Bernice Couch

Bernice Byrd Couch, 75, of Pleasantville, was among the first dozen black students to integrate Claymont High School in Delaware in 1952. Even so, she was the only black student in her grade.

On Tuesday, voters headed to the polls to choose who they wanted to represent them on their local boards of education.

Statewide, 530 school districts in the state held school election Tuesday with voters deciding who will fill the 1,590 open seats, according to the New Jersey School Boards Association. While most of the races were uncontested, with about 1.29 candidates per available seat, there were several local races to watch.

Atlantic County's unofficial election results as of 10:27 p.m., some of the last in the area to be updated on the county clerk's website, did not include write-in votes or mail-in ballots, which could play a role in the results. Results from Cape May, Cumberland and Ocean counties also did not include mail-in ballots, but did include write-ins.

Egg Harbor Township

In one of the biggest races of Atlantic County, newcomers Amy Summer, Michelle Carney Ray-Yoder, and Tamika Gilbert-Floyd were the top vote-getters for the Egg Harbor Township Board of Education, according to unofficial results from the Atlantic County Clerk's website. Summer had 16.5 percent, Carney Ray-Yoder had 16.88 percent and Gilbert-Floyd had 13.58 percent.

One of eight contested races in the county, Egg Harbor Township's school board election featured 10 candidates. Incumbents Justin A. Riggs and Barbara Szilagyi were seeking re-election to their three-year seats, but did not garner enough votes. Board member Chris Moran did not file a petition for re-election.

The other challengers were Andrew Madsen, Michelle J. Douglass, Harold E. Van Dine, Shae Dailyda, and Joshua Benjamin.


In Pleasantville, several seats were up for election Tuesday, including three full terms and two unexpired seats.

Of the four current board members seeking re-election, Sharnell Morgan was the top vote-getter with 27.12 percent, according to unofficial results. Also retaining seats are incumbents Anny Melo and Bernice Couch with 23.8 percent and 18.54 percent respectively.

Current board president Carla Thomas and challenger Richard Norris, who was elected to a full term last year and then removed for failing to obtain a background check, had 15.6 and 14.9 percent of the votes respectively.

Hassan Callaway was the only candidate for the two-year unexpired term of Norris. Callaway was appointed in July.

James Buford, also the only candidate, took the one-year unexpired term of Silvia Landron, who resigned last December and then was replaced temporarily by Melo.


Hammonton Board of Education incumbents Raymond Scipione and Sam Mento III, current board president, retained their seats with 21.51 percent and 24.22 percent of the vote respective, unofficial results show.

Newcomer Kelli Fallon was top vote-getter and took the third open seat on the board with 25.09 percent. Other challengers were Erica Polito and Isaias Arroyo. 


Of the four candidates for three open seats, Kathleen Lowry was top vote-getter with 27.26 percent, according to unofficial results.

Alexa D’Amato Barrera won with 26.43 percent of the votes. Incumbent Jason Goldstein returns with 23.22 percent, a slight lead over challenger Matthew Simpson who obtained 23.09 percent of the votes.


In Cape May County, the only contested school board race was Wildwood where newcomer Krista Fitzsimons took one of the three open, three-year seats along with incumbents Kelly Phillips and Lynn Quinlan, unofficial results from the Cape May County Clerk show.

Incumbent Jacqueline Martinez did not retain her seat with only 17 percent of the votes.


In Cumberland County, the biggest school board race was in Vineland where 12 candidates were vying for three open seats. According to unofficial results, newcomers Tom Ulrich and Meghan Spinelli and the lone incumbent, Cedric P. Holmes were the winners. Spinelli had the highest number of votes with 14.44 percent, followed by Ulrich at 12.51 percent and Holmes at 11.75 percent.

Other candidates included Sharon Dauito-Baxter, Robert N. Odorizzi, Robert J. Wagner, Alix G. Silva, Bonnie Henderson-Martin, Ruth Barreiro, Shane L. Harris Sr., Tracey L. Huggins, and Jon G. Shadinger. Current board members Kim Codispoti and Diamaris Rios chose not to seek re-election this year. Ulrich is a former school board president.


Millville voters had one of only a handful of public school questions in the state. Unofficial results Tuesday evening showed voters will not allow the Millville Board of Education to stop Civil Service participation, an effort to reduce costs and administrative time. This recession would have taken effect on January 1, 2018. With 100 percent of districts reporting, the measure failed 3,286-1,311.

According to the New Jersey School Boards Association, the Millville teachers’ union challenged the question, and a Superior Court judge set a trial for Nov. 14. If the district prevails, the judge said he would enter an order preventing the vote results from being certified, according to published reports.

Contact: 609-272-7251

Twitter @clairelowe

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.