Sekou, Gerten, Cancino Bid Farewell To BOE

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Published: December 18, 2018 @ 12:00 PM EST

At the December 4th Board Of Education (BOE) meeting, which has turned out to be the last Roselle Park school board meeting of the year, the three outgoing BOE members gave their final words as volunteers to the community in the capacity of residents who review the policies of the Roselle Park School District (RPSD). School boards, unlike most municipally elected positions, are unpaid elected positions.

Sundjata Sekou, who took office in 2016 after being elected, was the first to give his farewell address.

Since this is my last board meeting, I would like to thank my wife, my daughter, and my son for allowing me to be a part of the Roselle Park Board Of Education.

Also, I would like to thank all the board members who volunteer their time to make decisions that will make a positive impact on the education of all Roselle Park students. In addition, I want to thank the administrative leadership team [of] Pedro Garrido and Susan Guercio for being available to answer all questions. Thank you very much.

Plus, I want to thank the great Jacob Magiera for opening up the public session with his timely probing questions. Thank you, sir. Also, I want to thank Saul Qersdyn who writes, ask questions, and request documents in order to inform and educate Roselle Park residents. Thank you for all you have done over the years. I appreciate it.

By the way, in order for Saul to do what he does I have to thank Elizabeth Qersdyn for allowing Saul to write, ask questions, and request documents in order to inform and educate Roselle Park residents.

I also want to thank Roselle Park residents for educating, counseling, listening, opening up their doors, and inviting me into their homes when I went door to door to ask for their votes; most of the board members I met them in that fashion. When I went door-to-door, I spoke with people whose families have been here for decades and people who have recently arrived. I spoke to Black, White, Hispanic, and Asian people plus people from different religious and economic groups. I spoke to seniors and young people and I found out everyone wanted the same thing: a great educational system. We may not agree on how to pay for that great educational system but we all want a great educational system that will benefit the entire community.

So being that such a diverse group of people agree on a fundamental thing, let’s also agree that diversity is good for our community. So as the Roselle Park school district and community become more diverse racially and with different language groups, let us all welcome this diversity.

Let the school [district] be diverse by hiring practices whether it’s Black, Hispanic, Asian – teachers and administrators. These are just some of the wonderful groups and cultures that make up our great community.

Let the town be diverse by electing diverse people and also diversity in gender by electing women more often on council and ultimately as more mayors. Plus, allow more racial, language, and gender diversity amongst those appointed to different positions in the town.

Overall, let us all be neighborly and kind to each other regardless of race, religion, immigration status, language that we speak, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. We have the ability to be a beacon and a light regardless of the rancor and acrimony that happens nationally. So let’s be free of preconceived notions about people and show what we are capable of becoming.

So, on that note, thank all of you – thank Saul, thank Jake, thank all the board members – and thank everyone for sitting here for allowing me to sit here. Thank you.

Kevin Cancino, the youngest current school board member, ran in 2016 and decided not to run for a second term. He did start his remarks by asking those in attendance and watching to help a Roselle Park resident, Guillermo Rocha, who is going through recovery for a brain tumor. A GoFundMe page has been started for financial assistance (link). Mr. Cancino then spoke to the residents of the borough.

Good evening everyone.

I would like to begin by saying that these three years on the Board Of Education have certainly been an eye-opening experience for me. We have seen much change over my time with the board and can proudly say I have sat on this board best of my ability.

I would like to thank Superintendent Garrido, Mrs. Guercio, President Harms, and Vice-President Miller along with the rest of my current and past board members for all of the help and guidance I have received from everyone. I would also like to thank the citizens of Roselle Park because if it was not for them, none of this would be able to happen.

I also encourage the youth of our community to step up and serve.

I am glad to have served this board not only as one of the youngest members in our town but to proudly say the first Hispanic to have won a seat on this board. I [had] not graduated from [Roselle Park] High School no more than five years ago.

With this I say thank you for the privilege to improve our children’s [education] and make Roselle Park an even better place to live. Thank you.

Troy Gerten, the longest-serving school board member to not run for re-election, has been a BOE member since 2011 after he was appointed in November of that year. Since that time he ran – and won – twice to have served for over seven years.

I want to thank the remaining board members from when I got on here, you guys kind of showed me the ways, told me to keep my mouth quiet for the first couple of weeks at least, but most importantly to learn and observe. Been on here for a long time and I have learned and observed.

We have had many challenges within the district that we’ve overcome as a board, as an administration, and certainly the staff is always helping to lead the way.

I think back when I came on the board here we had just started recovering from the cuts of 2010 and 2011 that were statewide. I was trying to figure out how to – we had survived those financial cuts but then how do we continue on educating? A lot of good suggestions came forward. During this time we’ve had a new superintendent, many new principals, and a  lot of changes and some challenges along the way: the infamous lights that came down and the early childhood center.

And all the while the board has been made up of volunteers.

The public has come here at each board meeting; sometimes it’s been a light attendance, other times it’s been packed auditoriums but it truly is government at work to have the voice of the people. I’ve been honored to be on the board. Thank you.

In 2019, three new faces will join the Roselle Park BOE: Susan Calrstrom, Marissa Falcon, and Paul Santangelo. Mrs. Carlstrom was the only official candidate. Ms. Falcon and Mr. Santagleo both ran write-in campaigns after it was known that there were more seats available than those who ran for the school board by filling the required petition by the deadline. Mrs. Carlstrom is sister to current BOE member Joseph Signorello Jr. and aunt of mayor-elect Joseph Signorello III. The new female members will join Ms. Kimberly Powers and increase the number of women on the school board to 33% of the BOE.