HAZLET – Voters taking part in the 2019 Hazlet Board of Education election Tuesday, Nov. 5 will have a choice to make.
In the election for full-term members, four community-minded candidates are competing for three available seats on the 9-member board.
There is another election for an unexpired one-year term, but only one candidate is running for that seat.
School board members are empowered by state law to ensure the best education for public school students in their local district. As a board, they develop policies in compliance with state and federal guidelines to make sure schools are well run. The board works in collaboration with the superintendent.
In addition to meeting monthly to vote on public and confidential matters, members work on select committees and report back to the board. School board members are volunteers and are not paid.
Voters will be asked to choose three of these four candidates to serve for full terms:
Board experience: Current board member serving first 3-year term ending Dec. 31, serving on the curriculum and security committees.
Occupation: Former UPS worker
Community Work: The first and longest-serving board member at the RAINE Foundation, a Hazlet-based nonprofit that assists Bayshore children and families in crisis. Barrett has also volunteered on numerous PTO committees at his children’s schools over the years.
Perspective: Barrett, 54, has had the experience of watching his three sons graduate from Hazlet schools and go on to college. His observation is that the Hazlet school district must focus more on academic preparation for higher education. It is something he thinks a lot about as head of the board’s curriculum committee. Barrett has worked with the administration to make changes to the district math program with a goal to boost test outcomes. He also wants to see SAT scores substantially improve.
Quote: “We can definitely do better. And it’s not one of those, you know, ‘We’re doing great, we can always do better.’ It’s a straight out ‘We can do better.’”
Occupation: Part-time media consultant for an investor relations firm.
Community Work: Elm is the co-founder of Hazlet’s Special Education Parent Advisory Group (SEPAG), created in 2014 to engage parents, community leaders and school district staff in collaborative teamwork to improve education for all students.
Perspective: Elm, 49, is the mother of four children in the elementary and middle school – three of whom are triplets who have always been placed in separate classrooms. “I have a unique perspective because we’ve pretty much had every teacher in every grade,” she said.
Elm said she has enjoyed volunteering at the schools as a class mom and on the PTO, and feels the next natural step for her is to move to the board of education to advocate for all students and teachers. She created a campaign page on Facebook.
Quote: “I genuinely have the best interest of students and teachers at heart. I will fight to make sure we don’t unnecessarily cut critical resources as we look at state funding changes. I’m looking for everyone to succeed,” she said.
Occupation: Business manager for radiology office.
Community Work: One of the co-founders and current board secretary of Hazlet’s Hope Network, which advocates for people struggling with drug addiction.
Perspective: O’Hara, 58, graduated from Raritan High School in 1979. She saw her children and nephew receive diplomas. She still attends the school wrestling meets and football games. But her view from the sidelines lately have left her wanting to know more about school programs and policies, how they are formed and how often they are reviewed.
O’Hara is also interested to learn about how the school board is reacting to the concerning trend of vaping among youth. She thinks offering prevention programs to lower grades could be helpful. Perhaps more can be done with peer-to-peer programs, too. The issue should be talked about more in the schools, she believes.
Quote: “I’m just passionate about our town. I think we have a great town and I just want to see what I can do to help.”
Board experience: Current first-time board member serving a one year unexpired term March 18 through Dec. 31. On the food services committee.
Occupation: Formerly Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office.
Community work: The father of a first-grader and kindergarten student, Theis, 37, has been a coach for both HYAL and HUSA youth athletics and the Monmouth Flag Football League, which practices in Hazlet.
Perspective: In his brief experience serving on the board, Theis has observed how difficult it can be to balance a budget when state aid keeps diminishing. He is proud of how the school board was able to find funding for the successful Odyssey of the Mind program and launch a STEAM lab at Beers Street School. He feels like he can make an impact. “I’m learning you do have a voice to help all the children of Hazlet.”
He hopes his background in law enforcement can be helpful to the board as it tackles concerns related to school security. He has a campaign page on Facebook.
Quote: “Our students need to learn and feel safe and enjoy the experience of school. If you’re having fun, you are learning more.”
Voters will also get to cast a vote for the one-year unexpired term in the election. There is only one candidate for the seat.
Occupation: Compliance director for a brokerage firm.
Community Work: Hazlet United Soccer Association board member, referee
Perspective: At his day job, Granite hires people from competitive firms and learns about how they solve problems. He also uses ethical judgement to help his company comply with security laws. “I’m like the cop on the trading floor,” he said. Granite, 48, thinks his business world experience can be helpful to the school board. “Maybe I can show them a few things and maybe come up with a few ideas they haven’t thought of before,” he said.
The father of two high schoolers, he was impressed by changes in the block schedule that resulted in his older son being scheduled for math every day, instead of every other day. The school board’s action had a positive impact on his education, he said. That’s the kind of team he wants to join, he said.
Quote: “I want to focus on academic-related issues.”