Three incumbents running for the Pleasantville Board of Education seats were defeated in Tuesday’s election.
Former board member and President Jerome Page, running alongside Michael Bright, filled two seats, and Lawrence Davenport, who ran independently, won the third opening. They will join the board at the reorganization meeting Jan. 8.
Current board members Doris Graves, Melanie Griffin and Johnny McClellan failed to win another three-year term.
“I want to turn the focus back on the children,” Page said Wednesday. “The board is too involved in day-to-day operations, which is more the superintendent’s job.”
“I am so happy that we can move forward into a new direction in accountability and fiscal responsibility, and focus on the children,” said current board member Joanne Famularo, whose seat was not up for election.
All three winning candidates said that hearing students’ opinions is an important aspect for them, and has been lacking for some time. It is a situation which has recently been addressed by the Student Ambassador program, a newly developed project, at the high school.
“A lot of the students don’t complain, because the first thing that comes out of their mouth is, ‘It doesn’t matter because nobody listens to us anyway,’“ Bright said.
Sports programs are another area of concern for Davenport. With fewer students winning college sports scholarships over the years, Davenport said the effect has been detrimental to student morale.
“There’s no excitement,” he said. “The main thing that has changed is that there is not a lot of community involvement. Once you get the involvement, it helps with the graduation rate and the crime rate.”
Frustration with the current board includes a feeling of lack of transparency, Famularo said.
“There’s not a split, but a rift, in the board,” she said. “ If you’re transparent, that’s how you accomplish moving forward. We need to bring parents and community members back to board meetings and get their input.”
Davenport said that the rift in the board has affected employees who feel the system is a lost cause.
“The one body that is supposed to be setting an example, is not looking so good,” he said.
The focus needs to be returned to the students and not on the money, Bright said. The state-appointed monitor was supposed to help with that issue, but as far as Davenport has heard, money is still being wasted.
Davenport added that though he is new to being a school board member, he hopes to learn how the board works and the policies involved in taking on the position to affect positive changes. He said the focus needs to turn to creating a variety of options for the graduating classes.
“With the kids, now its out of sight out of mind, and that is no way to treat them,” he said of the attitude of some of the high school’s recent alumni. “Not everyone is made to go to college.”
Having attended a trade school himself, Davenport said he knows firsthand the options available to students. Page said he wants to encourage more hands-on classes and projects for students, particularly the junior and seniors in the high school, with the support of the rest of the board.
Page and Davenport agree there should be a change in focus for certification of board members and changes in policies.
It is important to certify members, according to the New Jersey School Board Association, so that they can fully understand their duties and responsibilities, Page said.
“There isn’t a lot of talk about the governer and new legislation that affects the school district,” he added.
There are three more school board meetings, two in November and one in December, before the newly elected members take their seat.
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