Four (4) residents sat in front of a crowd of around 30 people Wednesday night and took turns answering questions from their neighbors at the annual Candidates’ Night hosted by the Roselle Park Council of PTAs. The event, which was moderated by Marlene Sincaglia of the League of Women Voters and held in the Roselle Park High School (RPHS) cafeteria, gave residents an opportunity to find out more about Troy Gerten, Christopher Miller, Barbara Sokol, and Jason Tribiano and their philosophies regarding public school education in the borough.
Christopher Miller and Barbara Sokol are incumbents who were appointed by the BOE last September after a public interview process following the vacancy of two BOE seats. Troy Gerten and Jason Tribiano are first-time candidates. All four (4) are running for three (3) available seats in this year’s BOE election which is on April 27, 2011.
The candidates gave their opening statements, after which residents came forward to ask questions of the members. Questions could be directed at all candidates or just one individual with an opportunity for all candidates to respond to a person-specific inquiry. Maria DelRio asked the first question of the night, “Are you a member of the Roselle Park Concerned Citizens group?”
The question was directed at Jason Tribiano who was a founding member and Treasurer of the Concerned Citizens Of Roselle Park. He responded that he was. When asked by Mrs. DelRio in a follow-up question if he foresaw any conflict of interest he answered, “I wouldn’t think so.”
This was the only question that was not addressed to or by any other candidate. The night continued with ten (10) more questions from residents which ranged from asking if the new candidates had attended BOE meetings to finding out what specific personal objective each candidate had for their three-year tenure, if elected. Candidates brought forward issues such as looking for ways to better involve those from Roselle Park’s diverse cultures and to how improve the teaching relationship between school and home to have students learn outside the classroom.
One question, asked by Jeanine Goodis, asked about the BOE working relationship with School Superintendent Patrick Spagnoletti, “Many time I believe the Board has deferred to the Superintendent’s opinion on things. What will you do, if elected, to stand firm if you disagree with the Superintendent or with other Board members?”
Christopher Miller addressed the issue with, “I have no problem in the future voicing my opinion if it adequately represents our Roselle Park citizens, especially our children and if there are certain issues that I believe in, I will try my best to persuade and educate and I will have no problem disagreeing, respectfully, with my Board members and also the Superintendent.”
“I ask a lot of questions . . . because I want to find out the history behind things,” Barbara Sokol stated, “I also make sure that I am aware of what’s going on . . . I definitely would not hesitate to question or to challenge. I have done that.”
Jason Tribiano responded, “If the Board refuses to confront the superintendent on things that they disagree with, then they’re failing to do their jobs representing the town, the taxpayers and the students. I will absolutely question anything that I feel doesn’t serve the students.”
“I fundamentally have an issue with them, or anyone, not investigating something,” Troy Gerten answered, “It’s their responsibility on the Board of Education. If elected, it will be my responsibility on the Board Of Education to understand and to do research, whatever is needed to investigate, and have discussions with the Superintendent or the administration.”
Just one night after the Roselle Park School District’s budget was passed by the Board Of Education (BOE), there was a question from Elaine Weaver regarding the future of funding education in Roselle Park, “What are some ideas that you have that you are going to bring to the Board to help save some money?”
Mrs. Sokol recommended looking for more volunteers while Mr. Tribiano stated that negotiations with collective bargaining agreements was important. Mr. Gerten suggested to look to corporate grants and Mr. Miller emphasized shared services.
After questions, each candidate their closing statements. Mr. Troy Gerten went first, “For anyone that knows me, I’m not one to back down from a challenge. I believe that I will bring to the Board some very practical business sense and experience that can be leveraged in these challenging times.”
Ms. Barbara Sokol was next. She stated, “I want to continue to be involved in the community. It’s important to me and because of my experience and my knowledge I feel this is the best place for me to give back to the community.”
Mr. Jason Tribiano addressed the residents in attendance, “The school system is facing tremendous challenges, the Board is facing tremendous challenges. I believe I’m in a unique position to help with those challenges. I’m a parent of three (3) children that will be in the school system for a long time. We plan on living here for a very long time. I’m ready to help.”
Mr. Christopher Miller concluded the night with, “We have work to do and I want to be a part of it. Motivating, encouraging, and educating all will benefit a great school system and a greater town that we will all be proud of.”
Below are copies of each candidates’ profile which were available at the event: