2008-04-10 / Front Page

Crowded field seeks three seats on Old Bridge board

Frank Weber

Donna Andriani An 11-year resident of Old Bridge, Andriani is married and has one son, who attends Old Bridge High School. A science teacher for 30 years, she has coordinated college and scholars programs and has been a learning consultant for the New Jersey Department of Education. She has a degree in curriculum/instruction and several teaching certificates. She has been a park service ranger, volunteer EMT, and high school tennis, basketball, and debate coach. She has coached in Old Bridge basketball, soccer and Cheesequake Little Leagues. She belongs to the PTSA and is the rank advancement chairperson for BSA Troop 219. Donna Andriani An 11-year resident of Old Bridge, Andriani is married and has one son, who attends Old Bridge High School. A science teacher for 30 years, she has coordinated college and scholars programs and has been a learning consultant for the New Jersey Department of Education. She has a degree in curriculum/instruction and several teaching certificates. She has been a park service ranger, volunteer EMT, and high school tennis, basketball, and debate coach. She has coached in Old Bridge basketball, soccer and Cheesequake Little Leagues. She belongs to the PTSA and is the rank advancement chairperson for BSA Troop 219. Weber has been a resident of Old Bridge since 1974. He is a father of four, and grandfather of five. His youngest child is a student at Old Bridge High School. Weber attended the College of Staten Island and has extensive business experience as a manager in a union environment, and negotiating experience as well. He has been active in the community since 1979 in youth sports, including terms as president of both Old Bridge soccer leagues. He served on the township Recreation Advisory Committee and the Planning Board, and served more than 15 years on the Long Range Planning Committee.

Owen Henry Henry, 48, has been an Old Bridge resident for 45 years. He attended St Thomas School and Cedar Ridge High School, and received a degree in education from Trenton State Collage in 1981.He is a member of the Old Bridge Planning Board and has served since 2001. He has served as a member of the Old Bridge Environmental Commission since 2000.He is owner and president of Owen Henry Contracting Inc, Old Bridge, and is a member of the Old Bridge Chamber of Commerce. He has been married to his wife Donna for 26 years and they have a son, Owen Jr., and daughter Valerie. Owen Henry Henry, 48, has been an Old Bridge resident for 45 years. He attended St Thomas School and Cedar Ridge High School, and received a degree in education from Trenton State Collage in 1981.He is a member of the Old Bridge Planning Board and has served since 2001. He has served as a member of the Old Bridge Environmental Commission since 2000.He is owner and president of Owen Henry Contracting Inc, Old Bridge, and is a member of the Old Bridge Chamber of Commerce. He has been married to his wife Donna for 26 years and they have a son, Owen Jr., and daughter Valerie. Why did you decide to run for the school board?

Donna Andriani

I believe that one should give back to the community in which they live or work, and I believe that the children are the unspoken strength of a community. They need someone to be their voice on the Board of Education. We need to provide a sound education for all children regardless of academic strengths and future career paths. We need to provide the foundation and inspiration for all our children to become successful, productive members of society. And, as adults, we need to be involved in that mission.

Joseph Mancini Mancini has lived in Old Bridge for 21 years. He is a member of Local No. 6, Hudson County Carpenters since 1978. He worked for the Board of Education for the past 11 years as a carpenter in the Maintenance Department. He has volunteered at the local television station for five years, for the Parking and Transportation Committee for two terms and currently serves as township film and television commissioner. He has three children, two of whom are still students in the district. He is also a member of the Screen Actors Guild. Joseph Mancini Mancini has lived in Old Bridge for 21 years. He is a member of Local No. 6, Hudson County Carpenters since 1978. He worked for the Board of Education for the past 11 years as a carpenter in the Maintenance Department. He has volunteered at the local television station for five years, for the Parking and Transportation Committee for two terms and currently serves as township film and television commissioner. He has three children, two of whom are still students in the district. He is also a member of the Screen Actors Guild. Fred Colabella

I have been a board member for the past three years, I have the time to serve, I care about the children in my community, and want to look out for the taxpayer as well. I am committed to the township I serve, I live here also and I believe "good works."

Mark Palehonki Palehonki has lived in Old Bridge for 27 years. His wife Trish, a product of the Old Bridge school system, has held many PTA executive positions at the elementary, middle and high school levels as their children, Joseph and Taylor, have attended township schools. As president and owner of M.T.V. Driving School and as past owner and operator of the Old Bridge ShopRite for 20 years, Palehonki said he is accustomed to dealing with finances and budgets. Mark Palehonki Palehonki has lived in Old Bridge for 27 years. His wife Trish, a product of the Old Bridge school system, has held many PTA executive positions at the elementary, middle and high school levels as their children, Joseph and Taylor, have attended township schools. As president and owner of M.T.V. Driving School and as past owner and operator of the Old Bridge ShopRite for 20 years, Palehonki said he is accustomed to dealing with finances and budgets. Stan Gendlin

I am running for school board because as a concerned Old Bridge taxpayer, and brother to a sister going through the school system, I feel that the board is doing injustice to both the taxpayers as well as their children. I feel someone needs to expose the unethical and irresponsible behaviors that have been causing an increase in taxes as well as a decrease in our educational system.

Laura Harvey

I decided to run for the Board of Education because I want to ensure that all the children of Old Bridge get the best educational opportunities we can afford them. I hope to inspire a positive change in community awareness, focus on our children's educational welfare and be fiscally responsible. Having a strong home/school connection is essential for the successful achievement of all students.

Fred Colabella Colabella, 52, who is retired, has resided in Old Bridge for the past 23 years. He has served the community in a variety of ways, including being a member and chairman of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and volunteering with various sports leagues in town. He has served on the Board of Education since April 2005. Fred Colabella Colabella, 52, who is retired, has resided in Old Bridge for the past 23 years. He has served the community in a variety of ways, including being a member and chairman of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and volunteering with various sports leagues in town. He has served on the Board of Education since April 2005. Owen Henry

My decision to run for the school board is based on my commitment to community service. Despite coming up a few votes short in my bid to become a councilman this past election, the support shown by the residents has given me the continued inspiration to serve as an elected official.

Joseph Mancini

I decided to run for the school board because believe I could be an asset to the school administration and the entire school district with regards to buildings and grounds, as well as other areas. I feel I know firsthand what is needed and what is lacking for a better and safe environment for our children and our educators to work in. I also feel there are millions of taxpayer dollars being used inappropriately instead of where it belongs: educating our children and maintaining the facilities in which they are taught.

Stan Gendlin Gendlin came to the U.S. in 1989 under refugee status with his family from Ukraine. They arrived in Brooklyn with $500 cash and not a single word of English, he said. His parents worked multiple jobs to pay for college for themselves. The family moved to Old Bridge in 2000. By then, he had two years of school left and graduated from Old Bridge High School in 2002. He is currently finishing his degree at Rutgers University in communication with a specialization in public relations. Stan Gendlin Gendlin came to the U.S. in 1989 under refugee status with his family from Ukraine. They arrived in Brooklyn with $500 cash and not a single word of English, he said. His parents worked multiple jobs to pay for college for themselves. The family moved to Old Bridge in 2000. By then, he had two years of school left and graduated from Old Bridge High School in 2002. He is currently finishing his degree at Rutgers University in communication with a specialization in public relations. Mark Palehonki

I am running for the Board of Education because at this time I feel compelled to be a part of ensuring that all the children of Old Bridge have the best education we are able to provide. I strongly believe that with a great education we will produce successful young adults who will impact society in a positive manner. I would consider it an honor to be a part of making that happen. I would like to see us as a community bring our school district to one of the best in the state.

Laura Harvey Harvey, her husband and their four children have lived in Old Bridge for the past 11 years. Her son graduated from Old Bridge High School; her three younger children currently attend the township's schools. She is a former PTA president and current PTA member at several schools, and has chaired many committees. She has served on Board of Education committees for strategic planning, athletics, health and performing arts. She is a Girl Scout leader and vice president of the Old Bridge High School Marching Knights Band Parents Association. Laura Harvey Harvey, her husband and their four children have lived in Old Bridge for the past 11 years. Her son graduated from Old Bridge High School; her three younger children currently attend the township's schools. She is a former PTA president and current PTA member at several schools, and has chaired many committees. She has served on Board of Education committees for strategic planning, athletics, health and performing arts. She is a Girl Scout leader and vice president of the Old Bridge High School Marching Knights Band Parents Association. Frank Piccillo

One of my greatest passions is to help kids. I love helping people. I pride myself in addressing the needs of all students and parents.My six years' experience as a board member and working hand in hand with other board members with a common goal of providing the best possible, cost effective education for our students of Old Bridge are justifiable reasons for seeking reelection to the school board. Together we have made an impact that served to advance the entire district. I want to continue to help all citizens of Old Bridge.

Frank Piccillo Piccillo has been an Old Bridge resident for 19 years. He and his wife Donna have two children in the public school system. His oldest son graduated last year. He has long been involved in helping children by volunteering his services. He taught for 18 years and has been an administrator in the Jersey City public school system for over a decade. He currently serves as principal of PS 33 in Jersey City. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree with a certification in elementary education and a Master of Arts with a certification in administration. Frank Piccillo Piccillo has been an Old Bridge resident for 19 years. He and his wife Donna have two children in the public school system. His oldest son graduated last year. He has long been involved in helping children by volunteering his services. He taught for 18 years and has been an administrator in the Jersey City public school system for over a decade. He currently serves as principal of PS 33 in Jersey City. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree with a certification in elementary education and a Master of Arts with a certification in administration. Frank Weber

I believe this board is very limited in their ability to function due to rampant nepotism. Four current members are ethically excluded from evaluating the superintendent or negotiating his contract and virtually all other district contracts because their immediate relatives are board employees. They are Mr. Piccillo, Mr. Colabella, Mrs. Hopman and Mrs. Kubicke (who is retiring). Since Mr. Sulikowski also cannot participate in these functions, the burden to negotiate was thrust upon three first-year board members. That $23,000, 14-percent contract was approved by Piccillo and Colabella under the Doctrine of Necessity.

What qualifications or expertise do you bring to the board?

Donna Andriani

As a professional educator, I feel that I have a realistic perspective on the daily workings of school buildings and staff, and will be able to understand and justify facility expenses. I understand the nuances of educating the whole child and will be able to provide a true understanding of curriculum and instruction issues. I have had the opportunity to work both as a classroom teacher and as a coordinator, and support personal outside the classroom in an educational setting. I know the complexities of working with the state Department of Education, providing professional development and making home/school connections. Fred Colabella

I have lived in this town for 23 years and I have worked closely with the township. I have worked with various committees in the township and have a good feeling for what goes on in the town, and of course I care.

Stan Gendlin

What the board lacks most, a sense of putting taxpayers and children ahead of personal and political ambitions. One of the most important contributions I will offer to the taxpayers and parents of Old Bridge is personal updates on any motion that will affect their taxes and their children. From talking to many residents, they feel as if they have little or no control of how their hard-earned tax dollars are spent. I will bring the concerns of the parents and taxpayers to help me make ethical, responsible, and mature decisions on bills and motions that will affect their wallets and more importantly their children's future.

Laura Harvey

I believe that my years of involvement in the school system as a parent committee member and PTAmomqualifyme to seek a seat on the Board of Education. Since I have children at every level of education in the district, I have first-hand knowledge of the workings of the school system on every level. The qualities I possess are: thoughtfulness, caring, creativity, optimism, sensitivity, knowledge and understanding. I will domy best tomake thoughtful, clear-cut decisions.

Owen Henry

I believe I possess all the qualities needed to serve on the school board, such as a commitment to education by offering scholarships to high school bound students graduating from St. Thomas the Apostle School. Over the past many years I have built a profound reputation of being dedicated to many causes, by fundraising and volunteering my services. My expertise in industrial and commercial construction would ensure the capital improvement projects are needed, properly specified and completed as per plans.

Joseph Mancini

The qualities and expertise I bring to the board are 11 years' experience working in the school district as a carpenter, as well as 30 years' experience in construction as a union carpenter.Although I amnot an educator, what I am bringing to the school board and the entire district is something that you cannot put in a frame and hang on the wall. It is something that has been lacking for many, many years ... and that is common sense. I am a numbers and money person, and in this area I would be focusing my efforts. There is no reason for an automatic annual tax increase.

Mark Palehonki

I have a degree in business management fromFairleigh Dickenson University. As president/owner of M.T.V. Driving School, my business experience affords me the opportunity to hear students' and parents' concerns on a daily basis. This will facilitate me being able to contribute to the process, by offering programs our students deserve, and as a taxpayer keep the focus on being fiscally responsible. I am a member of the Chamber of Commerce, New Jersey Safety Council and OBHS PTA. I coached soccer for the Old Bridge Girls Soccer League for 14 years. I have also sponsored many fundraising events.

Frank Piccillo

It is my belief that the diversity of the experiences I've encountered in my personal and professional life has played an integral role in my success as a team player and providing effective leadership.My educational perspective and strengthening the parent partnership gives me unique advantage in serving on the board. I was the driving force inmodifications and additions made in our curriculum and technology, which substantially impacted student learning. I participated in the development of the budget process frombeginning to end and was pleased to be part of a team that adopted a no-tax-increase budget.

Frank Weber

I have an extensive background in business. I havemanaged budgets and people. I am an experienced negotiator. I served three terms on this board, serving as both vice president and president. I spent over 15 years on the long-range planning process, which led to the successful development and passage of the 2001 Old Bridge school referendum. This was a collaborative effort of the board (I was president during this period), central administration and concerned citizens led by the PTAs. I know the board and what it takes to get things done.

What are the biggest challenges facing the school district?

Donna Andriani

The biggest challenge is always the budget. Regardless of how frugal we could possibly be, there are contracted services that will continue to increase. Energy and utilities, equipment and materials, goods and services, and salaries and insurance have all escalated in cost. The challenge is to keep the school tax levy level, yet continue the educational services needed to provide a quality education for all our children. Other challenges will be the upcoming salary negotiations, transportation issues, and providing educational services for the additional children in new housing developments in the township.

Fred Colabella

The biggest challenge facing the school district is always finances, and trying to pass the budget without overburdening the taxpayer. We have to come up with more ways to make money to help offset the cost of our budget.

Stan Gendlin

The school, although it shows aboveaverage proficiency in math and English, has poor marks in advanced placement classes. The school has only 7.9 percent of students participating in these classes, which is half the state average. The school report card also stated a 400 percent increase in substance abuse cases in the high school. I am the only candidate that has spoken about the drug problem or the low marks in math and English. Finally, because I believe the children are the first priority, I believe the Lombardi Field issue should not be delayed any further.

Laura Harvey

The biggest challenges facing the Old Bridge school district are test scores, taxes, a lack of community involvement, and Lombardi Field. Our tests scores are low and our taxes are high.All members of the community, not just parents, need to get more involved in our school system; attend school programs and volunteer to serve on board committees.

Owen Henry

The biggest challenge the board faces is to restore the public trust and confidence in the board's ability to make responsible decisions. Presently it is my opinion that the board has zero credibility with residents, due to the large number of board members with conflicts of interest. In order to succeed in providing the youth of Old Bridge with a deserving, quality education, the taxpayers must have complete confidence in the participating board members. Joseph Mancini

The biggest challenges facing the school district are operating the district more efficiently without affecting each and every homeowner financially, especially our senior citizens. The money is already there, it just needs to be applied accordingly. If the focus was put directly onto the children's education, then perhaps they would be able to achieve higher test scores, expanded selection of course offerings and more activities and athletics, which are badly needed in this school district.

Mark Palehonki

Giving the best education to our students without putting a burden on the taxpayers of Old Bridge. We are one of the largest school districts in the state.We need to take advantage of any state monies or grants available so we can maintain and add all necessary programs. We need to continue to pursue shared services and business sponsorships. I am committed to being fiscally responsible, because I amalso an Old Bridge parent and taxpayer.

Frank Piccillo

The biggest challenge for a district our size and diversity is to continue to be successful. In districts that are failing, success is measured in incremental improvements. In our case, maintaining success and striving to raise it to another level and implementing modifications and action plans that address the needs of our classified and disadvantaged students continue to be a monumental task. Accomplishing this in a cost-effective manner without impacting our property taxes requires efficiency, a strong parental partnership and effective leadership. I believe Old Bridge possesses these qualities as we continue to put our students and parents first.

Frank Weber

Old Bridge is the third-largest district in Middlesex County. It is a comprehensive district that has a student body of diverse needs. Too many of our high school students are dropping out according to a recent cohort study I developed from the NJDOE enrollment.We need to know why and when and how to intervene and reduce this tragic loss. Not enough of our students are taking advance placement tests, according to NJDOE state report card data. Class sizes at both the high school and middle school levels are some of the highest in the state.

What do you hope to accomplish as a board member over the next three years?

Donna Andriani

We need to recognize where we can partner our services and costs. I believe that we need to investigate and take advantage of all state monies as well as any grant and alternative funding source options when they are available at zero cost to the community. I would also like to initiate college articulation agreements with local colleges for the career trades students as well as expand our Middle College Program.

Fred Colabella

In the next three years I hope to accomplish the programs that have been started the past three years, such as a daycare system, hopefully a full-day kindergarten that's long overdue, and also the completion of Lombardi Field.

Stan Gendlin

My first goal will be to get the Lombardi Field repair and overhaul process started immediately. The field has been neglected too long and has been too dangerous to continue to go as is. Secondly, I will address the drug problem in Old Bridge by removing the DARE program, which has been a national disaster. This will be replaced with a program that focuses on teaching parents as well students. My plan to fight drugs can be found on my Web site at www.stangendlin.com. Finally, I propose to put money back into foundational subjects, such as Math and English.

Laura Harvey

I hope to keep our costs down and investigate the possibility of additional revenue sources. This will help fund our education program and meet our responsibility to the voters to protect our already sizeable investment in our educational system. I hope to encourage open-minded discussion with the municipality, the parents, the teachers, the administrators and the community at large. We are all equal stakeholders in our educational system. Looking beyond the bricks we must ensure that all students are well educated. Our educational system is an important factor in our property values so it behooves us to see that it is the best.

Owen Henry

As a board member, I would hope to develop a working, positive and balanced relationship with the community and governing body of Old Bridge. A town working together can achieve great things, such as a newly renovated Lombardi stadium, better classroom environments and most of all, prepared graduates who have the skills they need to succeed in whatever their future might bring. Joseph Mancini

As a board member over the next three years I hope to accomplish the initiation and implementation of maintaining and possibly cutting our school tax rate. This could be accomplished by taking an indepth look at all current non-essential, high-salaried positions, outside contracted services, accountability of monies currently used for building and grounds and seeing where other cuts could be made that would in no way jeopardize the impact on students' education. This is what all taxpayers and citizens deserve and should expect.

Mark Palehonki

It is my job to see new programs for our students put in place without raising taxes. One program that needs to be incorporated into the curriculum is a driver safety education program. I'm an advocate of the "Alive at 25" program, which focuses on teenagers and emphasizes the dangers of driving, and provides them tools to be safe, effective drivers. I would like to see our community rally behind our educational system. My motivation is a simple one: They are all our children.

Frank Piccillo

I hope to continue with our goal of striving for excellence and raising the level of student achievement to advanced proficiency, and work closely with the board and superintendent to ensure we implement programs and services that address the needs of all students. The job coaching and training program for our classified students will also be a priority. Getting the daycare program up and running and breaking ground and completing the renovation of Lombardi Stadium are areas our school board will support and accomplish. Playing a role in developing no-tax-increase budgets is also always on the priority list.

Frank Weber

I would immediately have all safety issues as identified by current board members remediated at Lombardi Field. I would look to put an anti-nepotism policy on the books to restore public confidence in the board and the school district. We need to find creative ways to do more with less funding, so we can provide a firstclass educational program at a price that our citizenry can afford. I have shown that kind of initiative in the past through our RN program, which will save over $400,000 this year alone and over $2,000,000 to date.

Note: A 10th candidate, Pradyuman Patel was unable to participate in this forum in time for deadline.

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