BBOED moves around pieces

Twelve candidates to run in November

The Bayonne Board of Education (BBOED) on Wednesday again voted not to renew Superintendent Patricia McGeehan’s contract, which expires June 30, 2017. Normally, boards do not vote twice on the same matter, but it was determined that Trustee Barry Kushnir had a conflict of interest because his uncle’s spouse is a school principal, invalidating Kushnir’s vote. This spurred the board to invoke the “Doctrine of Necessity,” which allows all trustees to vote, regardless of conflicts of interest.
Before the board voted, McGeehan, made her final case, declaring her work is not yet finished. Conjuring her inner Hillary, she pledged to bring the kind of change the board wants. “I heard President Clinton talk about his wife as being the change maker,” she said.“If you’re looking for a change maker, ladies and gentlemen, you have that change maker. I’ve done it successfully, and I pledge to do it successfully.”
Her pleas fell on deaf ears as the board voted 7-1 against her contract renewal. Last month the vote was 5-0 against, with four abstaining. Theodore Garelickwas the lone vote to renew her contract, arguing for stability at a time that requires it. “She is still at the top of her game,” he said, expressing fear that the board is, in effect, “shortchanging the potential [BBOED] candidates running in the November election to get involved in this decision.” He called the decision “bewildering.”

Sudden resignation

Also bewildering, at least to some, was Trustee Barry Kushnir’s letter of resignation proffered to the superintendent immediately following the meeting.His resignation, effective immediately, cites “professional reasons.”
Bayonne’s first elected school board in more than 35 years has so far been fraught. On January 7 of this year, the newly elected school board took office. One day later, Will Lawson resigned after serving as school board president for 14 years under an appointed board. He was promptly replaced by current trustee and former vice-principal Joseph Broderick. Lawson expressed distrust for the elected members, most of whom are former educators, and feared a perceived bias that would lead to a focus on increasing teachers’ pay while neglecting other issues. A week earlier, former vice president of the board, Ava Mitchell, resigned. Then in February, Christopher Piechocki resignedfor personal reasons after being appointed by Mayor Davis in October of 2014, then elected in November 2015, Kushnir was appointed in his place.
Kushnir is a union chairman and employee of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. He is now the fourth trustee to resign in a seven-month period. According to Broderick, Kushnir resigned because “his job is getting very busy.” He said,“I enjoyed working with Barry.He brought a lot to the table, and he is a man of his word. I’ll personally miss working with him.”
Kushnir’s resignation requires the board to appoint an acting trustee to serve as his replacementuntil January, whennewly elected board members take office. Broderick says he hopes the board can fill the vacancy by its August meeting.
The board now has only two members who were on the previous appointed board, Theodore Garelick and Mikel Lawandy. The other six members each have eight months of experience on the board.


“I enjoyed working with Barry. He brought a lot to the table, and he is a man of his word. I’ll personally miss working with him.” –BBOED President Joseph Broderick

November elections

The chaos at the BBOED is a reminder to Bayonne citizens of how important local public servants are. With both major political parties clogging national news outlets with extravagant conventions, local elections often get overlooked, despite having a more immediate and significant impact on daily life. Bayonne residents voted 76 percent in favor of changing from an appointed board to an elected board in a 2014 referendum, and on July 25, the BBOED announced the 12 candidates running in the city’s second BBOED election his November.
Three current BBOED trustees will be seeking re-election to three-year terms against six challengers, while three candidates are vying for a two-year term to fill Kushnir’s seat.
The incumbent trustees fighting for another three-year term are Mary Jane Desmond, Carol Cruden, and vice president Denis Wilbeck. Challenging them are five former BBOED candidates and one newcomer, former council candidate John Milan Sebik.
Former BBOED candidates include Michael Alonso, whose name is on a petition to recall Mayor James Davis and has been on multiple local election ballots in the past. The others are Gina Irizarry, an English teacher in Jersey City; Leonard Kantor, the outspoken guy at local meetings who always seems to get a laugh out of council members; George Vinc Jr.; and former BBOED hopeful, Sharma Montgomery. Fighting for the open seat formerly held by Kushnir will be John Cupo, Charles Ryan, and Maria Valado.

Candidates’ platforms

While the Bayonne Community News contacted all the candidates for this story, at press time, only a few had responded. We hope in follow-up stories to hear from all the candidates.Montgomery, whose son is a sophomore at Bayonne High School, was at Wednesday’s board meeting. She said the board has a lot of positive things to build on, and, as a trustee, she would aim to “create an environment where teachers can be successful, and more important, students can be successful. I really think the board’s focus should be on retaining talent that we’ve invested in and that it stays with us and doesn’t go to other districts.”
Alonso calls himself a “true fiscal conservative.” He said, “We need to tighten our belts and do better when we put out bids. You just have to be a tougher negotiator when it comes to vendors and unions.” Alonso is not in favor of raising administrator or teacher pay in an effort to conserve taxpayer money. He says the most important role as a board member next term will be finding a new superintendent. “Maybe we could start by saving some money there,” he said.“I understand that it’s a very important job, but I have no doubt we can get someone for $150,000.”
Gina Irizarry teaches English at Kenmare High School in Jersey City, an all-female, private, Roman Catholic school, part of the York Street Project, which aims to educate young women with children. She and her husband have lived in Bayonne for 18 years and have children in Bayonneschools. She has worked as a teacher in the Bayonne School District. She says she has “always been civic-minded.”
The centerpiece of her platform is transparency. “As the biggest stakeholders in the community, the people need to be a part of it,” she said. “I think as board trustees, there needs to be a conversation about board activity that respects inclusivity.” She proposed putting together workshops and other community involvement exercises for citizens to better understand what the board does and to get more involved. “Our school system needs to move forward with the changing dynamics of our town,” she said.

Rory Pasquariello may be reached at

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