Floodgates open at Board of Education

Thirteen residents apply for two one-year Board of Trustee seats

The Bayonne Board of Education is once again top of mind, as 13 people applied for two vacant board of trustee seats by the deadline last week.
Both of the seats are for an interim basis, finishing out the last year of three-year terms. The seats had been held by former Board Vice President Ava Mitchell, who resigned effective Dec. 31, and former Board President William Lawson, who resigned last month after losing his presidency at the Jan. 7 reorganization meeting.
After advertisements were placed in local newspapers to fill the unpaid posts, the 13 candidates met the Jan. 27 1 p.m. deadline, according to Board Secretary Gary Maita. The applicants’ names were included in Board of Trustee packets for the group’s meeting later that night, and were announced publicly at the meeting.
Among the 13 are seven who ran for a school board seat in November: Michael Alonso, Rafael Augusto, Jack Butchko, John Cupo, Mary Jane Desmond, Gina Irizarry, and Barry Kushnir. Altogether, 19 people ran for five seats.
Desmond was a board of trustee last year, when she filled the last year of an unexpired term. She lost in her reelection bid.
Six who applied for a board seat did not run in last year’s election: Ellen Balesterri, Joseph Collins, Carol Cruden, Sharma Montgomery, John Sebik, and Anthony Zanowic.
Collins is a former physics teacher and former wrestling coach at Bayonne High School.
“I’d be willing to put in all the work that needs to be done to further the success of the Bayonne Board of Education,” he said.
Cruden is a nursing supervisor at CarePoint Bayonne Medical Center.
“My job requires critical thinking and making sound judgments,” she said. “I think that I would be an asset on the board of education.”
Sebik has worked in distribution management and is currently employed by the federal government.
“I’ve managed people and managed the budgets and logistics of companies I’ve worked for in the past,” he said. “And I’m good with people.”
Zanowic is manager of the Hudson Lanes in Jersey City. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2014, and for the New Jersey Assembly last year.


Both of the seats are for an interim basis, finishing out the last year of three-year terms.

He said education is one of the most important issues in the city and in the county.
Balesterri and Montgomery could not be reached for comment.

The seven current board members are President Joseph Broderick, Ava Finnerty, Ted Garelick, Mikel Lawandy, Christopher Munoz, Christopher Piechocki, and Vice President Denis Wilbeck.

Process for new board selections

Maita said that filling the seats would be the same process as last year, when two posts were also vacant. Interviews with each of the candidates will be scheduled with a board committee. The candidates will make brief public presentations at the Feb. 24 meeting, and then the seven sitting members will go into private session to make the choices. The announcement of the two selections will come shortly after that.

Change from appointed to elected

The two people selected for the board will fill the seats until the end of the year. If they seek to retain their seats, they must run in the November general election for a new, three-year term.
Bayonne went back to elected board members last year after voters passed a referendum in 2014. The city appointed members for more than 35 years.

Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.

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