Board of Education Candidates Cover Range Of Topics At Candidates’ Night

B of E 2014 candidates night06

From left, Board of Education candidates Ed Potosnak, Margaret Steele, Patricia Stanley, Alex Kharazi and Laurie Merris at the Oct. 30 candidates’ night.

The pending school referendum, the search for a schools Superintendent and school budget oversight were some of the topics fielded by Board of Education candidates Oct. 30 at a candidates’ night held at Somerset Run.

The event, which five of the six school board candidates attended, was sponsored by the Somerset Run Civics Club and the Somerset Adult Communities Civics Coalition. The event was open to residents of Somerset Run, Canal Walk, Sterling Pointe and Renaissance at Raritan Valley.

The candidates – incumbent Ed Potosnak and newcomers Alex Kharazi, Patricia Stanley, Laurie Merris and Margaret Steele – answered nine questions posed to them by moderator Steve Levine of the Somerset Run Civics Club. The six candidate, Latee Walton-McCleod, could not attend because of an illness.

Potosnak, Kharazi and Walton-McCleod are running as a slate for three, three-year terms. They are opposed by Stanley. Steele and Merris are running for one, one-year term.

When asked if they supported the pending $85 million school district referendum – which would build a new school and realign the district’s elementary schools – some candidates said they either would not say how they’d vote or they hadn’t made up their minds.

“I’m not going to say how I’d vote,”Potisnak said. “It’s up to the community.”

Potosnak did say, though, that students need good facilities in which to learn.

Kharazi said that he has been focusing on the election, so he has not completely thought out his opinion on the referendum.

“But I’m very concerned about where that money is going and whether it is being used effectively,” he said.

Saying that a child’s learning environment is “very important” in that child’s education, Steele added that “if students are distracted because the roof is leaking, or they have to move, it’s very bad.”

Stanley said that before any money is spent to accommodate an expected surge in student population – the main reason given for the referendum – the distort should make sure that all children who attend township schools are entitled to do so.

“I’ve been talking to parents, and I’ve heard them say there are students in the schools who shouldn’t be there,” she said.

Merris said she does support the referendum because “it’s in our best interests to do this now.”

“We need to fix the schools,” she said.

When asked what they would do if the referendum fails, the candidates said they’d look at other options – including split sessions and bringing in more temporary classroom trailers – and that eventually the referendum would have to be tried again.

Other topics and some candidates’ answers were:

The roles they’d play in improving relations among the board, district administration and the community.

Stanley said “we’d all have to work together for the benefit” of the community, while Kharazi pointed to his role as a “team builder” during his corporate career.

“I have the skills to bring people together,” he said.

Merris also pointed to her corporate experience, where she works “to build a culture of consensus.”

Potosnak said he is a “uniter,” while Steele said that “when everyone works together, it helps the community.”

What experience they bring to the task of budget oversight

Kharazi said that he has overseen “multi-million dollar projects” in his corporate career, and Merris said one of her responsibility sis to save 15 percent on budgets of several hundred million dollars.

Potosnak said he runs a non-profit with a budget in the millions, and Stanley said that she has corporate experience with budgets. While she admitted that she had no experience with large budgets, Steele said that “I’m able to read and use knowledge and wisdom to make decisions.”

What qualities they’d look for in a schools Superintendent if one is not picked by the end of the year.

Stanley said she would want a person “with experience in the classroom, who loves teaching and who loves children.”

Merris said she’d want person with “a creative mind,” while Potisnak said he would want a person who “can instill trust with parents so they send children to our schools.”

Steele said eh wants “someone who realizes we are serious about our children and our community.”


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