Casais elected Bayonne BOE President, Gonzalez elected VP

New trustees sworn in amid leadership change up

The Bayonne Board of Education has elected new leadership. Trustee Jodi Casais was elected Board President and Trustee Hector Gonzalez was elected Board Vice President at the Jan. 4 reorganization meeting.

In addition, the trustees that won the November 2022 election were sworn in. That included Gonzalez, as well as three other new trustees Mary Jane Desmond, Miriam Bechay, and Saverio “Sam” Maggio.

- Advertisement -

Gonzalez is a public school teacher in Jersey City, Desmond is a former BOE trustee and former city councilwoman returning to the board, Bechay is a biomedical engineering student at New Jersey Institute of Technology and former local campaign worker, and Maggio is a retired public school teacher, President of the Board of Trustees at the Bayonne Community Day Nursery, and the Bayonne School Employees Credit Union.

In a historic move, Bechay becomes the board’s youngest-ever trustee at age 21. Meanwhile, the “Together We Can” ticket has held onto its grip of the board.

“I really became interested in politics by working on local campaigns. I was fortunate that former Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti recruited me and a diverse group of young people to work on campaigns and encouraged us to get more involved in our community,” Bechay said in a statement following the meeting. “It’s my time to give back to the community that has already given me so many opportunities. I hope to do the same for the younger generations. I know it will not be easy, but working with my colleagues I know we can succeed: My number one priority is creating opportunities for all our students to succeed.”

Also of note, Maggio is now the only current board trustee who has not run a “Together We Can” slate. He was also the only candidate to win a seat on the board on the Mayor James Davis-backed “Voices for Progress” slate. This was his first endorsement in years after opting to stop endorsing the “Together We Can” slate following many years of his support for their candidates since candidates began running on slates.

At the January meeting, Gonzalez, Desmond, and Bechay of “Together We Can,” as well as Maggio, were sworn in. They took the oath of office administered by Board Secretary Gary Maita.

New leadership installed

Once the board was sworn in, the leadership elections were held. Both the president and vice president positions changed position holders.

Former Board President Maria Valado and fomer Board Vice President Christopher Munoz were elected to their positions in January of 2020, marking a shift away from the previous leadership under former President Joseph Broderick and former Vice President Denis Wilbeck. Valado and Munoz were and re-elected in 2021 and 2022.

Now, they pass the torch to other trustees in 2023. Those trustees include now President Casais and Vice President Gonzalez.

Casais was recently re-elected on a “Together We Can” ticket in 2021 and unsuccessfully ran on a council slate with former City Council President and mayoral candidate Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski in the 2022 May municipal election. Gonzalez was re-elected this past November of 2022 on “Together We Can.”

At the meeting, it was actually former President Valado who motioned to nominate Casais as President. Most of the board followed suit in elected Casais, except for Trustee Desmond.

Desmond voted no on the motion and on the election of Casais and every other vote related to the election of officers. She said the leadership was predecided prior to the election of herself and the other new members.

“There were conversations before the election was even over of who was going to do what, excluding anyone who was running that day and may or may not have made it,” she said. “Absolutely not.”

Hector Gonzalez (center) was elected Board Vice President.

Small dissent over leadership choices

Regardless of Desmond’s dissent, the rest of the board voted for Casais. She won 8-1, and thanked the board for electing her.

“I want to thank my board that I’m presently sitting with that they have faith in me to do the right thing,” Casais said. “Thank you.”

Following that, Valado motioned to nominate Gonzalez as Vice President. The board was also largely on board with that, spare for Desmond again and this time former Vice President Munoz.

Despite Desmond and Munoz’s objections, which he did not speak on, Gonzalez won the election. The board voted 7-2 to elect him as Vice President.

“Thank you to everyone,” Munoz said. “Mr. Munoz has been a class act with everything. And Mrs. Valado the president, I have learned a lot from them. And thank you for everyone for both whoever voted for me and whoever didn’t vote for me, thank you.”

Bayonne Education Association Gene Woods was under the weather, but his wife Stephanie Woods spoke briefly in his lieu. She is also the Membership Chairperson for the BEA and the union representative for House 5 at Bayonne High School.

“I just came here in Gene’s stead to say congratulations to everybody who is here and we look forward to working with everybody who has been elected or has come back,” Woods said. “We can make everything better and brighter for our students and our teachers.”

Miriam Bechay became the youngest ever trustee on the Bayonne Board of Education.

Outgoing trustees say farewell

At the December meeting of the board, the outgoing trustees bid adieu to the board. Then-Board President Valado noted it was Trustees Lisa Burke, Jan Patrick Egan, and Denis Wilbeck’s last meeting.

All three opted not to run for re-election. Egan and Burke had been on the board since 2019 and decided not to run for another term.

Wilbeck has been on the board since 2015 when it was first elected and was most recently re-elected in 2019. He served as Vice President from 2016 to 2020, being just a regular trustee in recent years. In the wake of a unsuccessful run for a City Council At-Large position in the May municipal election, Wilbeck also opted not to run.

This left three vacancies on the board for new candidates. The fourth seat up for grabs was Gonzalez’s, who did opt to run for re-election after being appointed in January of 2022 following the first Black elected Trustee

“I want to say it was a pleasure working with them,” Valado said. “As a board we did great things all together.”

Burke thanked Bayonne voters for electing her. She said she was proud of the work she did with the board amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to thank the community for voting me in a giving me the opportunity to represent you all. It was an honor. I truly led with my heart. For those of you who know know that I had special education in mind the entire time. It has grown leaps and bounds over the past three years especially with us being in the pandemic. It was not. Nothing was easy up here. I thank you so much and it was an honor to serve the community.”

Valado thanked Burke for her work since being elected on a “Together We Can” slate with Egan in 2019. She said: “Thank you Lisa it was an honor to have you on this board.”

Saverio “Sam” Maggio was the only Davis-backed candidate to win election to the board in November of 2022.

Sending off Burke, Egan, and Wilbeck

Egan also thanked the voters for trusting him with the position. He also touted his work with the board and the other members, praising their dedication to students.

“It was a fun three years,” Egan said. “We worked hard. We had a lot of challenges with COVID. But it was great getting to meet the other trustees and the central office staff and the other professionals that we interacted with. It was an honor. I truly was a product of Bayonne Public Schools. My mother was. public school teacher. Public school is important to me. I spent a lot of time in Lincoln pool too… so hopefully the incoming board will be able to solve those problems for you guys.

“I guess the one thing I’ll say is, there’s always another problem. Regardless of what you think of who sits up here, there’s not one person that sat up here since they started elected, that won’t always have the best interest of the students at heart. People don’t always agree. You may not agree with us. We don’t agree with each other all the time but everybody here was trying their best to the best for the citizens of Bayonne and the students and the staff.”

Valado also applauded Egan’s work with the board. “Thank you Trustee Egan. It was an honor to serve with you,” she said.

Wilbeck praised Bayonne as the best district in the county. He wished the new board the best of luck.

“I travel around the United States and umpiring sports,” Wilbeck said. “I go nationally and I go regionally. The teachers here in Bayonne, the students in the city, the district is second to none. I go to universities, high schools, and USA tournaments throughout the country. The students, the teachers, the administrators that you see up here are second to none. They’re equal to, not better than any school I have been to in the United States… Not only are they the best in the county and the state, they are the best throughout the United States. It’s been my pleasure to be here with the Bayonne School District for the last several years. Best wishes and good luck.”

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

clear sky
37.1 ° F
41.2 °
29.6 °
52 %
0 %
52 °
70 °
58 °
64 °
63 °
- Advertisement -

Upcoming Events

Montclair Film + Montclair Improv Comedy!
• 03/31/2023 at 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

The Clairidge + The Ordinary Kids: The Rocky Horror Picture Show!
• 04/01/2023 - 04/02/2023 at 12:00 am

Montclair Improv Comedy’s Kid Show
• 04/15/2023 at 4:00 pm

• 04/21/2023 at 7:30 pm

Montclair Film + StorySLAM: “BETTER TOGETHER”
• 04/27/2023 at 7:30 pm - 10:00 pm

Current Issue