Three incumbent school board members are running for reelection against a slew of challengers in the April 16 school board election.
Board of Education Vice President Edward LaTour and trustees Patricia Bartoli and Luis Rabelo are opposed by a slate of five challengers. The “Save Our Schools” slate is: Bill Koehler, Marco Escobar, Odemaris Ramirez, Juana Dilone, and perennial candidate Herbert Shaw.
The candidates are running for three available seats for three-year terms.
The incumbents have different goals and reasons for running for re-election.
Business owners LaTour and Rabelo say they want to make the school district better for future generations.
“As a local business owner, I believe that we can create partnerships with the business community to join our mission of providing an excellent public education,” said LaTour, a member of the Board of Education for over 25 years. “My goal for my next term on the board is to continue to give our administrators, faculty and staff the resources and support they need to do a great job educating North Bergen’s children.”
Rabelo said he will use his knowledge as a business owner to create more community partnerships and programs to benefit our students. “As a volunteer recreation wrestling coach and lifelong North Bergen resident I have strong ties to our community and care deeply about our schools,” he said. “I am running because I love North Bergen and want to give back to the community, it has given me so many opportunities that I want the next generation of township residents to also receive.”
“If you care about our children and our schools, please join me in saving our schools.” - Odemaris Ramirez
Save Our Schools Team
Korean War veteran Shaw began his crusade in 1956 and has run for nearly every position in the township, but has never been elected. His slogan has never wavered and remains “Politicians Are Crooks.” He even has the slogan on a large sign on top of his car.
Shaw has been fighting what he believes to be “[Mayor Nicholas] Sacco’s corrupt political machine” for 28 years. If elected, Shaw hopes to eliminate all excessive salaries and end corruption.
Koehler, the father of seven home-schooled adult offspring, also hopes to make educational changes to the school board. He first ran for the North Bergen School Board in the early 1980s as one among 21 candidates. A self-described “constitutionalist,” he wants to preserve the original intent of the U.S. Constitution, and as a fiscal conservative he wants to protect taxpayer money. He is a product of the North Bergen public school system and has a B.S. in Engineering Technology.
Koehler is also active with several organizations whose purposes range from caring for the unborn and their mothers to senior citizens. As a U.S. Army veteran, he supports the troops as a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Disabled American Veterans (DAV).
“I am running because people need an alternative,” said Koehler. “I have a real concern for young people. They need to have more than textbook knowledge.”
Escobar, the parent of two, has training and experience in accounting, administration, and business management, which he intends to utilize if elected.
“North Bergen’s schools waste millions and millions of tax dollars every year, while our schools repeatedly fail and our children and grandchildren are lucky to even have books and supplies,” Escobar alleges. “I plan to bring real reform to our schools.”
Ramirez, a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) volunteer and community advocate, is “committed to making schools work for children and not for greedy politicians.” As a mother of three, she says she understands the importance of education. Ramirez says she is running as an independent, non-political candidate.
“Without a good education, our children and grandchildren will have no future,” said Ramirez. “Working together, we can save our schools and return education – no greedy politics – to our classrooms. If you care about our children and our schools, please join me in saving our schools.”
Dilone, a former first grade educator and mother of two, says she worries about the future of the township’s schools.
“As a parent and a former teacher, I know when schools are providing a good education and when they are not,” said Dilone. “When you see overcrowded classrooms, students housed in trailers, shortages of books and supplies, you know something is very wrong. Our children and grandchildren deserve every opportunity to succeed, but North Bergen’s schools are failing them, and failing us. I am willing to fight for our rights and take on the politicians who run our schools, but I can’t do it without support.”
While the candidates may not agree on many matters, they do believe that parental involvement is key to the development of their child’s education.
“We need to encourage more parents to be involved in their children’s education and take an active role,” said Bartoli.
“Parents don’t realize how vitally important they are in their child’s education,” said Koehler.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org