From the colorful campaign signs strewn on residents’ lawns to the myriad of Facebook posts supporting one candidate over the other, the contentious election for the lone spot on the Ridgewood Board of Education has captivated the attention of adults and students alike. Cristopher Kaufman, a former Licensed Salesperson for Azarian Realty Company, faced off against Vincent Loncto, a Board of Education veteran, for the seat his opponent had held since 2011. Kaufman defeated the incumbent on the November 6th election by roughly 1,300 votes; excluding mail-in ballots, Loncto garnered 2,564 while Kaufman received 3,889.
So how does this Board of Education election affect RHS students? The Board of Ed acts as a monitor of the Ridgewood Public Schools (RPS), creating strategies to ensure the smooth running of the entire district and carrying out important duties like appointing the superintendent and managing the RPS budget. Members are elected by the Ridgewood populace and have a three-year term limit. Issues that have been troubling the Board for the past few weeks, months, and years include the negotiation of teacher contracts, school safety, and the BOE budget. As a result of these divisive issues, the support wasn’t lopsided for one candidate, but rather both men had supporters behind them who encouraged their fellow Ridgewood residents to vote for their favorite and realize the faults of their opponent.
Vincent Loncto had his previous record as a Board of Ed member to run on, citing his twenty years of experience in the RPS and prestigious position as the Board President. One specific point he ran on was the fact that during his time on the board, the BOE budget stayed under the yearly spending limit set by the state.
Kaufman relied on campaign promises to get himself elected. His main issues include safety in the form of reducing bullying in the RPS, “transparency and accountability”, and more controlled spending of Ridgewood tax dollars. Cristopher Kaufman used an old strategy by calling himself a “new voice” that would strive to accomplish his campaign promises.
It has been evident in all recent elections, local or national, that social media sites, predominantly Facebook, play huge roles in influencing the outcome. Facebook has become a news source for those who don’t have the time to watch news on television or read articles in print or online. Parents who work often times won’t be up to speed on national events, but Facebook provides an opportunity for them to be very involved in local activities. Most students poke fun at the Ridgewood Moms and Dads (with Free Speech) Facebook groups, but in reality angry posts and heated comment threads can make a difference. On September 9th, 2018, a post was made about the highly debated later start times at RHS. As always, the members of the Ridgewood community chimed in with over twenty comments and debates within the comments. Scrolling through the multitude of different opinions, one can not only read the original article that the post was made in response to, but have easy access to several different viewpoints, which enables them to form their own opinion on the matter. Another heated topic on the Ridgewood Moms and Dads Facebook group is that of Ridgewood High School’s lack of substitute teachers. While students may enjoy having more than one free per day, some parents seem to think the school is giving kids a vacation. This simple post sparked a comment thread of 219 comments and was filled with people attacking or apologizing to one another. These posts heavily influenced the outcome of the Board of Education election on November 6th. The posts that received the most attention were the ones that caused controversy and expressed discontent with the Ridgewood school system and called for change. The election proved that the parents of children in Ridgewood schools do want things to change, however, it cannot be predicted how soon changes will take place or how effective they will be.
For the students currently enrolled at Ridgewood High School, it is safe to say that frees will be protected, and the early-morning start time may have some flexibility.
Grace McLaughlin & Annie Probert
Graphic: Swathi Kella