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Westfield Board of Education Election 97apr15
POLLS TO STAY OPEN FROM 2 TO 9 P.M.; A TOTAL OF 19,146 PERSONS ARE REGISTERED TO VOTE
Six Candidates Vie for Three Seats on BOE in Election Tuesday; Two Budget Questions Face Electorate on Ballot for Tax Levy
By PAUL J. PEYTON for The Westfield Leader
The six candidates vying for the Westfield Board of Education are coming down the home stretch this weekend. Voters will head to the election poles this Tuesday, April 15. In addition to the school board race, voters will decide the fate of not one but two questions regarding the 1997-1998 school budget. There are 19,146 registered voters in Westfield.
Seeking reelection to the board are Thomas P. Madaras of Surrey Lane and Dr. B. Carol Molnar of Wychwood Road. Also seeking election are Thomas Taylor of Madison Avenue, a former school board member himself; Michael J. Kessler of Park Street, Mark Kabakow of Orenda Circle and Patrick Keenoy of Harrow Road.
In terms of the school budget, voters will be asked to vote on a tax levy of $42 million in the first question with an additional $1.59 million sought in the second ballot question. The total spending, however, of $50.61 million represents the lowest increase in 15 years.
The budget has been supported by the entire school board as well as those candidates seeking seats on the board. Due to new state regulations imposed this year, a spending formula has been designed which is based on the spending of the states 28 special needs districts -- the least affluent and generally lowest achieving districts in the state.
Westfields second question includes $800,000 for computers and training in technology, new textbooks, an expanded intermediate school sports program, and the automation of libraries in the districts six elementary schools.
Westfield is one of five districts in the county which will have a second question on the ballot. The last school budget to be defeated was in 1994. The overall budget increase that year was 2.7 percent over the 1993-1994 budget. The tax levy proposed by the school board represented an increase of 6.4 percent.
By contrast, the total increase in this years tax levy (including both questions) is 2.45 percent. If the voters should reject either or both questions, the budget would be turned over to the Town Council which would have 21 days to take action. This could include cutting the budget, keeping it the same, or even increasing the spending plan. In 1994, the council chose to cut the budget by $765,000.
The total tax levy of $44.45 million, if approved by voters, would increase taxes on a home in Westfield assessed at $174,000, the average for the town, by $104.
If the second question is defeated and the council decides to make a cut, the school board will not be able to appeal that decision. They will, however, be able to appeal cuts to the first question. According to published reports, roughly one-fifth of the states 606 school districts will have two questions on the ballot.
At a press conference last month, school officials noted that the board has yet to appeal any cuts imposed by the council. While not opposing the cuts in 1994, the board did reject the line items recommended for reduced funding.
Mr. Madaras was first elected to the board in 1994 while Dr. Molnar is seeking her third term on the board.
Mr. Madaras is employed as a Vice President and Financial Consultant with Smith Barney in New York City. He currently chairs the Long Range Planning Committee on the board. He also serves on the Curriculum Committee.
The candidate said during the campaign that he has repeatedly questioned officials to ensure that the intermediate school mathematics and science curriculum, which was reviewed this year by the Curriculum Committee, exceed the states new core curriculum standards.
Candidate Kesslers background is in the area of management, accounting, and finance. Employed by Lucent Technologies, Mr. Kessler holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Rutgers University. The candidate has served on the Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad and on the Parent-Teacher Councils (PTC) Budget Task Force, Legislative Committee and Executive Board. He currently is the Recording Secretary for the PTC.
Mr. Kessler, a town resident since 1991, has three children in the local public school system. His daughter is an eighth grader at Edison Intermediate School while his son is a junior at Westfield High School.
The Kessler family has hosted children from Northern Ireland during the summer. They also have hosted foreign exchange students spending the year in the United States.
Mr. Kabakow, who moved to Westfield in 1965 as a child, graduated from Westfield High School in 1979. The candidates son will enter Kindergarten in the fall at Franklin Elementary School.
He has a degree in finance and economics. He currently operates the Expansion Finance Group, a company which helps finance business expansion, and Enterprise Finance Advisors, a firm which creates and manages municipal loan programs.
The candidate stated earlier is a member of the Board of Trustees for the YM-YWHA of Union County and the Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Kabakow also volunteers his time as Treasurer for the Westfield "Y."
The candidate favors having computer skills taught beginning in the first grade. He also states that all text books should not be used longer than three years.
Another issue Mr. Kabakow said he would investigate, if elected, is providing optional busing for those students who live far from school and are willing to pay for the added service. He also favors maximum usage of classrooms. Mr. Kabakow said he would like to have school buildings available to students on the weekends in order for them to be able to use the various reference materials available.
Mr. Keenoy is a product of the Nutley public school system. He has resided in Westfield since 1979. The candidate is Supervisor of Special Education for the East Brunswick Public Schools.
He was formerly employed as school psychologist and guidance counselor in Roselle Park public schools, and as a middle school social studies teacher, and a high school history, psychology and sociology teacher for the Elizabeth school district.
The candidates son is a freshman at Westfield High School while his wife is a substitute teacher who previously was employed as a school librarian in Berkeley Heights.
The candidate has coached and served as a referee in the Westfield and St. Helens basketball leagues and coaches in the Westfield Baseball League. He is also an Assistant Scout Master at Jefferson Elementary School.
Mr. Taylor graduated from Westfield High School in 1968. He is a practicing attorney with offices in Paterson. He is a former New Jersey Deputy Attorney General.
He served on the school board from 1984 through 1987. While on the board he chaired the Staff Relations Committee. Mr. Taylor co-chaired the Citizens Search Committee, which was established to hire a School Superintendent in the 1980s. The board eventually hired Dr. Mark C. Smith who resigned last year to take a position in Massachusetts.
The board went through a similar process last year when it hired Dr. William J. Foley to head the school system.
Mr. Taylors oldest child graduated from Westfield High School. His other three children will be enrolled at the high school and at Roosevelt Intermediate School and Franklin Elementary School as of the 1997-1998 school year.
The candidates mother, now retired, was a librarian at the Westfield Memorial Library. The candidates parents still reside in town. His wife is a nursery school teacher at the Presbyterian Nursery School.
The candidate said that if elected, he will promote cooperation between the school board and residents, and within the board itself. Mr. Taylor said Roosevelt Intermediate and Westfield High School may not be able to handle increased student enrollments.
Mr. Taylor said he would like the board to consider the use of the Elm Street Administration Building and the former Lincoln School as possible solutions to solving the overcrowding problem.
Dr. Molnar is a native Westfielder who has served on the board since 1988. A former Planning Board member, she has served on the Board of Directors of the Youth and Family Counseling Service since 1977 and the Westfield Community Center Board, and as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Friends of Mindowaskin Park.
The candidate, a practicing attorney, has two daughters who currently are students in the local school system. During the campaign, Dr. Molnar said she was concerned over the balance between the use of computers and other technological advances and that of the "human element." The candidate has also emphasized the need to stress character building and values in the public schools.
As was the case in last years school board races, the Town Clerks office will tally the election results as they come in from the voting districts. The County Clerks office is overseeing the races as is the case with the primary and general elections.
Polling places, which will be open from 2 to 9 p.m., are as follow:
First Ward, District Nos. 1 and 2 -- Roosevelt Intermediate School; District Nos. 3, 5 and 7 -- Franklin Elementary School; District Nos. 4 and 6 -- Westfield Memorial Library.
Second Ward, District No. 1 -- Union County Clerks Annex (North Avenue); District Nos. 2 and 3 -- Washington Elementary School; District Nos. 4 and 5 -- Wilson Elementary School, and District No. 6 -- Washington School.
Third Ward, District No. 1 -- Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad Headquarters; District Nos. 2, 3, and 4 -- Edison Intermediate School; District Nos. 5, 6 and 7 -- Jefferson Elementary School.
Fourth Ward -- District Nos. 1 and 2 -- McKinley Elementary School; District Nos. 3 and 4 -- Westfield High School, and District No. 5 -- Jefferson School.
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