Voters in North Bergen and Guttenberg will head to the polls on April 27 to choose three candidates for their school boards and to vote on the next school budget.
The three candidates running for office in Guttenberg have no opposition, and three running to keep their seats in North Bergen face two opponents who have run for the board before and lost.
The often controversial school budgets for those towns will be up for a final vote next month before appearing on the ballot.
Last year, the North Bergen Board of Education approved a $111.1 million budget with a $39.9 million tax levy, but the voters rejected it at the polls. The North Bergen Commissioners then voted to decrease the burden on taxpayers to $38.8 million.
“Anything I can do for my community...I always volunteer.” – Elaine Nicoliello
Until they are approved at a future meeting, the size of the budgets for next year won’t be known, but the candidates for school board seats are off and running.
Incumbents running again
Elaine Nicoliello has served six terms on the North Bergen Board of Education since 1993.
“I was born in North Bergen 80 years ago,” she said. “Anything I can do for my community, I always volunteer. It’s not just the Board of Education; I’m on many boards and all of them are not paid, they are all volunteer boards.”
She also serves on the beautification and rent control boards and is the Ward 1 Democratic committeewoman.
Nicoliello said that she hopes to accomplish the “same thing” she has every term, which is improving the schools. She said that the district is now in the running to become a “Blue Ribbon” district, which would attest to the district’s accomplishments.
Program analyst Kanaiyalal Patel said that he has been on the board for four years and wants to run for re-election because both he and his son graduated from North Bergen High School.
“I have to serve the kids,” he said.
Luis Diaz, a former editor at the United Nations, is seeking his third term because of the value of education.
“Both of my children were born in New Jersey, so I’m very much interested in participating in education, I think that’s our future,” Diaz said.
He said that their main challenge will be tackling budget woes. He said that so far, the board has performed “miracles here and there” even with facing those difficulties.
Familiar incumbents file
Herbert Shaw has filed against the incumbents again. Shaw, a local gadfly, has run in more than 30 local elections unsuccessfully and has said that he continues to run because if he didn’t, no one else would challenge the administration. Shaw is a Korean War Veteran and a retired operating engineer.
He is joined by Cesar Vega, a political newcomer who ran for the first time in last year’s school board election, unsuccessfully.
Adiran Cepero, a member of the recently formed North Bergen Concerned Citizens Group, filed to run but has since decided to drop out of the race so he can put all of his efforts toward the North Bergen Commissioners’ May 10 election, in which he has filed with a slate challenging Mayor Nicholas Sacco and his team of incumbents.
Unopposed election in Guttenberg
The Guttenberg Board of Education only has one school to deal with – Anna L. Klein elementary. High school students in their town attend North Bergen High School.
Three candidates are vying for three seats with no opposition.
Both incumbents Dr. Michael Baruch and Gonzalo Perez did not respond to media inquiries in time for publication.
Delores Loppe is running for a board seat for the first time, since Robert Tholen, the school’s former principal, decided to not seek re-election.
Loppe has been the public safety and police department secretary for the past seven years. She said that the reason she is interested is that she has three grandchildren attending Klein School and she is a taxpayer in town.
“With the economy and everything the way it is, maybe there is an answer to make things better,” said Loppe. “I am only a voice of one. I am willing to listen to the panel, I am new, open to any suggestions and ideas they have.”
One issue she would like to work toward eliminating is bullying.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.