SAYREVILLE – Eight candidates are seeking three available three-year terms on the Sayreville Board of Education in the Nov. 3 election.
The terms of board members Phyllis Batko, Christopher Callahan, Danielle Pieloch and Karen Rubio will end in December. Batko and Rubio are not seeking re-election.
The candidates seeking the terms are Callahan, Pieloch, Syed Muhammed S. Ali, Jessica Esposito, Eloy Fernandez, Zoe Katsilis, Alison Napolitano and Eileen Pabon.
Callahan has worked for the Woodbridge Township School District for 18 years, the last 10 years at the district level, and is the supervisor of technology. He is also an adjunct professor at Middlesex County College in the mathematics department.
Before becoming an educator, he worked in the IT (information technology) industry for companies such as IBM, NCR, AT&T and CommVault.
A Sayreville resident since 1984 and a graduate of Sayreville War Memorial High School, he has served on the school board since 2018.
“My wife, Lori, and I have two young children in the Sayreville Schools System in the Class of 2028 and Class of 2030,” Callahan said. “I always want the best for my children as well as all children.
“I want to bring my 18 years of educational experience to help the district continue the focus of providing a quality and challenging education for all students while enabling them to compete successfully in the 21st century,” he said. “I will continue to bring my work experiences as an educator, administrator and parent to the BOE.”
If re-elected, Callahan said areas of focus for him will be continuing to be an advocate for the district and taxpayers, supporting all teachers and administrative staff to continue to retain the teachers and administrators, and ensuring the district continues to have the safest schools and procedures possible.
Katsilis is the director of sales and recruitment at Jet Aviation, a global business aviation company, and works in talent acquisition and human resources.
A resident of Sayreville for 18 years with three school-age children, she is the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) president for the Sayreville Middle School and was previously PTO president for Arleth Elementary School. As PTO president at Arleth, she led the executive board, along with volunteers, to spearhead enhanced learning opportunities, family events and fundraisers that supported students and staff.
“I consistently seek new avenues to enhance and enrich the learning experience for the children in our community,” Katsilis said. “I am dedicated to providing a better tomorrow for our children by enhanced educational opportunities, innovation, unity and resilience, while pursuing financial stability and keeping our schools safe and drug-free. I am fully vested in the success of our district and I want to be part of establishing further goals and priorities that will help move our schools further into the future.
“As a board member, I would like to help provide oversight to ensure students are achieving at the highest levels,” she said. “A goal of mine is to engage the community further in order to understand educational issues and promote respect and citizenship. My core values of integrity, accountability, and collaboration make me an excellent candidate to serve on the board.
“As a strategic leader, I am responsible for spearheading the company’s sales and recruitment strategies and efforts. I am called upon for my strong process redesign and process improvement skills to drive company goals and metrics. I am highly experienced in the recruitment and hiring of top industry talent as well as maintaining high level of sales. I have led and launched multiple technology platforms and projects that have yielded a significant cost savings and performance improvement for the company. I can bring an elevated level of business, staffing, and technological knowledge to the board.”
If elected, Katsilis said areas of focus for her will be continuing to address the shrinking state resources and funding to ensure the appropriation of funds, continuing to address anti-bullying awareness and concerns while putting the safety and emotional well-being of students at the forefront, and boosting parent and community involvement, especially amid remote learning caused by the coronavirus pandemic to help address technology issues and resources for our families.
Napolitano, a resident of Sayreville for 20 years, is a stay-at-home mother who works part-time as a substitute teacher for the Sayreville School District.
She is the president of the Superintendent Parent Advisory Council (SPAC), previously holding the position of vice president, and is also on the Samsel Upper Elementary School PTO board as the liaison for fifth grade students. For eight years, she served on the Truman School PTO and was president for five years.
“I am running because I feel that I can bring some fresh ideas to the board,” Napolitano said. “I am a hard working person and would work hard to make Sayreville a stronger school district. As a parent of two children, one who needed an IEP [Individualized Education Program] and one who did not, I had a dual experience as a parent so I would be an advocate for students with special needs. I would be able to reach out to our parents to increase their participation in the school activities and board events.
“I am a person who sets a goal and gets things done,” she said. “As a PTO board member, I acted as a motivator and have had the opportunity to work with parents from all different cultural backgrounds. I would do my best to make every parent to feel welcome and encourage them to be involved in issues that impact our children.”
Running together with Fernandez and Papon, Napolitano said areas of focus for all three of them, if elected, will be a reduction in bullying, virtual learning preparedness, bus transportation and accountability, personalized career and college guidance for all students in middle school and high school, fiscal stewardship of tax dollars allocated to the board, and a redesign of the district’s Talented and Gifted Education program to be more inclusive.
Papon, a resident of Sayreville for eight years, is the benefits manager at an IT staffing firm and has been a licensed insurance broker for more than 20 years. She served as the first SPAC (Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Council) president and was responsible for helping create the council. Additionally, Papon serves as co-chair of total rewards for the New York City SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management).
“After being on the SPAC for the past two years and attending board meetings on an irregular basis, I feel I can do more as a member of the board than as a spectator,” Papon said. “I am very fond of Dr. [Richard] Labbe as our superintendent and I am not looking to join the board as a disruptor. I would prefer to serve the children and taxpayers of Sayreville by helping the board improve upon our school rankings and make Sayreville a Blue Ribbon School district.
“I want more accountability on issues occurring on buses,” she said. “I want to review the employee benefits insurance program to make sure we are receiving the most comprehensive, competitively priced insurance products. Board members are volunteers who put in many hours for the citizens of Sayreville and they could use the help of someone like me who is dedicated, motivating, insightful and in tune with the needs of our school district.
“My specialty has been employee benefits, specifically self-funded medical and prescription drug plans. I have projected we are on track to spend $20 million on our benefits. If elected, I will review our financials, renewals and current spending to identify areas in which we can save money. Over the years, I have saved my clients a lot of money, so I can do the same for the board. I am sure I will be able to save our district money without sacrificing benefits.”
Papon reiterated her areas of focus would be reduction in bullying, virtual learning preparedness, bus transportation and accountability, personalized career and college guidance for all students in middle school and high school, fiscal stewardship of tax dollars allocated to the board, and a redesign of the district’s Talented and Gifted Education program to be more inclusive.
Pieloch is the executive director of patient access for a large health system in New Jersey, as well as a part-time lecturer at Rutgers University.
Appointed to the board this year to fill a vacancy, she is a graduate of Sayreville War Memorial High School and has children attending the district in sixth and eighth grade.
“I feel strongly that the success I have experienced in my career is directly attributed to the strong foundation I developed as a student in our Sayreville schools,” Pieloch said. “I can think of no better way to pay this forward than to serve my town and my school district in this capacity.
“I am confident that my experience as an executive, parent and community member will add to my ability to be successful in this role,” she said. “I look forward to using my collaborative approach, analytical mindset and open-mindedness to work together as we drive forward. Our district already has many successes, but I will bring with me the desire to continually improve and always chase excellence in all that we endeavor.
“Quality, value and the pursuit of excellence are at the forefront of all that we do in healthcare. I am an experienced manager and believe in servant leadership, or the concept that my role as a leader is to be committed to the growth of my team members. I focus on ensuring they have the resources and environment to be successful. As a leader in the organization, I am responsible for the strategic, financial and operational leadership of all things related to patient access. The skills that make me successful in my career will translate well and lend me to be successful as a board member.”
If elected, Pieloch said areas of focus for her will be continued response to the coronavirus pandemic with specific attention to the safe return to in-person instruction, student achievement and continuing to grow efforts around linking the district’s coursework with the community through service and open dialogue.
Ali, Esposito and Fernandez did not respond by press time.