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Hopatcong BOE Candidates Discuss Ideas to Improve District

Lundin, Reilly and Antonelli attend session hosted by borough's Democrats.

Three of the six candidates for Hopatcong Board of Education presented ideas  Monday about how to move the 2,300-student district forward.

In attendance at the candidates night hosted by the borough’s Democratic Committee were incumbents Clifford Lundin, the board’s president, Joan S. Reilly, and challenger Judith Antonelli.

Others on the Nov. 6 ballot for the three 3-year seats are incumbent Dolores Krowl, and challengers Quashinna Williams and John H. Maine. This is the first November election for the local school board. The annual budget was approved in April and does not appear on the ballot

Reilly and Lundin were in attendance at the start of the event, but left midway to attend another candidate’s night. Antonelli arrived just before the other two candidates left after attending that other candidate’s event.

The incumbents said the district has been hard hit by cuts in state aid, but has worked hard to spend the budget appropriately.

“We find three different ways to spend a dollar,” Reilly said.

Lundin, with Reilly agreeing, said the district struggled two years ago when state aid was cut $750,000, and the state mandated 2 percent tax levy cap was put in place.

While the tax levy increase was held under 2 percent, the impact of the cuts were evident throughout the district.

To offset the decrease in aid, Lundin said, “We went green.”

The installation of a six-acre solar panel field will cut the district’s electric costs $3 million over the next 15 years, he said. The district is paying 5 cents per kilowatt hour for solar powered electricity that supplies all but the Hudson Maxim School.

Lundin said the savings allowed the district to make some needed repairs and take on some long-delayed purchases like textbooks. The district spent $500,000 on new textbooks to replace some that were 15 to 20 years old, he said.

Reilly and Lundin admitted that the district’s reputation has taken some hits recently, especially after the high school dropped 89 places in the New Jersey Monthly magazine annual listing of the state’s schools, and recent applications by  eighth graders to attend Lenape Valley Regional High School in Stanhope through the state’s choice school program.

Lundin said in response to the concerns raised by residents, the district has formed a High School of the Future task force that will examine all aspects of the school and seek possible solutions.

“We can do better,” Lundin said. “We want to challenge things.”

Antonelli, a 27-year educator who currently teaches third grade in the Roxbury school district, said she would challenge the board’s decision making processes  and transparency.

Antonelli said she would work to develop programs in the classroom that offered greater motivation for students to excel on standardized tests and in classroom work.

“Students respond to a reward-based decision making process,” she said.

Antonelli said the board’s process of discussion and analysis before making decisions could be refreshed. Last spring when the board hired a new high school principal, a dispute over the salary broke out in public. Antonelli said the board should examine the decision that was made before the final discussion took place.

A range of salaries had been presented, she said, and the board should have taken the time to ensure all members fully understood what that meant before a final vote was taken.

Lundin, who was absent for that July vote,  and Reilly, who was in favor of hiring high school principal Noreen Lazaruik at the higher end of the offered pay scale,  had both left Monday’s session when the question about the principal’s salary came up.

The board hired Lazaruk at a salary of $132,500.

Lurky Loo October 09, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Vote out the incumbents! How many more poor ratings and poor test scores does this town need?? Vote Antonelli, Williams and Maine! Our Children's education depend on your vote!
Hopatcongpop October 09, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Hopefully this time around more parents will get out to Vote. Voting YES is real important.Lets all try to make a differance this time around. Like Lurky loo says, our childrens education depends on your vote.
Michele Guttenberger October 09, 2012 at 06:50 PM
As an Independent voter I attended this non-party meet up the Democratic Club sponsored. Kudos to the Democratic Club for making it a public forum for all to attend. I was disappointed I did not meet Williams and Maine. Although, I do not have a child that is goring to or has gone through the Hopatcong Public School System, I think a great Public School system is the life's blood to the Wellness of any town. Poor Schools eventually become poor towns. You cannot separate the School System from property home values. Outstanding school systems are infectious and it spills outside the K-12 arena and into the whole community. That is why I proposed that Hopatcong should return to offering Adult and Continuing ed even if people must fund them through their own out-of pocket costs. This is a vehicle for folks like me to engage in the educational community of our town. It was unfortunate, I did not see Williams and Maine because right now it was the only forum available to someone who does not have a child in the school system. Hopatcong Schools may have great plans, ideas and teachers but most of them are out of sight to the general population of Hopatcong. When adults are not asked to participate then they have no vested interest in the schools. From my perspective the BOE needs to have new and innovative approaches rather than doing repair work to damaged situations. I agree with Antonelli'ss pre strategic BOE governance approach instead of after damage fixes.
Kimberly October 09, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Not the article I was expecting...there were MANY people who asked questions and made comments but I see you failed to report them here. Why? I think the public (who weren't there) should get some of the other publics concerns and questions so they too can make an educated decision! Me personally, I am appalled that 3 candidates were not present at a "Meet the Candidates" session, especially the 2 newer ones!! Really? How can I vote for you when I don't even know you! Also, for a bunch of townspeople who are upset with the current board for one reason or another, I am shocked you didn't come out and meet them...I was only one of 17 people in attendance and the only one who has children in the district...it's a shame that more parents do not take an interest in those people making decisions on behalf of our children's educations! Incumbents aren't always bad (some are...so keep in mind when you are voting, just because your name is first on the ballot, doesn't mean they are the best choice)! I liked Joan Reilly and she has the knowledge of how Hopatcong Schools ran in the 80's & 90's when we were a sought after town and she knows what it would take to bring us back there (ie: experience)! I also liked Judith Antonelli, A LOT!!! She was very knowledgable and had great ideas!! Just don't forget to vote and if you do not know the candidates running, then please don't vote at all because you could be putting someone not worthy of the empty seat!!! Thank You!
The Watcher October 09, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Kudos to the board (and potential) members who showed up. What ever happened to the meet the Board of Ed candidates night they used to hold in the school? That was open to the public and in a neutral setting.
S. Coventry October 09, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Kimberly there was another meet the candidates night the same night
Joanne Flexser October 10, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Why would Hopatcong schedule two "meet the candidates" nights on the same night in two different venues? Were either of them publicized? Where were they posted? On the Patch? We are in great difficulty here and moves like this do not help to improve our image or the educational system.
Quashinna Williams October 10, 2012 at 12:29 PM
My apologies for not attending last night's event. I have two children in the district and was attending parent teacher conferences last night. Let me simply state that my platform is simple, change. I feel the BOE needs to look at what other districts are doing to get it right and implement it here. I volunteer tirelessly throughout the community and see the failing system and its scary, for me as a mother and a taxpayer. Something must give and our children should come first. Programs need to come back so these children and parents will want to stay in Hopatcong schools. A task force is not the answer, revamped curriculum is. Supporting teachers when disciplinary action is being handed out. Seeking out top performing districts and their budgets and see what fits for Hopatcong. I have no hidden agenda here. I saw the ranking just like everyone else and the criteria wasn't only based on test scores. I love Hopatcong and feel we deserve more. I am available for anyone who has questions. Please feel free to contact me q.r.williams1@gmail.com
Hopatcong Mom of Two October 10, 2012 at 01:59 PM
I saw one post about the meeting and it was unclear as to exactly what it was.. Was it a Democratic party thing or a BOE thing? I wasnt sure, and by the time I saw it I had other obligations. We need to have a clear "Meet the BOE Candidates" night prior to the election so we can make a responsible decision on who and why we are voting for them.
Pat October 10, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Has the High School of the future been formed? Have the members of the task force started meeting?
S. Coventry October 11, 2012 at 04:07 AM
Apparently Ms. Williams was at a back to school also. According to the story it was hosted by the Democratic club which means they provided the space and the refreshments and invited the BOE candidates.
John Pezzino October 11, 2012 at 05:07 AM
I really liked what you said last night, it was very smart. you spoke in a calm intelligent manner that really kept my attention. It leads me to believe you have a lot to offer, If you can control your emotions while discussing sensitive issues at the council meetings I think you will get more positive results . Well done.
Kimberly October 11, 2012 at 10:35 AM
Yes, it was "silly" to have 2 seperate "meet the Candidates" on the same night and yes there should be a "school" initiated meeting at the HS auditorium one night before the election. With that being said...all 3 candidates that did show up, in fact, made it to BOTH meetings! Judith showed up 1 hour late to one and Joan and Cliff left after an hour so they could attend the other. Maine and Williams were not at either!! I am sorry Quashinna, but the meeting was not Tues. it was Monday night (no conferences)...I'm trying not to put you down, but as a mom and taxpayer it was very fristrating to attend a candidates meet & greet and have 2 members trying to take seats away from incumbents not there!! And believe me there is an incumbent I do not want to see return!! If another meeting is not possible, then maybe a blog here on the Patch with questions could be answered by the candidates??
Quashinna Williams October 11, 2012 at 12:12 PM
I'm sorry Kimberly my wording should have read "My apologies for not attending Monday night's event. I have two children in the district and was attending parent teacher conferences last night." To be more specific I was celebrating my wedding anniversary which was October 7th with my husband, which also happens to be the same day of my fathers passing. I am sorry you did not have the chance to meet with me, however I can be found at the board meetings or typically any school function. As I said if you have questions or would like to meet me for a discussion my email is located above.
Quashinna Williams October 11, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Not to my knowledge. I did sign up as a volunteer and have heard nothing thus far. Any updates would be greatly appreciated.
S. Coventry October 11, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Mr. Pezzino as someone who has read your posts on patch and your nasty, malicious e-mails resulting in potential law suits against you for defamation I would strongly suggest you take your own advice and learn to control yourself. I for one will be voting for Mara Modes and writing in Michele Guttenberger. Thank the good Lord that most people were not subjected to your version of the truth.
John Pezzino October 11, 2012 at 09:52 PM
S Conenrty, As You see I can put aside the horrible things that Michelle, randy and the rest of the Mara clan said about me, and I can move forward. By your comment its obvious that you don't know the whole story,so I forgive you, and I actually admire your loyalty to your friends, its very commendable. If going to court is the only way to exonerate me, then let them bring it on. I know politics is a blood sport and is not for the weak at heart, even though they crossed the line, to me its water under the bridge. I just write it off as desperate words by desperate people that got caught up in the moment. Any way on this particular day Michelle made some nice suggestions, and I thought It would be nice to acknowledge it, that's all, I surely wasn't looking to invite yours or anyone else's negativity and turn her nice posting into a joke. Michelle I'm sorry I got S. Conenrty all worked up, I hope people will read your post and see it for the smart writing it is. God Bless John Pezzino
S. Coventry November 20, 2012 at 05:53 AM
@John Pezzino as people have said before there are no postings and I have received no nasty e-mails from "Mara clan" as you put it, but I have received your vile nasty e-mails and read your accusatory posts (many of which were under different names). You seem to have a persecution complex you just love blaming everyone else for your inane crazy actions and accusations. I hope all of them sue you, but most of all I hope you seek help if not for your sake for your children's.

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