Old Bridge board gets

new pres., new member
John Allen, 21, takes
seat as board elects Hopman president

Staff Writer

new pres., new member

John Allen, 21, takes

seat as board elects Hopman president


Staff Writer

OLD BRIDGE — A district graduate who three years ago served as the student representative to the Board of Education has returned to the dais, this time as a full-fledged, elected member.

Cheers filled the Old Bridge High School East campus television studio as class of 2001 member John Allen, now a 21-year-old college student, took his seat at the table next to fellow board member Albert DiRocco Jr. upon being sworn in to his first term at Tuesday night’s reorganization meeting.

A junior at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, Allen beamed as he took his seat at the far left of the dais, directly opposite his former student representative seat at the far right side.

Likewise, board members Barbara Rossi and Linda Ault McLaren, who won re-election to their seats April 20, were sworn in to new terms. Peter Rossi and Kelly McLaren, respectively a sixth-grader and an eighth-grader at the Jonas Salk Middle School, held the Bible as their mothers were sworn in by Assistant Superintendent for Business R. Gregory Quirk.

McLaren, who once filled an unexpired term, asked the members of her "board family" including Allen to stand at her side during the administration of the oath. A homemaker, she begins her second consecutive elected term.

Rossi, who was later unanimously re-elected as the board’s vice president for the second straight year in an uncontested election, was sworn in to her second term.

Minutes earlier, however, Rossi nominated fellow board member Annette Hopman to serve as the new board president. Hopman, the sole nominee for president, won that role in an 8-0-1 vote. Board member Ellen McDermott, who has been critical in the past of her colleagues’ selection of relatives to fill certain posts, did not vote.

McDermott later told the Suburban that although she personally supports Hopman, she is concerned that the new president must abstain on any decisions related to the computer technician position held by Barry Hopman, the new board president’s husband.

Nonetheless, Hopman thanked her colleagues for their vote of confidence.

"I just appreciate the opportunity to work along with the rest of the board members for the benefit of all the children in the district," she said.

Going forward, Hopman said she hopes to work with Mayor Jim Phillips and the Township Council for the benefit of Old Bridge.

"One of my goals is to work collaboratively with the mayor and council as one community," Hopman said.

"I’m sure that by working together, we can accomplish the most for all the residents of Old Bridge," she said. "It’s one community, and we need to work together as one community for the good of all residents."

Hopman and Rossi are expected to continue in their respective leadership posts at least until next year’s board election, scheduled for April 19, 2005.

In addition to her son, Rossi’s husband, Anthony, and her mother, Mildred Nazzaro, of the township, were on hand to support the second-term board member, a registered pharmacist, as she was sworn in.

Flanked by family members, Allen took his oath from Quirk with his father, John Sr., holding the Bible.

Prior to the brief swearing-in ceremony, the board and district administration honored outgoing board member Joan Bonk, who chose not to seek re-election, with a bouquet of flowers and resounding applause. Bonk wished Allen, her successor, well and thanked her former colleagues.

"I wish [Allen] great success. I was pleased to see him elected and take my seat," Bonk said. "I think he will do very well."

Bonk expressed optimism that Superintendent of Schools Nicole Okun and other district officials will work with the reorganized board toward quality education.

"I have extraordinary faith in this particular administration team in terms of moving the district forward," Bonk said.

She also praised the board’s selections of James Hickey as the new principal of Old Bridge High School and acknowledged all the district’s school principals.

"The district is in good hands and I have faith in the administration," Bonk said.

The reorganized board will be working with a voter-approved $114.5 million budget for the 2004-05 academic year.

Out of 2,818 votes cast in the April 20 election, 1,417 were in favor and 1,310 voters opposed the budget, which will increase school taxes by $129 for the average township home, assessed at $144,000. Property owners will see the school tax rate increase by 9 cents to almost $2.26 per $100 of assessed valuation.

The entire budget will be supported by $70,922,282 in local property taxes.

The K-12 district is also nearing completion of a $66 million construction referendum approved by voters in 2001. One result of that referendum will be the consolidation of the two high school campuses into one site at the current Old Bridge High School East campus.