Monday was the deadline for candidates to file for the school board elections, which will be held April 15. Before the election, the Reporter will run profiles of the candidates and their views.
The top three vote-getters will be part of the nine-person volunteer board. Duties include formulating a $45 million budget, negotiating contracts with teachers, administrators and other staff, and setting education policy for the schools.
The board is also responsible for approving all facility improvements, an issue that has come to the forefront in the past few years with the district positioned to receive upwards of $100 million in state Abbott "special needs district" Funds to renovate and build new school buildings.
Currently Hoboken has adopted a plan that may result in two of the city's six public school buildings being closed, and three new ones opening in their place. The elected board members will have a significant role in tweaking and implementing that plan.
Ten years ago, school board elections were heated in Hoboken, but in the last few years, it has been common for candidates to run unopposed.
This year, two slates and five independents have entered the fray. Winners will serve three-year terms.
Two incumbents - David Anthony, who has served as board president before, and current Board Vice-President Wanda Santana-Alicea - will be running on a slate supported by Mayor David Roberts. The third incumbent, Michele Russo, a two-term board member and the wife of former Mayor Anthony Russo, has decided not to seek re-election.
The third member of the Roberts-supported slate is local developer Frank Raia. Raia is the designated developer or a partner for development for several blocks in the Northwest Redevelopment Plan. Raia has also been a member of the HOPES-Head Start Board of Trustees, and a board member of the North Hudson Sewerage Authority. Another possible factor in the April election is the mobilization of a slate that will be supported by the new civic organization Hoboken First, which is also supporting City Council candidates.
On the Hoboken First slate for school board are Deborah Alicea, a former Hoboken High basketball star who is now a letter carrier for the U.S. postal service (and who is not related to Wanda Santana-Alicea); Jose Ponjoan, an information systems analyst; and John Madigan, 36, a computer technician and founder of the basketball league at Hoboken's Calabro School, which his two children attend.
One of the most intriguing independent candidates is former Hoboken Mayor Steve Cappiello, who served as the city's chief executive from 1973 to 1985. "I just want to be able to get in there and help out," said Cappiello, who is retired. "I've been involved in the community for many, many years and have always enjoyed working with the public."
One interesting side note to Cappiello's decision to run is the implication it raises about his relationship to Roberts. About a year and half ago, Roberts made Cappiello a deputy mayor, an unpaid position. Now Cappiello is running against Roberts' slate in the Board of Education election, reinforcing rumors that the Roberts and Cappiello may not always see eye-to-eye.
"I don't see the conflict," said Cappiello. "If they have the same goals in mind, then maybe we will be able to work together."
Cappiello said that his biggest goal is to make sure the school district runs efficiently. "I want to see productivity for the taxpayers' dollars," he said.
Also running as an independent is A. Paul Condon, 38, a father with an 18-month old daughter and a 3-year-old son who is in the 3-year-old program at the Brandt School. Condon is a lawyer for a Jersey City firm. Before joining his firm in October, he spent six years working for the Union County prosecutor's office. "I want to insure that my son and daughter and the sons and daughters of my neighbors have excellent public education options available," he said Tuesday.
Tammy Goodwin, a supervisor of meter enforcement officers for the Hoboken Parking Authority and a Housing Authority resident, is also running. In 2001, Goodwin, a political newcomer at the time, ran unsuccessfully for the 4th Ward City Council seat.
Joel Freiser, deputy executive director of the Newark Economic Development Corporation, and resident Douglas Peterson also submitted their petitions to run at the Board of Education office last week.
Incumbents' records and views
Wanda Santana-Alicea is the board's current vice-president and the executive director of the Friendship Day Care Center in Paterson. She is married with two boys, both of whom are in the public school system. She is a graduate of Rutgers University, where she obtained a BSW in social work. Her husband Angel Alicea, a local police officer, is the chairman of the volunteer board of the Hoboken Housing Authority. Santana-Alicea is running for her for her second term. Last time she won, it was on former Mayor Anthony Russo's ticket.
Santana-Alicea said Monday that creating the new educational facilities in an efficient manner is important to achieve the district's overall educational goals. "These state funds are going to help build art and science labs, which are teaching tools that we don't have available at this point," she said. "We want to be the first in the state to have these new and wonderful facilities."
David Anthony, 51, has served on the board since 1994, and for his first eight years he served as the volunteer body's president. During that time, the body did not approve a single tax increase. Anthony has served as chairman of the negotiations, finance, arts, and school management committees. He was one of the board's biggest advocates for the school choice program, and also pushed for charter schools.