Changes to the Weehawken Board of Education Dr. McLaughlin steps down; Martir picked to run in unopposed election

When Weehawken voters go to the polls on April 15 to vote in the annual Board of Education elections, they will notice one considerable change.

Dr. Joseph McLaughlin, a long-time member of the Weehawken Board of Ed and a professor at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City, will not appear on the ballot. McLaughlin has decided not to seek re-election and will finish out his existing term until the Board’s reorganization date after the election.

“Joe McLaughlin [leaving] will definitely be a loss for the Board of Education,” Superintendent of Schools Kevin McLellan said. “His expertise in education was second to none and he was outstanding in helping our students receive college credits for courses taken at St. Peter’s. He was also excellent in helping us find the best teachers possible.”

McLaughlin’s duties at the college did not enable him to remain on the Board.

“He will be sorely missed,” McLellan said.

However, the officials involved with the Board of Education believe they have found a very suitable and qualified replacement in Alma Martir, a New York-based physical therapist who has two children in Roosevelt School.

“We always like to have parental representation on the Board,” McLellan said. “Alma has had an excellent reputation working with the PTPA and PTO at our schools and has been very active in school functions. She’s very educated and adds to the great balance we have on the Board with people of different backgrounds and occupations.”

So Martir will appear on the ballot for the upcoming Board elections, appearing with long-time member Luis Abreu and recent addition Mark Denfield.

Denfield was appointed to the Board last year upon the death of long-time member Silvia Climent.

The three will run unopposed in the upcoming Board elections. The voters will also decide whether to turn down or approve the new school budget for the 2008-09 scholastic year.

Highly qualified

Martir, who has resided in Weehawken for the last 13 years, was elated to be considered for the position.

“As my children have been going through the system, I’ve found it to be a phenomenal experience and I’ve wanted all along to get more involved,” Martir said. “I believe the parent-teacher groups are very positive and do great things for the children. I want to be able to continue to do it. Teaching is part of what I do and I love the teaching aspect of my job. I like that Weehawken has smaller classroom sizes and the kids continue to learn.”

Martir said that she learned that there was going to be an opening within the Board of Education and inquired to McLellan about the position.

“I think it’s an exceptional chance for me to be able to reach out every day of my life and help the children of Weehawken,” Martir said.

Martir said that she is of Hispanic background, with both of her parents being born in Puerto Rico, so she is bilingual.

“I think being bilingual is a big advantage especially for those parents who don’t understand English,” Martir said. “I’m very honored and excited. This is going to be a learning experience for me.”

Board of Education President Richard Barsa was happy to have Martir as a candidate for election.

“Alma brings a lot to the Board,” Barsa said. “She’s a team player and that’s something we’ve been successful with, having all nine members on the same page. We all take suggestions from people in the district and we try to meet the needs of the people. Without a doubt, it’s important to have parents involved. That’s how I got involved, when my son was in school. We need to have younger people with children in the schools involved, because they have the best and biggest input.”

Martir said that she believes her expertise will be in science.

“I’m a real science buff,” she said.

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either or


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