School board has tricky time appointing reps to Ocean City

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PETERSBURG – Three board members took the oath of office for new three-year terms, including one newcomer, and Michele Barbieri was unanimously re-elected president of the Upper Township Board of Education at a Monday, Jan. 7 reorganization meeting.

School board member Debbie McLees was unanimously elected to serve as vice-president. She will replace former board member Dr. Christine Lentz, who did not run for re-election.

Sitting board members Fran Newman and Kim Breckley took the oath of office with newly-elected board member Bill Holmes as their families looked on.

Following the official oath of office, the board held an election for three representatives to serve as voting members on the Ocean City school board.

This past year, Barbieri, Jill Casaccio and Kim Breckley represented Upper Township’s interests.

Breckley, Casaccio, McLees and school board member Lynn Dierolf were nominated. Breckley and Casaccio were clear winners in the first vote, and Dierolf and McLees tied.

McLees said she would gladly serve again, but she had a conversation with Dierolf who expressed an interest in serving on the Ocean City board, so she wanted to give her a chance, she said.

“I did not expect her to not be here tonight,” McLees said.

School board members asked whether Dierolf could be nominated and elected if she was absent. School board solicitor William Donio said she could. 

Donio suggested that the board appoint two people, Breckley and Casaccio, and open up the third seat for nominations again. Some school board members suggested that the board wait to fill the third seat.

“The board by-laws require that you do this tonight,” Donio said. “My suggestion is that you do this tonight.”

“I agree,” Barbieri said. The Ocean City school board will meet again before the Upper Township board, she said, and the Ocean City board needs their input and representation. 

In the second round of voting, Breckley nominated McLees, stating that Dierolf missed a number of Upper Township meetings, so she felt that she would not make the Ocean City meetings. Newman nominated Dierolf.

Barbieri broke the tie between Dierolf and McLees by voting for McLees.

“This is crazy,” Barbieri said, as she had full confidence in McLees but worried that she did not necessarily want to serve on both school boards.

McLees said she accepted the new responsibility willingly.

“I will try to do a very good job at it,” she said. “This all came up because of a conversation that I had with Lynn in passing.”

McLees said she did not want to give the impression that she did not want to serve.

Barbieri said serving was “a great experience.” She said she would miss it, but family obligations prevented her from serving on two school boards this year. 

“The board of education worked very hard to get three voting members,” Barbieri explained.

For decades, Upper Township had no representation. It increased its voting representation to one member and then three.

Upper Township and Ocean City maintain a longstanding sending/receiving relationship where Upper Township students attend Ocean City High School and comprise a majority of the student body, which also includes students from Sea Isle City and Corbin City.

“It’s very important that we are heard over there and represented,” Barbieir said. “We are always warmly received and welcomed.”

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