Crowded field in race for 3 open seats on Monroe Board of Education

BY Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2 | MonroeNow | Aug 3, 2018

MONROE – If all candidates remain on the ballot, the race for a seat on the Monroe Board of Education will be a crowded field for the general election in November.

Nine candidates are running for three, three-year seats. Two of the three incumbents, Frank Russo and Marvin Braverman, will seek reelection. Trustee Dawn Quarino will not seek reelection. Quarino did not respond to a request for comment on Friday morning.

The seven other candidates are Richard Gibbons, Louis Masters, Anand “Andy” Paluri, Ann E. Russo, Rupa Siegel, Krishna Tekale and Peter Tufano.

Without Quarino running at least one new person will be elected to the Board of Education.

The three who are ultimately elected will have to face a few pressing issues while serving.

The district is in the midst of formulating a new referendum plan that could be presented to the public as early as September and voted on in early 2019, said board President Kathy Kolupanowich at the July 18 meeting in response to a question from a member in the audience.

In March, residents narrowly rejected a $68.8 million plan to build a second middle school to help reduce overcrowding at the current Monroe Township Middle School.

The board has also indicated that in the near future the high school will also need expanding to deal with growing enrollment numbers. That also would likely happen through a public referendum.

In the interim, the board has installed several temporary classroom trailers along the busy Perrineville Road, which is parallel to the middle school. A group of concerned citizen rallied earlier this week in front of the middle school to oppose the location of the temporary trailers. Though, the district maintains the trailers would have been necessary even if the March referendum was approved, that defeat now means those structures will be at the school much longer than anticipated.

Concerned residents want the board to move the trailers’ location, though the administration has all but ruled that out from happening this year. Should that remain true, new members will have to address the location for next year. An online petition started by Rochelle Fennell to move the trailers has garnered almost 2,000 signatures since it was started on July 24.

New members will also help determine who will be the district’s next full-time superintendent. In December, then-superintendent Michael Kozak submitted his resignation. However, after a board vote in February, Kozak agreed to withdraw his resignation and enter into negotiations.

Despite submitting his resignation, Kozak maintained in interviews with MonroeNow that he wanted to remain at the district. Details as to what lead to Kozak and the board failing to reach a new deal have not been made public because of pending litigation and it being a personnel matter. Kozak’s official last day with the district was June 30. In the interim, the Board of Education appointed high school principal Robert Goodall as the acting superintendent. There is no timeline as to when the board will begin its search for a new superintendent. Though, Kolupanowich said that nothing would likely happen until after the new year.

The Monroe Board of Education is comprised of 10 voting members. Nine of the trustees are elected by Monroe residents and the 10th member, Paul Rutsky is the Jamesburg representative elected by voters from that community.