SADDLE BROOK, N.J. — Five candidates vying for three seats on the Saddle Brook Board of Education seemed to agree on one point at a recent candidates night: the need for a great person to head up the district.
Current Interim Schools Supt. Anthony Riscica took the reins as of this school year.
But, before him, the position turned over twice since 2010.
Incumbents David Gierek and Michael Accomando are running, along with Angela Robinson, who has served on the board in the past.
Also in the field of candidates are Tim White, son of Mayor Robert White, and Joseph Zottarelli, husband of current board president Sylvia Zottarelli.
The forum, moderated by Barbara King of the League of Women Voters last week, centered around a few themes in the district, which has some 1,700 students.
Other items on candidates' priority lists included: budgets that yield a quality education while respecting the pocketbooks of taxpayers; the lunch program; and district morale and reputation.
The forum, which was filmed by Saddle Brook TV, can be viewed in its entirety HERE .
- TIM WHITE , Sixth-grade math teacher, Bloomfield School District
“We need to be raising the overall morale of the students, staff, parents, and community in general. A lot of people think that Saddle Brook is a really crummy school district, which is very unfortunate because some of the smartest people I know are Saddle Brook graduates. Some of the most talented people I know, in a variety of different ways, are Saddle Brook graduates.
“People on the outside looking in are actually laughing at us and they think that it’s a joke, which is horrible because it’s not. We have good kids. We have smart kids. We have good people. We have smart, loving parents.
“So we need to make this school district better and we need a superintendent in order to do that.”
- JOSEPH ZOTTARELLI, Former maintenance supervisor, U.S. Postal Service; Retired, Verizon
“One of my priorities, if I’m elected, will be to straighten out the lunch program because there’s a lot of problems with the company that is handling it.
“Most of the kids who are going to lunch are throwing their lunches away because the food is terrible. The company they hired was outrageous. They’ve got the same company for two years now. Last year they were terrible and this year they’re terrible. The food is disgusting. The kids won’t eat it. … So they need to do something to improve the lunch program for the kids.”
- DAVID GIEREK , Incumbent; Teacher, Garfield Recreation Department
“We hold teachers and staff accountable. What does it look like when a board member goes on social media and starts complaining about the school district? If a teacher did it, they would be suspended. People would want their head.
“So I just feel it’s a bad practice altogether and there’s nothing good that’s going to come out of it. I would reach out to the superintendent. There’s a chain of command. That’s the role of a board member.”
- MICHAEL ACCOMANDO , Incumbent; Custodian, Lodi School District
“We need to implement more effective bullying prevention efforts. We’ve revamped our curriculums. We’ve increased our scores, but none of it will matter if we have children who do not feel completely safe.”
“I think in a superintendent we should have exactly what we have now in Mr. Riscica. He’s awesome. He’s approachable. He’s transparent unlike the guy they wanted to bring in before him who, unfortunately, had a criminal record that some people wanted to accept. I think we need to stick with someone who’s here for the kids and the right reasons.”
- ANGELA ROBINSON , Learning consultant, Child Study Team
“I decided to run for the board of education again due to concerns of the superintendent turnover this past year and the desire to continue the progress that was started with our past two superintendents and to restore pride and stability to Saddle Brook. I love Saddle Brook and I want the best for our residents and for our students.”
“Our budgets have to provide the best education that we can afford and we need to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers. I have experience in this area.”
Poll are open Nov. 8.