School Board Candidates Debate the Issues

Residents repeatedly bring up conflicts in the district regarding the suspension of Superintendent Anthony Cavanna.


Candidates for the West Orange Board of Education gave their qualifications and debated recent action around suspending the district superintendent at a candidate’s forum Wednesday night.

Incumbent Michelle Casalino, challenger Adam Kraemer and challenger Joseph Sorbino addressed voters in a question-and-answer session sponsored by the West Orange African Heritage Organization at the Thomas Edison Middle School.

Challenger Ronald Charles was the only candidate not at the forum due to a scheduling conflict.

The four candidates are contending for two three-year terms on the board. 

Casalino was unable to comment extensively about the superintendent because she is on the board and it is an ongoing legal matter. However, she admitted, “the last two years have been challenging. ... It is understandable that the public is frustrated at this point; I myself am frustrated.”

Sorbino said the superintendent situation is a problem with “accountability,” and the board should ultimately be held responsible for hiring Cavanna, who is still being paid his salary — about $225,000 a year — in addition to hiring James O’Neill as the interim superintendent for $175,000 a year. 

“When you are a resident and you are a taxpayer, you get pretty frustrated constantly hearing that it is a personnel issue [which is unable to be discussed by the board],” said Sorbino. “... The fact of the matter is we are paying two superintendent salaries.”

Kraemer agreed, saying the board is largely responsibility for the debacle in the district regarding the superintendent.

“I don’t think we’ve had a healthy process of hiring superintendents in the first place,” he said. “... And I don’t think the relationship between the superintendent and the board was perfectly handled for the last three years.”

Casalino promoted herself as someone who had the experience after six years on the board, specifically mentioning cost saving measures she voted in favor of, especially reigning in custodial overtime. 

Sorbino told the small crowd he was an ordinary father in the district with two children in the public schools. He said he wanted to improve classroom technology to increase student engagement and suggested allowing students to bring in their own tablets.  

Kraemer said he also favored integrating more technology in the classroom. He said using a new model, students could learn at their own pace by utilizing technology for one-on-one instruction, and teachers would act as facilitators. 

He also mentioned partnering with charter schools as a potential option to combat overcrowding, and outsourcing district services to save the district money. 

Robert September 26, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Hi Kate. To use a school analogy, I am saying that all Board of Education members should have a college education. I am not saying that all people with a college education should be on the Board of Education. As for Mr. Kraemer, I am not convinced but I am willing to learn more. I also would never judge a parent for doing what is in the best interests of their child (private or religious school). I think you have suggested the first thing about him that resonates with me and that is that he does what is in the best interests of his children regardless of political fallout. I would be more concerned with someone who did not do what was best for their child out of concern for their local political ambitions.
Robert September 26, 2012 at 10:53 PM
For Gary- If you are saying that Ms. Casalino's practical "success" on the Board of Education is the functional equivalent of the successes of Thomas A. Edison, John Glenn and Bill Gates in their respective fields, then I agree with you... For those who don't think so, it may be time to consider someone else.
Kate Farrell September 26, 2012 at 10:57 PM
Sorry Franklin, I worded it badly... it had to do with involvement at the school, PTA, etc. and not personal involvement with their own children. I don't believe anyone criticized anyone's choice of putting their children in a Yeshiva, did they? And btw, I don't like kool aid, but I do believe in community involvement and being part of a solution rather than complaining.
Ann Aly Ahmed September 29, 2012 at 07:01 PM
I do not feel that a person needs to have a college degree to be on the BOE, I do however feel that the person that is on the board or plans to run for a seat, should have had(children that have graduated) or does have children in the West Orange School System to honestly know how to improve our schools and insure that our students get the quality education they deserve. Also, with regard to test scores, some students are great at taking test and others freeze when taking a test. I do not go by a national test to gauge if my children did well or are doing well in school. I go by their report card. I guess I am old school and I want to know what my child is doing here and I really do not care if he matches up to someone in LaJolla California or NYC with his knowledge.
Ann Aly Ahmed September 29, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Robert, I can only speak on what I know personally of Michelle, but the reason she does not have a college degree is because she needed to help her mother raise her siblings and put food on the table. And even though Michelle does not have a college degree, she is very pro education and is a professional that does very well wtihout a degree. So I ask you Robert, do not hold this against her, but come out and learn about her and what she has done not only for our schools but our town and maybe even speak with her and you will see for yourself how well-rounded she is and how passionate she is about education and educating our youth.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »