts, worked in mediation and has professional experience with special education matters.
"I'm actually really grateful 952 people voted for me, which is amazing," Damasco said Tuesday night. "I really wasn't known, I wasn't an incumbent and I'm amazed and grateful for that [level of voter turnout]. I looked at this as an opportunity to just volunteer."
[Editor's note: When absentee ballots were factored in later, Damasco was found to have received 984 votes.]
Loncto and Morgan will be sworn in when the school board reorganizes on Monday, April 23. The board will determine committees – including who will presumably join Sheila Brogan to negotiate the teacher contract – at the reorganization meeting.
The by roughly 400 votes.
This article was last updated at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday to include the most recent vote tallies.