Crowded race in upcoming Secaucus school board election

Ten candidates have thrown their hats in the ring

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From left to right: Abby Gonzalez, Ruby Kish, and Leah Fanning-Farinola
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Kelli D'Addetta
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Bill Miller
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Trustee Joan Cali
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From left to right: Abby Gonzalez, Ruby Kish, and Leah Fanning-Farinola
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Kelli D'Addetta
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Bill Miller
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Trustee Joan Cali

The upcoming Board of Education election in Secaucus is packed, with a number of candidates vying for three available seats.

Incumbent Trustee Joan Cali is running for re-election: “I believe it is the responsibility of each Board member to ensure every student receives a fair and thorough education while keeping all students safe and healthy. By providing a course of studies, which includes academics, the creative and performing arts, and athletics, we can fulfill our responsibilities.”

Incumbent Trustee Mary Eccles filed to run but hit a road block when the Board of Elections took issue with one of the validating signatures for her nominating petition, she said. The signature, which Eccles said happened to be her husband’s, allegedly did not match his signature on the county voter registration rolls, which prompted the board to invalidate her petition. After a challenge in Hudson County Superior Court, with Eccles claiming that her husband’s signature changed over time, the decision was overturned and Eccles was put back on the ballot.

Eccles is running on her past as PTA President at the Huber Street PTA and other management experience. She also touts her accomplishments on the board as: helping roll out the 1 to 1 Chromebook initiative during the pandemic, successful graduations for the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021, among others.

Meanwhile, Trustee Barbara Strobert did not file to run for re-election.

‘Change We Need’ slate

Only one slate is running in the 2021 elections, under the slogan “Change We Need.”

Running on that ticket is Dr. Leah Fanning-Farinola, Abby Gonzalez, and Ruby Kish, who seek to create a board “that listens and engages with the Secaucus community.” Fanning-Farinola is Chief School Administrator at REED Academy, and Gonzalez and Kish are co-founders of the Secaucus Special Education Parents Advisory Committee (SEPAC).

Fanning Farinola said: “Born and raised in Secaucus, I had exemplary experiences with the dedicated educators of our public schools that ultimately led to my decision to pursue a career in education. As the Chief School Administrator of REED Academy, I saw how remote learning impacted my students and their families and I’m committed to doing my part to achieving a safe full reopening.”

Gonzalez, a self-described advocate, said: “Working with families in town is a positive and fulfilling experience that I went back to school to pursue a degree in social work where I hope to continue to navigate challenging situations. My continued work for the town, as well as my career as a social worker, both emphasize the importance of truly listening to and understanding the concerns of families.”

Kish, an attorney, said: “Abby and I founded SEPAC to provide parents with the voice they needed to address systemic issues in special education. Inspired by the impact that my advocacy made in the lives of students here in Secaucus, I enrolled in law school with the goal of working in communities where the need for my services would be the greatest.”

They believe “the strength of a school district lies in the involvement of parents and community members, that the board works for the community, and that the superintendent reports to the board.”

Kelli D’Addetta

‘For the Children’

The other candidates are running independently.

Kelli D’Addetta is a 45 year resident of Secaucus and past Trustee seeking to return to the board under the slogan “For the Children.” D’Addetta is a former financial analyst who left to raise her children.

Now a parent with her kids in the district, she holds and has held a number of positions including: both President and Vice President of the Clarendon School Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Vice President of the Hudson County PTA, and a member of the Safety and Security and School Uniforms committees. Volunteer ventures of D’Addetta include teaching at ICC, coaching softball and basketball.

“I am experienced, committed, and will be the impetus for a shift in direction everyone is seeking all while following a realistic approach,” D’Addetta said. “I am dedicated to the children and will always make decisions that reflect that.”

Meanwhile, the other independent candidates include parents like Bill Miller and Audry Yule, who are running to promote transparency on the board.

“Our kids education come first,” Miller said. “I will fight for your kids as if they were my own!

On his campaign page on social media, Miller added: “I want to give a voice to the parents of kids in our school district. I seek transparency and open lines of communication between the board and district families. I will fight to get the best education possible for all of our kids, they are the future and deserve every possible opportunity that we can give them.”

Yule, who is currently involved with the Clarendon PTA, said: “I want our children to have a challenging and nurturing education from the start by constantly reminding our board and powers that be of our Secaucus School District mission statement to prepare our children ‘to brave the challenges of the future.’”

Bill Miller

Other candidates and elections

Another candidate, David Kraatz told The Hudson Reporter: ”I’m running to bring greater transparency and responsiveness to the board and people of Secaucus.”

Also on the ballot for the school board election is Alexander de Hombre, who did not respond to requests for comment. Carry Chan filed to run in the election, but was taken off the ballot due to signature issues with her nominating petition.

In addition to the school board election, there are municipal elections in Secaucus. Mayor Michael Gonnelli and his council slate consisting of First Ward Councilman Robert Costantino, Second Ward Councilman Mark Dehnert and Third Ward Councilman Bill McKeever are running unopposed for reelection as Independent candidates.

Residents can vote early from Oct. 23 to 31, vote by mail, or cast their ballots on Election Day.

While there are no early voting locations in Secaucus, residents can go to other locations in the county to vote. To vote by mail, residents must request a mail-in ballot. For more information, go to www.hudsoncountyclerk.org/elections.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.