The families and friends of three new school board trustees joined them as they were sworn in at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 5. The board also picked a new president and held a more contentious vote over the vice president.
Taking the oath of office were Tom Kluepfel, who was re-elected to the board, and newcomers John Madigan and Britney Montgomery.
In the past, Mayor Dawn Zimmer has supported six school board members including Kluepfel, Leon Gold, Jennifer Evans, Irene Sobolov, Sharyn Angley, and Monica Stromwall.
The most recent Nov. 3 election yielded two non-mayoral endorsed winners in Madigan and Montgomery.
The volunteer positions oversee the district’s budget, approve the curriculum, evaluate Superintendent Christine Johnson, represent the public during contract negotiations, and serve as a link between the community and the school system.
New president, VP
The board also decided to bump Kluepfel up from his previous role of vice president, to president.
Although he was voted in unanimously, school board member Peter Biancamano – who in the past has been on the opposite political side of Kluepfel – made a comment before voting “yes.”
“Tom, I’m going to vote yes on your nomination as president in the hopes that you continue on Ms. [Ruth] Tyroler’s…reputation that she created last year to move this district forward and be inclusive to all members that are on this board,” Biancamano said, noting earlier that the media “likes to portray” the board at 8-1 [him being the outlier].
“I just wanted to remind all board members that there’s a reason why the code of ethics is read.” – Ruth Tyroler
After Kluepfel attained the presidency, school board members decided on a vice president. Both Biancamano and Evans were nominated and Kluepfel ordered a “mini-election” wherein school board members voted over one or the other.
Stromwall, Sobolov, Evans, Kluepfel and Angley voted for Evans, while Biancamano, Madigan and Montgomery voted for Biancamano. Prior to voting, Angley stressed that regardless of the outcome all members should “work together.” Following her, Stromwall, who was the final and deciding vote since Gold was absent, expressed similar sentiments. She said the position was not based on “a popularity contest.” Ultimately, the 5-3 vote placed Evans as the new vice president.
“I think [Biancamano has] been on the board long enough to lead on the board,” Madigan, who nominated Biancamano for the vice president position, told The Hoboken Reporter after the meeting. “They say we’re not voting minority or majority, but they did.”
Madigan said he felt given the political history between the school board members, having a president and vice president of opposite political flanks would have afforded a needed “balance.”
But Kluepfel defended the decision.
“You can’t control people’s perceptions. People will think what they want. But there’s not necessarily truth to it,” he said in regards to the perceived “board majority.”
When asked why he felt Evans was suited to be vice president, he said, she “has been the governance chairwoman for the past year. She is outspoken and avid in her support of the district.”
Despite not running for reelection, former school board president Ruth Tyroler and former trustee Jean Marie Mitchell were at the meeting.
“I just wanted to remind all board members that there’s a reason why the code of ethics is read at the reorganization meeting, and it’s to remind all of us…what you’re there for, and why you’re there, and what the limitations are to the office,” said Tyroler during the public comments portion of the meeting.
By the next meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19, the school board is expected to decide on chairs and members to various committees: governance/personnel, finance, facilities/technology/transportation, curriculum/co-curricular/programs, communications and wellness (ad-hoc).
Steven Rodas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.