School board candidate Gerard Reuter says the Berkeley Board of Education has become politicized in recent years. He and his running mate Louis Tuminaro want to put the board's focus back on the students.
“Me and Lou feel very strongly that people can have their politics, but that politics has no business on the school board,” Reuter said. “People on the school board need to be unified in working for parents and children and not for a political party.”
Reuter, 34, lives on Scott Drive in Bayville. He has lived in town for seven years. He has a daughter who is currently enrolled in the school district.
Reuter says he supports the consolidation of resources to save tax dollars, provided those efforts do not hurt the district's students. With that in mind, he said he is “completely 100 percent against” teacher layoffs.
“I do not want to see teachers lose their jobs and then see a $600,000 salt shed built," he said, referring to a line item he said is in the current budget. "That is unacceptable."
And it's time to put the controversy over the return of schools Superintendent Joseph H. Vicari to rest, Reuter said.
Vicari returned after a two-year absence on April 1. He had served as superintendent for six years when a previous board declined to renew his contract. Vicari and his supporters have said the action two years ago was politically motivated by local and county Democrats. Vicari, a Republican, is a longtime member of the Ocean County Board of Freeholders.
“This has been one of the ongoing political arguments that I say let’s move forward from,” Reuter said. “He [Vicari] obviously knows what he is doing or he would not be in the position he is in. No one has ever said anything bad about [his job performance] so I support him as superintendent.”
Reuter added that he believed Vicari’s experience in both education and county government makes him “the right guy” to lead the district if the goal is to move forward with consolidation.
Another recent hot button issue has been the funding of the annual trip for sixth grade students to Stokes State Forest in Sussex County for a three-day environmental retreat. The $80,000 trip was funded in the 2010-2011 budget, but not in the 2011-2012 budget.
Reuter said he is glad to see the creation of a foundation to help fund the trip.
“Every parent in town is very passionate about the trip," Reuter said. "They have all said there is nothing like it. I will support the foundation so it does not go away. I'm willing to work to keep Stokes viable for the long haul.”
Reuter has a bachelor's degree in Communication from William Paterson University. He is currently employed as a driver for UPS.
“People feel the board has become very political and no one’s voices are being heard except the political parties,” Reuter said. “If Lou and I get in, it's like the parents and taxpayers get a voice on the school board.”