The 2012-13 school budget passed and the Building Excellent Schools Together (“BEST”) Team won Tuesday night’s school board election. Despite low voter turnout, the three-member team of Mary Shaughnessy, Dan Anderson and Kent Weisert defeated lone challenger Dianna Fuller.
“I’m thrilled and honored that people would trust me and the “BEST” Team with their votes,” said an excited Shaughnessy when the results were announced. “I’m looking forward to an extremely productive year with some highly skilled colleagues.”
The scene at the high school cafeteria was ebullient as members of the community, most of whom said they supported the winning trio, congratulated one another. Fuller was not in attendance.
“It was a tight race for third place,” remarked BOE Vice President Shane Berger, who had kept a written tally of the votes. School Administrator Michael Derderian, sitting beside Berger, tabulated the totals electronically. “I wish all four could have made it.”
Berger added, “Voter turnout was far lower this year than in previous years. [Then, at one polling place] it was 200, this year it’s fifty.”
Still, the votes were enough to bring two newcomers to the board and with them, some new ideas and energy.
“I feel great,” smiled Dan Anderson, a retired Bloomfield music teacher. “I’m ready to get to work. Next step is to get ready for the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday. I’ll get into the thick of things right away.”
Bloomfield attorney and former council candidate Kent Weisert called running for the Board of Ed a “very positive experience.”
“The folks I ran with were well-known. They were hard workers and ran a great campaign,” he said. “The first thing I want to do? Listen. Listen and learn.”
Incumbent BOE President Shaughnessy agreed much work needs to be done and said she intends to hit the ground running.
“The first thing I’m going to do is try to pull together a legislative committee made up of the superintendent, school staff members and interested community members, to see if we can go after that state money that the state itself says it owes us.”
Shaughnessy referred to her ongoing effort to restore state funding to the Bloomfield School district. In a pre-election article published on Patch earlier this month, Shaughnessy detailed her efforts to recover the funds, saying, “Depending on whose figures you rely on—the state’s or those of New Jersey’s Education Law Center -- the Bloomfield school district has been deprived of anywhere from $16 to $26 million in state funding since 2009.” In March, Shaughnessy went to Trenton to fight for the money, an effort that will clearly carry over to her second term.
Another thing Shaughnessy said she wants to do as she begins her new term is to contact the New Jersey School Boards to set up training workshops for the new board members.
“In the past, new board members were just thrown out there to sink or swim,” she said. “I’m figuring out how we as a group can help the superintendent and help the school district.”
After the votes were tabulated, community members discussed the results.
“I’m pleased with the result,” commented Bloomfield resident Charlette Henry-Pray, who had volunteered all day at the Berkeley School polling site with BOE member Paula Zaccone. “Still, from what I understand, Dianna [Fuller] did a really good job. She seemed to be able to save the district thousands of dollars.”
Zaccone agreed. “If the board could hold ten people, she should be there.”
As for the budget, Berger expressed satisfaction that Bloomfield had voted to pass it.
“This BOE fought for the right to vote,” he said. "Most communities in New Jersey won’t have a say in their school budgets. But our people do.”