School board race crowded

Twenty candidates line up to run

The BBOED election will be held in November.
The BBOED election will be held in November.

The Bayonne Board of Education (BBOED) has no shortage of citizens vying for a spot. Twenty candidates filed petitions to run for four open seats. One seat is a one-year term and three seats are three-year terms.
The issues facing the Bayonne School District are like those of many public schools across the country: Paying teachers enough to live in one of the most expensive states in the country while retaining and developing talent, maintaining and expanding facilities to accommodate a growing student population, keeping enough reserve funds to cover emergencies, and expanding pre-k while stabilizing rising property taxes.
Here are the 20 people who want to be a part of the solution.
Many candidates are familiar faces. Former trustee Mary Jane Desmond, who stepped down from her seat in May to allow a cousin a chance to become a teacher without conflict of interest, is running for a one-year term.
Mikel Lawandy, who the board selected to replace Desmond, was appointed as a trustee in 2014 before Bayonne residents voted to switch to an elected board in 2015. He went on to lose a close election in the fall of 2017.
Lawandy is running as a team with current board members, Joseph Broderick, a former volleyball coach and current BBOED President; Charles Ryan, a retired deputy chief of police; and Ava Finnerty, who taught in the district for decades. The four are running under the banner, “Accountability, Experience, Integrity.”
Leo Smith, the district’s former business administrator who announced his retirement in May, is another familiar face running for a three-year term. He is the brother of former Mayor Mark Smith.

New faces emerge

Meanwhile, newcomers Edith Ferrell, Jodi Casais, Jan Patrick Egan, and Alicia Losonczy, president of the Henry Harris Community School Parent Teacher Organization and frequent meeting attendee, are banding together to gain recognition under the banner, “Together We Can.”
Running for one-year terms are David Solari, Hector Gonzalez, Michael Mulcahy, and former BBOED hopefuls Gina Irizarry and Sharma Montgomery. In the fall of 2017, sitting Trustee Mario Valado beat Montgomery, an Air Force veteran and former city council candidate, by 81 votes. Mulcahy is a former commissioner on the Bayonne Construction Board of Appeals and treasurer for the mayoral campaign of his childhood friend, Jason O’Donnell.
Charles Shepard, Evelyn Sabol Benyo, and Lauren Alonso, are running as a team for three-year terms under the same banner message that Lauren’s husband, Michael Alonso, used when running in 2017 – “Make Bayonne Great Again.”

Rory Pasquariello can be reached at