Hopefuls eye Board of Ed

Candidates make their cases

The Bayonne Community News sent all 12 Bayonne Board of Education candidates a questionnaire designed to demonstrate to voters the candidates’ platforms and overall knowledge necessary to perform the duties of a trustee. At press time, these five had responded.

Michael Alonso

Alonso, who is running for a three-year term is a former candidate for board of education. He aims to address “a bloated budget that is top heavy with salaries for,” what he alleges are“the relatives of school board members.” He said problems in the district are not due to underfunding, but rather, “it is just mismanaged by those currently on the school board.”
Alonso supports a nationwide search for “the best nonpolitical professional administrator” and denounces “promoting political types from within.”
He calls for “more input from parents, teachers, and taxpayers on a regular basis,” and proposes holding monthly meetings “so all parents and residents can come forward and have a direct line of communication to address the educational issues that matter most to them.” He intends to make the board’s decision-making process more transparent by reaching out to “those in our city whom the current board members have been neglecting,” and said transparency “starts with electing independent people who are not beholden to city hall or the mayor.”
“By removing these incumbents from office,” Alonso said, “we have the opportunity to begin a new day for the benefit of the students, the teachers, and taxpayers of Bayonne.”

John Cupo

Running for a two-year term is John Cupo, a local real-estate agent and former BBOED candidate, said his priorities are on making an “open, transparent school board,” and “negotiating a teachers’ contract immediately.”
“You cannot put the students first if the teachers are last,” Cupo said. He proposed broadcasting the BBOED meetings live and establishing an “email and text system with minute-to-minute news” to alert residents of BBOED developments. He also criticized the current board for authorizing bonus pay for administrators and said he will act as a “financial watchdog.”
In the next superintendent, Cupo seeks a candidate who is “very well-rounded…with a lot of degrees and ready to tackle running a school system.”
Cupo said that for every dollar spent he wants “a return of $1.50 in services.”
“In every budget, there’s waste and need for improvement,” Cupo said. “If I find waste, then I can re-allocate those funds to the strongest programs.”

Gina Irizarry

Irizarry, who is running for a three-year term,is an English teacher at Kenmore High School in Jersey City, an all-female, private, Roman Catholic school that is a part of the nonprofit organization York Street Project. The women who attend the school are homeless, shelter residents, low-income, single mothers, or inthe prison re-entry system. She holds a Master’s in Education and is currently attending St. Peter’s University for her second Master’s in Educational Leadership.
To garner support from residents without children in the district, Irizarry proposes establishing resident committees to address matters such as “long-term strategic planning for facilities improvement, curriculum initiatives, technology improvements, and grants and funding research.”
Her criteria for the next superintendent is to have at least 10 years’ experience as a classroom teacher, two years as a vice principal or department supervisor, and four years as a school principal, and have experience in both urban and nonurban districts. She wants to see a proven record of excellent leadership and rapport with prior teachers. She wants to end nepotistic hiring for high-salaried positions. She proposes using the APPLITRACK website for hiring and finding school positions.
Irizarry identifies aging facilities as the board’s most important priority and feels the district is not adequately preparing students for college.To address the district’s achievement gap, she proposes offering STEM, STEAM, and Honors classes to more students. “The new academies are wonderful, but they provide a selective curriculum for only a few,” she said. She also sees a “lack of communication between the district and parents” and proposes adding “parent-user-friendly information” to the district website.
Irizarry wants to weigh “factors that are outside of the school’s control” into teacher evaluationsand supports the BBOED’s request that teachers include student growth objectives in evaluations to address the “one size fits all” approach to teacherevaluations.
To increase transparency, Irizarry wants to end closed-session adjournments to BBOED meetings that show “an unwillingness to include the public in a process that is their right as citizens.”
In thecurrent management culture, she said teachers “are resigning because they do not feel appreciated and valued.” She accuses management of “sometimes abusing their power” and hiring administrative staff at “exorbitant rates.”


The election is November 8.

Sharma Montgomery

Montgomery, who is running for a three-year term, is Director of Total Solutions at Broadview Networks and has worked in the account management field for telecom and internet companies for most of her career. She is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where she met her husband, Christopher, from Bayonne. They have two sons, one who graduated from BHS in 2014 and one who is currently a sophomore in the Arts Academy.
“We need to make sure we are investing our money in a way that allows us to recruit and retain the best and brightest teachers in the state,” she said.
To gain support from voters or taxpayers with no children in the public schools, Montgomery says, “These kids are our future business owners, policemen, firefighters, and other leaders. The more we strategically invest in our schools as a community, the stronger our community is in the long run.”
Her criteria for a new superintendent? Having experience in “every level of teaching and administration,” as well as holding a Doctorate in Education Administration/Leadership. She also would like the superintendent to be “actively involved in the education community,” such as having been recently published. She said the candidate should help the district “bring more technology to the classroom.”
Montgomery hopes for a working relationship with the superintendent and said that “transparency between the Board and Superintendent and a trust between parties would ensure that the best outcome for the student takes priority over all other agendas.”
The district’s biggest challenge? Maintaining and improving aging facilities and administering a curriculum that “serves a diverse student population.” The curriculum should include “more vocational options, more focus on arts and music, and possibly a ROTC program at the high school.”
In elementary schools, she would expand “community interaction” by engaging with police and fire departments as well as working with local businesses to “offer children the option to explore as many programs as possible while they are in elementary school and high school.”
Montgomery compares teacher evaluations to her experience managing a team of professionals. “I am responsible for clearly communicating the expectations of their position and then providing ongoing feedback with regard to their performance,” she said. She will evaluate teachers fairly “based on goals and objectives that are clearly defined.”
To improve transparency, Montgomery proposes establishing a parental advisory board to meet quarterly to gather feedback from the community. She also supports updating the BBOED website with a “community” page and making agenda items during the BBOED meeting digital, searchable, and “more clearly spelled out.”

Denis Wilbeck

A lifelong Bayonne resident, Wilbeck is running for a three-year term after having served on the BBOED for oneyear. All three of his children graduated from schools in the Bayonne District; his two grandchildren attend Horace Mann School.
Wilbeck says that school budgets are difficult to assess, and being on one of the subcommittees (finance, budget, buildings, orgrounds) is the “best way to help determine an appropriate budget.” To connect with and gain support from taxpayers who do not have kids in the school system, Wilbeck proposes, “providing a complete picture of our school spending to include a website for 2016-2017 called “The Taxpayers Guide to Educational Spending,” that will include a cost per student detailing the cost of transportation and facilities compared with the same data from other districts, “thus enabling families and conservatives to have a clear picture of expenditures.”
Wilbeck wants a “nation-wide search” for a new superintendent with a “proven track record in instruction, program fiscal management, governance, operations, personnel, and have the ability to work collaboratively with trustees, administrators, professional staff, parents, and the community.”
The ideal relationship between trustees and the superintendent is “one that creates a spirit of excellence in academics; one that establishes collaboration and cooperation between the trustees, administration, teachers, parents, and students.”
The district’s biggest challenge and top priority is “to stay on the cutting edge of educational technologies, to provide…goals that set high standards and expectations for student achievement and professional staff development.”
“The causes and solutions for the district’s achievement gap come down to the almighty dollar,” Wilbeck said. He attributes the financial shortfall to education policies at the state and federal level. He cites free pre-k that will start within the next year as “a start.”
He supports full-day and abbreviated staff training sessions to aid professional development for teachers.
To increase transparency, Wilbeck supports current efforts by the BBOED, including improving the district’s website and social media presence. He believes that trustees should be personally reachable by the public. “I provide a business card with my email address, home, and cell phone number where parents and members of the community can reach me.”

Rory Pasquariello may be reached at roryp@hudsonreporter.com.

The remaining seven candidates are Carol Cruden, Mary Jane Desmond, Leonard Kantor, Charles Ryan, John Milan Sebik, Maria Valado, and George Vinc Jr.

© 2000, Newspaper Media Group