EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – The Board of Education voted unanimously at its reorganization meeting Tuesday, Jan. 3 to appoint Louis Della Barca its new president, marking a change in leadership for the first time in 14 years.
Longtime President James Galvin did not seek re-election in November, leaving an open seat on the board and a chance for a shift in command.
Before the vote, Della Barca was sworn in to office with fellow incumbent Ray Ellis and newcomer Marita Sullivan by Board Secretary and Business Administrator Chandra Anaya. Each will serve a 3-year term on the board. The position of president and vice president is voted upon annually.
Barbara Szilagyi was reappointed vice president, but the vote was not unanimous. It took two votes for the nine-member board to choose a vice president, as Pete Castellano and Chris Moran were also nominated.
In her nomination of Castellano, board member Amber Umphlett gave a prepared nomination speech.
“As board members we are to uphold policy, procedure and the rules which govern us. For years this board has made decisions by popular vote, political gain and status quo. Rather than collect necessary data and make decisions on student achievement and financial responsibility, this past board voted on million-dollar levelers and high-ranking positions without consideration of the procedure that they are to follow,” said Umphlett, drawing applause from the audience.
“Pete Castellano stood up to this on many occasions … Mr. Castellano is a man with integrity and isn’t afraid to make decisions based on facts. Tonight, though many on this board oppose his nomination and my support, I think the audience before us speaks volumes,” she continued.
Board Solicitor Amy Houck-Elco told the board that since there were multiple nominations, each member should cast a vote by name rather than by a simple yes or no. In the first voting round, Szilagyi received four votes, Castellano received three and Moran received two.
Since no one received a simple majority, the top two vote-getters, Szilagyi and Castellano, proceeded to a final vote, which Szilagyi won 5-4, with Della Barca, Ellis, Justin Riggs, Sullivan and Szyilagi voting in her favor.
Resident Shae Dailyda said she was disappointed by the results for vice president and told Riggs and Ellis in particular that voters would remember how they cast their votes when they seek re-election.
Resident Carl Mason, the only other member of the public to speak about the leadership voting, said he was pleased with Della Barca’s installation at the helm.
“You would have been my first choice if I were up there,” he said.
Della Barca said he is looking forward to working with the board, the administration and the public.
“I am truly humbled and honored to serve as president of the EHT Board of Education. I did not seek this position and never have been in search of any power. I have enjoyed several leadership positions in my career,” he said.
“If you know me, I have a passion for education. I want to ensure that every student that leaves our schools is prepared for college or career."
Della Barca charged each member to review the board’s code of ethics and to reflect on why they chose to be a part of the board.
“I am also asking each member to be part of our team, to be totally involved in our upcoming training with the New Jersey School Boards Association,” he said. “Let’s put our differences aside for the benefit of all. I need your help and cooperation, and I will work with each of you to find common ground as we strive to move our district forward.”
Della Barca said the immediate tasks facing the board are the development of the 2017-2018 budget, a search for a permanent superintendent, raising test scores, and policies that need to be reviewed as well as new ones to be implemented.
“We should have high expectations and definite goals. Let’s get to work to move our great school district forward and to achieve excellence for all,” he said.