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Scotch Plains-Fanwood School Board Elections 97apr15
Fate of $36,935,929 Tax Levy Reflected By 1997-1998 School Budget ALSO WILL Be Decided
Mrs. Dettmar, Mr. Ruggiero, Mrs. Larkin Face Five Newcomers In Race Tuesday for Scotch Plains-Fanwood Board of Education SP BOE
By SUZETTE STALKER for The Times
Scotch Plains voters will elect three representatives to the Board of Education next Tuesday, April 15, while in both the township and Fanwood voters will decide the fate of the proposed 1997-1998 school budget. According to Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppis office, there are 13,907 registered voters in Scotch Plains and 4,679 in Fanwood.
In the school board race, incumbents Lillian M. Dettmar, August A. Ruggiero and Theresa Larkin, all Scotch Plains residents, are being challenged by newcomers Frances Gonzalez, Jean McAllister, Kristen Croag Paparella, Norman A. Ross and Thomas Russo. Each vacancy is for a full, three-year term. There are no Fanwood seats available this year.
Listed on the ballot also will be the $36,935,929 tax levy for the school budget. It calls for a 1.64 percent tax increase for Scotch Plains property owners and a 2.47 percent increase for those in Fanwood.
The proposed budget would increase the tax bill in Scotch Plains by $57.50 on the $115,000 average assessed value. In Fanwood, the budget would increase the tax bill by $74.70 on the average assessed value of $83,000, according to school officials. If voters reject the budget, it will be turned over to the township and borough councils, which would have 21 days to take action.
The total $41.8 million spending plan reflects a 2.64 percent increase over last years budget.
Mrs. Dettmar, who is Vice President of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Board of Education, currently is seeking her sixth term. She and her husband, both retired teachers, have lived in the township for 37 years. They have two grown children who were educated in the local school district.
During her campaign, Mrs. Dettmar has cited her experience as a 15-year member of the school board. She has been elected Vice President of the board seven times and is the former Chairwoman of the boards Policy, Athletic, Community Relations, Staff Appreciation and Legislation Committees.
Mrs. Dettmar also has been a member of the Negotiations, Finance, Buildings and Grounds, Budget Advisory and Grievance Committees. She has served as President of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) Council and as board Liaison to the PTA Council. In addition, she has been a member of several PTA executive boards in the district.
The candidate has stressed her role as Legislative Liaison to the New Jersey School Boards Association as particularly relevant, in that she is able to keep the school board informed about such issues as school funding legislation.
Mr. Ruggiero, who has lived in Scotch Plains for 24 years, also is running for his sixth term. The veteran school board member and his wife have two grown children, both of whom graduated from the Scotch Plains-Fanwood school district. He is a full professor of mathematics and physics at Essex County College in Newark.
He has been President of the school board five times and is the former Chairman of the Policy, Budget, Curriculum and Instruction Committees. He currently chairs the Administrative Negotiations Committee and is a member of three other committees. In addition, he has served on the Community Relations, Finance, Buildings and Grounds and Negotiations Committees.
Mr. Ruggiero is a member of the Willow Grove Presbyterian Church in Scotch Plains, where he is Superintendent of the Adult Sunday School and a member of the Coordinating Committee, which arranges for homeless families to stay at the church.
The candidate, like Mrs. Dettmar, has emphasized his lengthy experience as a board member while maintaining that he remains open to new ideas. According to Mr. Ruggiero, his goals include improving education in the district, while demonstrating fiscal responsibility in formulating school budgets and strengthening relationships between the board, school district employees and the community.
Mrs. Larkin, who currently is winding up her first term on the board, has three children. As a member of the Negotiations Committee, the candidate represented the board during contract talks last year with the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Education Association. She is also a member of the boards Policy Committee.
She additionally serves as Liaison to the Scotch Plains-Fanwood PTA Council and the Municipal Alliance Committee, as well as with community relations. She is a member of the Coles Elementary School and Terrill Middle School PTAs, as well as the Terrill School Music Boosters.
Mrs. Larkin has stated during her campaign that she remains committed to ensuring that school tax dollars are spent to promote academic excellence; to maintaining current class sizes by regularly reviewing student enrollment trends and to keeping the lines of communication open among board members, administrators, staff and the community.
A lifelong resident of Scotch Plains, Mrs. Gonzalez was educated through the local school system and has two children who are recent graduates of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. Her professional background includes 16 years of corporate experience and nine years in management.
The candidate currently is employed by Middlesex County Collge as a Youth Coordinator, teaching students between the ages of 14 and 21 skills which will make them employable. She has stated that her main reason for running for the school board is to help give all students an education which will prepare them for the social and technological challenges of the next millenium.
Among her goals, Mrs. Gonzalez explained, is that all students will view themselves as a vital part of the education community. She stressed the importance of meeting the educational requirements of every student, including those with special needs, with input from all aspects of the school district.
Mrs. Gonzalez has maintained that the district needs to support educational programs which will provide students with the flexibility to compete in an increasingly complex society. She argued that students should be able to think both creatively and critically, and that they should graduate with a sense of direction and self-esteem.
Mrs. McAllister and her husband have lived in Scotch Plains for four years and have two young children. Prior to leaving her job to raise her family, Mrs. McAllister was employed as a marketing and sales executive in Manhattan. While living in New York she was also a literacy volunteer.
The candidate said her experience working with trusts and investments has trained her to see the value of every decision which affects financial resources. She added that her professional background also has given her expertise in translating highly technical data into language easily understood by the public.
Mrs. McAllisters stated objectives include providing district students with the most effective teaching methods and materials available; improving communication between the board and the community; stressing academic excellence, developing guidelines concerning accountability of staff and students, achieving more family involvement in the education process and maintaining a safe environment for teachers and students.
Mrs. Paparella grew up in Scotch Plains and, after living in Illinois for more than a decade, returned to Scotch Plains in 1993. The married mother of two has a son enrolled in the ninth grade at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and is a member of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Music Boosters. She also was active in various church and community activities while living in Illinois.
The candidate, who has worked as a bookkeeper and credit analyst for more than 15 years, currently is employed as a full-charge bookkeeper with RJM in Scotch Plains. Calling for a fresh perspective on the school board, Mrs. Paparella has argued that members need to objectively study all available options before making choices, without letting past decisions or other commitments influence their actions.
Mrs. Paparella also has advocated a close partnership between the board and community to ensure that the academic success of every student takes top priority. She has stated that her financial background makes her particularly qualified to deal with the challenge of maintaining educational programs with limited funding.
Mr. Ross, a retired Rahway High School teacher who has lived in the township for five years, has three grown children who were educated in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood school district. He has severely criticized the current board during his campaign for what he has charged is officials rubber-stamp approach to administrating the school district.
The candidate, who teaches adult school courses in various New Jersey municipalities, has characterized the Scotch Plains-Fanwood adult school program as inadequate and also has lamented the amount of time allowed for public comment at school board meetings. He has extended kudos, however, to the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School Reserve Officers Training Corps and to the districts music program.
Mr. Russo has lived in the township for more than 30 years and was educated through the Scotch Plains-Fanwood school district. He and his wife have two sons who attend Brunner Elementary School. The candidate, a self-employed attorney in Scotch Plains, serves as counsel to the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School Alumni Association.
Mr. Russo has been a member of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Public Schools Citizens Budget Committee, Strategic Planning Team, and the Scotch Plains-Fanwood School Funding Task Force. He is also a Past President and Vice President of the Fanwood-Scotch Plains Rotary Club and is a former Vice President of the Fanwood-Scotch Plains Jaycees, among various other affiliations.
The candidate, while commending the service of long-time board representatives, has argued in favor of term limitations and the need to bring "new blood" on to the board. Mr. Russo noted that if the board were to retain its present makeup, only two of the seven members next year will have children enrolled in the school district next year. He stated that parents with children currently in school should play a larger role in shaping educational policies.
In addition, Mr. Russo also has called for greater public accessibility to the school board and administrators and the need for board members to reach out to the community for input on policy making. The candidate stated that his reason for seeking a seat on the board was to help maintain quality education, adding that his long-time residency gives him a historical perspective on where the district has been and what its needs will be in the future.
In Scotch Plains, the voting locations are as follow:
In Fanwood, polls will be open at the following sites:
Polls will be open from 2 to 9 p.m.
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