Five hopefuls seek seats on Howell school board


HOWELL – Five residents are running for seats on the Howell K-8 School District Board of Education in the April 15 school election. Polls will be open from 3-9 p.m.

In a contested race, four people are running for three three-year terms. The candidates are Fatima Tobon, Gene Tanala, Sheryl Roses and David Flaherty.

Roses, Tanala and Flaherty are current members of the board.

In an uncontested race, Stephen Levine is running unopposed to complete an unexpired term on the board.

Levine, a professor of psychology at Georgian Court University, Lakewood, said he wants to offer his insight and expertise in the field of school psychology to help “improve the level of education for children in Howell.”

Levine holds a doctorate in clinical and school psychology from Hofstra University, he served as an honorary research fellow at Massey University in New Zealand in the educational psychology program, he served as the specialeducation chair of the Colts Neck schools child study team, has written for various publications, and has served on the district’s policy committee, among other accomplishments.

When asked why he wants to serve on the Howell school board, Levine said, “I would like to assist the board with their decision making.”

Levine has three children who went through the Howell K-8 school district and through the Freehold Regional High School District.

Flaherty has been serving on the board since October 2007, when he was appointed to fill an open seat. He had previously served on several of the board’s committees as a citizen member. Flaherty said he wants to continue to contribute his expertise to the board and to residents.

In regard to the $110 million budget the board has proposed for the 2008-09 school year and the decisions that had to be made to produce the spending plan in the face of stricter state budget regulations, Flaherty said, “This is not going to be solved overnight. We’re trying to maintain the same level of services while trying to provide some tax relief. The people need to come out and vote on Election Day. That is when you speak.”

Flaherty is a sergeant with the Howell Police Department.

Roses, who has served on the board for four years, said that on Election Day, residents should not only come out to vote for her, but to approve the school district’s budget for 2008-09.

“Apathy is a scary and dangerous thing, especially when it comes to our children. I would hope that most people realize that a synergistic board, which is caring and dedicated, will make a difference in the education their children receive,” Roses said.

“It is important for all members of the community to know what is at stake, not just electing qualified, dedicated and caring board members, but passing a budget that will ensure that we do not have to lose programs, activities, athletics, services, equipment and schools we currently have in place.”

Roses said she attributes much of her success in life to the foundation she received from going through the Howell school system.

“Our board is well rounded, with each member offering a unique expertise and skill. My forte is technology education. Ten years ago I was part of the Howell Technology Task Force that got the technology referendum passed,” Roses said. “I have served on the technology committee for the last four years and chaired the panel for the last three years. One of my objectives was to introduce the Technology Student Association to our middle school students. Now each of the three middle schools has a TSA chapter and they have been very successful in state and national competitions.”

Roses is a technology education teacher at Howell High School. Her son and daughter went through the Howell K- 8 school district and are enrolled in the Freehold Regional High School District.

Tanala has served on the board for 12 years. He said residents should re-elect him because he is dedicated, he tries to speak for the people and, most importantly, believes his participation has helped to save the district money.

Tanala, the Buildings and Grounds Committee chairman, said that over the past four years he has helped the board save close to $1 million.

He said that for the past five years, “we have standardized all the copy machines within the district, which yields a $400,000 savings in the elementary schools and a $250,000 savings in the middle schools.”

He also said the district earns revenue from the standardization of its soda vending machines.

“Through a five-year contract, we receive $12,500 each year, totaling $62,500 in revenue. We put those funds toward the student fund, which enables them to do different activities,” Tanala said.

Tanala said he is committed to the board and to generating revenue through corporate sponsorship to help offset tax increases.

Tanala is a teacher at Snyder High School in Jersey City. He has no children attending the Howell district.

Tobon, a parent and business owner, said her decision to run for a seat on the board “was sparked by an incident that occurred during last year’s school board election.While I was voting, I ran into another mother who was on her way to pick up her children from school. When I mentioned the school board election to her, she had no idea it was even taking place. That is when I decided something had to be done to get the parents of Howell involved.”

Tobon said she knows how to lead and believes she can make a difference. She said residents should elect her to the board because, “I really want to listen and hear what the people have to say. I do not want to play politics.”

Tobon works as a mortgage broker. She has a 12-year-old child enrolled at Howell Middle School North and an 8- year-old child enrolled at the Aldrich School.

She said she wants to provide a call to action. Tobon said that as a member of the board, she would listen and tell residents exactly how the school budget will affect their taxes.