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Westfield Board of Education Candidate Field Includes Six Persons Seeking Three Seats
By PAUL J. PEYTON for The Westfield Leader and The Times
Four more candidates jumped into the Westfield Board of Education race, two of them just before Mondays deadline for nomination petitions. With the new candidates, the field is set with six persons, including two incumbents, seeking three available seats on the nine-member board.
Joining incumbent Dr. B. Carol Molnar of Wychwood Road and former school board member Thomas Taylor of Madison Avenue, are Patrick Keenoy of Harrow Road, Mark Kabakow of Orenda Circle, and Michael Kessler of Park Street. A last minute surprise was the apparent change of heart of incumbent Michael P. Madaras.
Mr. Keenoy has spent his career in the education field and now serves as the Director of Special Services in the East Brunswick school system. He has lived in town since 1979. His son attended Jefferson Elementary School and is now a freshman at Westfield High School.
The candidate has served on the Board of Directors of the Westfield Baseball League and has coached baseball, basketball and soccer. He is a former Assistant Cub Scout Master at Jefferson School.
He said he decided to run for the school board because of issues such as the change in the state funding mechanism which will mean less funds for towns like Westfield and the "drug culture" kids are forced to deal with in todays society.
Mr. Keenoy said Westfield has a number of challenges it is facing including the technology bond referendum proposed for the fall.
Mr. Keenoy has been a teacher, guidance counselor and school psychologist.
He said it is important for the local school board to find a balance between spending on education programs while not delivering a big hit on taxpayers.
Mr. Kabakow is a product of the Westfield public schools, graduating from Westfield High School in 1979. The candidate bought a home in the town three years ago.
Among the issues that got him into the race is redistricting. His 5-year-old son has been pre-registered for Kindergarten in the fall at Franklin School. However, under the proposed redistricting plan, his son is now slated to attend Wilson School.
"I will be driving car pool in the fall. I want to know where I will be taking my son," he said.
The candidate is also concerned over the crossing guards and the overall safety of kids crossing dangerous roads such as Mountain and Lawrence Avenues due to redistricting of students. Mr. Kabakow said he is also concerned over the "upswing" in student population.
The candidate operates a financial consulting firm called the Expansion Finance Group of Westfield in which he serves as President. The from helps businesses borrow money, in such areas as the bond market, in order to finance their future.
"I have only the purest of reasons for running for the school board," he said.
Mr. Madaras said he did a "180-degree turn" from just a week ago by deciding to seek reelection after all. The candidate said he changed his mind after numerous persons asked him to reconsider his decision.
"I decided to leave it up to citizens" on whether or not he should serve another term, he explained.
In addition to redistricting and the technological improvement plan, Mr. Madaras has said he is very interested in Superintendent of Schools, Dr. William J. Foleys proposal for strategic planning.
He said it is important in a district with as many diverse views as Westfield, that citizens be given more input as to how the district spends their tax dollars.
Mr. Madaras is employed as Vice President/Financial Consultant with Smith Barney in New York City. He currently chairs the Long Range Planning Committee on the board which is working with Dr. Foley in developing the redistricting plan.
Officials have said redistricting is necessary due to the six additional classrooms currently under construction at the Jefferson and Wilson Schools.
Mr. Madaras has two sons who are fourth graders at Tamaques School. He said that during the past three years Westfields curriculum standards have been strengthened as the districts potential is beginning to be realized.
Mr. Kessler has resided in town since 1991 and has three children currently in the school system at McKinley, Edison Intermediate and Westfield High School.
The candidate is employed as a manager in the Comptrollers Department at Lucent Technologies in Warren in the area of internal and external financial reporting.
The candidate served on the districts Budget Task Force and is now in his second year on the Parent-Teacher Council (PTC) Legislative Committee and is also serving his first term as Recording Secretary for the PTC Council.
Dr. Molnar, who announced her reelection bid last week, is seeking a fourth term on the board. A native Westfielder, she is an attorney with practices in New York and New Jersey. Her two daughters attended the local school system.
Mr. Taylor, who became the first candidate in the race when he announced earlier this month, is also an attorney with an office in Paterson. He previously served on the board from 1984 to 1987, when he served on the Staff Relations Committee and co-chaired a committee that worked on the selection process to hire former Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Mark C. Smith.
His two children are also products of the local school system, as is the candidate who graduated from the high school in 1968.
Board Vice President John M. Toriello has opted not to seek another term.
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