Above, left to right: Apgar, Palladino, Ross
Written by Jeff Epstein, Editor, Citizens’ Media TV
In a last-minute attempt to win by write-in, two parents have thrown their hats into the ring for a seat on the Pinelands Regional School District Board of Education. The candidacies are primarily in reaction to the continuing disappointment and frustration with the district’s handling of the roofing construction at Pinelands Regional High School. The construction project has forced students from both schools to be crammed into the junior high school, with half of their education taking place at school and the other half on the internet. According to Interim Superintendent Maryann Banks, the project, which was contracted to end on September first, is now loosely defined to have an end date of mid-November and perhaps December.
The only non-incumbent on the ballot is Christie Palladino, a Pinelands graduate, mother of two, and former restaurant owner. Palladino, who is well respected among other parents within a number of district-related Facebook groups, told Citizens’ Media TV that, if elected, a major goal would be to increase parent-input into how the district is run. She also said:
The two gentleman wanting to be write-in candidates initially took me by surprise…. I do, however, sympathize with their passion to assist the school district in such a difficult time. We are all community members working towards a common goal; a quality education for our children.
The three candidates are trying to oust incumbent Jeff Bonicky, vying for the two available Board of Education seats, among the five allotted to Little Egg Harbor. There is also a single seat available in Tuckerton.
The first to announce his candidacy was Samuel Ross, an electrician from Little Egg Harbor who has worked in the construction industry for 18 years, “in all trades except HVAC and roofing and siding.” He has one child in elementary school and another in the junior high school. Ross has been politically active for 10 years and is also a musician. Ross told us what he would strive to do if elected:
I want to work with other board members in figuring out a budget where supplies can be ample, and give teachers freedom from curriculum standards that prevent them from being able to stimulate young and active minds. It is in my opinion that music art and drama should be treated the same as sports as they all help keep our children active and involved.
The second write-in candidate is Dane Apgar, a Tuckerton resident with more than 20 years experience as a construction supervisor, project manager, and quality-control and safety manager. (Apgar also interrogated district administrator Stephen Brennan at the recent construction update meeting.) He has worked on federal projects, including four years at McGuire Air Force Base. He is also certified by the Army Corps of Engineers for quality control and construction safety. Two of four of Apgar‘s children currently attend the junior and high school.
Apgar told us his goals if elected:
[F]irst, get this school construction back on track and done correctly. Then concentrate on finding a permanent Superintendent. Being a “watchdog” for the citizens of LEH and make sure things are on the up and up.
Ross, Apgar, and Palladino all speak highly of each other. As for Apgar and Ross, while remaining respectful to each other, they both hope voters would consider voting for Palladino and then choosing them as the write-in.
We posed the following questions to both Apgar and Ross, (the idea for these questions came from a parent):
- Why weren’t you involved before now, one week before the election?
- Why did it take a crisis to get you involved?
- How can parents know you are not an opportunist, and that you understand what it takes to be on the Board of Education?
Response from Ross
I understand some cynicism in this. I like many other parents had believed the board of education was looking out for the best interests of our children. It is only just recently I have found out the information in details, and I want to ensure that this board does not fall into the hands of special interests or greedy politicians and contractors again. I mainly only came to this realization after seeing the sample ballot and feel we need to take action. [I] want to do all I can to ensure [my children] will be a priority along with all the other children when it comes to board decisions. Not just the crisis we see now, but many budgetary concerns. I want to help ensure that we keep music and art in our schools and also give the teachers the respect they deserve.
Response from Apgar
- I have been involved with this since it was a referendum on the ballot. I had attended board meetings trying to give them insight to what they were getting into.
- As a parent and taxpayer, I refuse to let our children, staff, and administration have their health and welfare compromised by ineptness. As a construction manager/supervisor, I will attempt to reassure our citizens that this renovation project comes to a successful outcome
- My entire life has been around schools. My father was the director of Buildings and Grounds for 27 years at Southrtn Reg. HS, my mother was the Superintendent secretary and BOE secretary for Stafford Elem. School for 29 years, my sister retired as a Business Administrator for Eagleswood Elem. School, and my brother retired after 30 years in maintenance at Pinelands. I built the Early Childhood Center for the LEHSD, ontime, and on budget !! I am a lifelong resident of the area, and have my 3rd and 4th children in Pineland now.
Election day is Tuesday, November 7th.