Five candidates seek three seats on South River school board

COURTESY OF CHERYL BECK

SOUTH RIVER – Five candidates are running for three available seats on the South River Board of Education in the Nov. 6 election.

Incumbents Cheryl Beck, Renae Bush and Kelly Cruz will face first-time candidates Anita Chadha and Miguel Ribau for three-year-terms.

Cheryl Beck, 50, is a former 25-year employee of Raceway Park, Old Bridge. Currently, she is a production supervisor at CTI Motordrives, South River.

A resident of the borough for 29 years, Beck said she feels that she, along with the other current board members, work well with the superintendent in making the school district a better educational environment for students and staff.

“I want to continue to be a member that the public can come to with issues and/or concerns, both good and bad, to both strengthen the communication with the community, as well as, better the school district for our students,” she said.

Beck said she serves as chairperson on the Athletics/Extra Curricular Committee; a member of the Buildings and Grounds, Instruction and School Community Relations committees; liaison for the district’s Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs), South River Foundation for Educational Foundation and South River Public Library; Lions Club International member and currently director; former member of the South River Recreation Advisory Board; and is a member in all of the school PTAs.

If re-elected to the board, Beck said she will, “Continue to support the initiatives already being pursued regarding the safety of our children and staff, as well as supporting the expansion of the educational offering in the high school including additional college credit offerings and the new alternative high school.”

Her greatest accomplishments while serving on the board, she said, include helping establish the high school’s Robotics Club, which is now the Robotics Team; being able to offer classes that will earn college credits while in high school; the alternative High School program; using social media to engage the community; weekly district-wide eRam emails updates with important information; helping to consolidate of all of the individual school calendars into one master district calendar; and establishing communication with the PTAs.

Renae Bush, 47, is the director of Student Personnel Services for the Bayonne School District and is also the Anti-Bullying Coordinator for the District of Bayonne.

A South River resident for 15 years, Bush said her husband Jason is a South River High School graduate and her two children attend the borough’s schools.

Being an educator herself, Bush said, “I want to serve all the child and community of South River. My 20-plus years of experience in education have given me the experience and knowledge of classroom instruction, budget and finance, state testing. This knowledge, coupled with my administrative background, has provided me with a strong foundation in school policy, governance and leadership.”

Bush said that teacher evaluation, the New Jersey Performance Report, college and career readiness, as well as special education reporting, are just a few hot topics she has intimate knowledge of and practical experience with.

She has been in the education field since 1994. She earned a master’s degree in School Counseling and Reading Specialist from Kean University, and a bachelor’s degree in English and Secondary Education from William Paterson University. She also holds New Jersey certificates as a Teacher of English, Reading Specialist, Supervisor, School Counselor, Student Assistance Counselor  and Director of Student Personnel Services.

She said her greatest accomplishments while on the board have been focusing on school safety and security, including hiring four Class III Special Law Enforcement Officers; communicating with students, parents and staff via Facebook, parent academy workshops, eRams, Twitter and weekly newsletters; hiring new Central Office personnel; offering new courses; implementing the Seal of Biliteracy Endorsement; and helping to establish the South River Foundation for Educational Excellence.

“My time on the [board] has been very fulling and meaningful. I believe it is the schools’ role is to provide and educational strong academic program. At the same time we have a responsibility to the taxpayers, so our programming decisions must be fiscally sound,” Bush said. “Finally, we must ensure the safety and security of our students, staff and school personnel. During my time on the [board], we have made some great strides in all those areas.”

If re-elected, Bush said she wants to continue to focus on safety and security as well as academic initiatives and keeping constant communication with parents, students and the community.

Anita Chadha, 60, is a retired high school special education math teacher and teacher leader but currently works as a real estate professional.

A four-year resident of South River, is the founder and president of Saraswati Cultural Association Inc., chairwoman of the South River Human Relations Commission and a member of the borough’s Cultural Arts and Heritage Commission.

“I want the South River School District to become a Blue Ribbon school district,” she said said.

If elected, Chadha said she wants to tackle after

school programs for extra help so every student can succeed, peer tutoring after school, providing more technology tools for students and workshops to teachers to assist teachers in maximizing students’ learning.

Kelly Cruz, 47, has a background in human resources. She most recently worked with NJBiz as a marketing coordinator.

“I am passionate about making sure each child within our school district obtains the highest level of education. I am always available when someone has a concern or a question and am happy to answer questions whenever approached,” Cruz said. “If I do not know the answer, I seek out the correct information and share it whenever possible. I understand that in most families, both parents are working full-time jobs and do not have the time to get involved as much as they want to. This does not mean parents do not care, and we, as a board, need to do all we can to help parents, help their children be successful.”

Having been a resident for more than 20 years, Cruz said she has been an active volunteer within the community. In the past, she has been a Pop Warner coach, Little Scholar coordinator and an East Brunswick Recreation soccer coach.

She is a member of Corpus Christi Church where she is the Rosary Society recording secretary and youth group leader, a member of the Lions Club, a volunteer for the Middlesex County Court Juvenile Conference Committee, and a member of South River High School Booster Club and Project Graduation.

Having earned 24 credits from the New Jersey School Board Association (NJSBA), Cruz said, “I am able to bring ideas on cost saving programs back into our district. Our board as a whole, has also received certification from the NJSBA. This was done by all the board members taking evening courses together over a six month period. This has enabled us to work together toward the common goal of making our district the best that it can be.”

Cruz is currently chairperson of the district’s Finance Committee, vice chair of the Human Resources Committee, board/Borough Council liaison and a PTA member.

“Personally, I introduced the idea of our current eRam, which is an email that updates parents every Friday afternoon on current information of happenings within the district,” Cruz said. “I also pushed to have our school website have the ability to translate information into 14 different languages. … I also brought the idea of an Education Foundation to our district. This initiative has now provided grants and scholarships for our teachers and students for several years.”

If re-elected to the board, Cruz said, “Moving forward, we will be making security enhancements to each of the buildings based on the recommendations of our police department. … I would also like to continue to find cost-saving measures that will help lower our taxes. Having a parent on a fixed income, I understand the importance of balancing the cost of educating our children while being fiscally responsible to the community. With this in mind, we have continued the process of applying for  several grants that can offset the cost of future and current programs.”

Miguel Ribau, 18, said, “I am running for the board to give back to the town where I was born and raised. As a recent graduate of South River High School, I consider my age to be an asset. I will work tirelessly to see that my ideas are implemented. I am not afraid to listen and ask questions and will provide my own firsthand knowledge and perspective in order to drive our schools forward.”

After completing a borough internship in the summer of 2017, Ribau said he had the opportunity to create a presentation to improve youth services in the borough.

Currently enrolled at Rutgers University, Ribau said, “I have not yet declared a major officially, as I am not allowed to do so until my sophomore year. When I am able to, I will be declaring my major to be political science and plan on attending law school after my four years.”

Ribau said he is working behind the scenes to implement a cost-effective youth center to give students a place to go, have fun and be safe.

“The safety and security of our students will always be of great importance to me. I was the driving force behind pushing the board to incorporate Class III Special Law Enforcement Officers into our schools, after seeing that they had not been following through with recommendations that had been made for the past several years,” Ribau said. “To accomplish this, I hosted an in-school town-hall style event where a panel of elected officials at the town and state levels answered questions regarding school security policies. Along with that, I organized students to speak out at board meetings.”

Ribau said he plans to continue his efforts to implement security recommendations along with finding new ways to bring improvements to the curriculum so that families continue to consider the borough as a place that they want to settle down and invest in.

Election Day is on Nov.6

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.