NP General Elections: A Guide for Students


Jack Cropper, staff writer

The Board of Education is a function of government that affects students personally. Policy decisions and public transparency are just some of the crucial things integral to the functions of the high school. In fact, some older students even have the right to select these candidates, as they may be eligible to vote for anyone they choose. Now, this year, the choice has arrived, as the general election is just around the corner. Some of the biggest positions up for grabs are town council seats and board of education seats. 

    This year, the BOE (board of education) has two seats up for grabs. The two incumbents, Rebecca Coniglio and Jennifer Killea are running for reelection. The other candidates are Stacey Gunderman and Alison Gagliolo.

Jennifer Killea has been a member since August 2020, only serving two interim terms of about six months. This year’s election comes off a year filled with hardships for students, parents, and even board members.

“I would say, that it wasn’t as tough to create this schedule as it was for you all [students] to deal with” said Kilea, who was inspired to run for a full term after her experience learning and dealing with the unique situation of students last year.

The candidates both seem confident they handled the coronavirus properly last year, as Coniglio said “I’m really proud of the way it is that we were able to stay open.” This shared confidence prompted both candidates to endorse each other, as Gunderman and Gagliolo continue to fight them for the seats.

The two candidates challenging the incumbents are both write-in candidates, sharing the common trait of being parents to young children, seeking to directly impact both their own and the community of children’s education. According to her campaign statement, Gunderman has been able to appreciate the value of education through her sister, who is mentally challenged. Her listed goals are somewhat general, explaining how she wants to provide tools to teachers to address unique students needs, while advancing education as a whole.

Gagliolo is a licensed therapist, who believes her specialized knowledge can be useful for special education students. Her goals are a little more specific than Gunderman’s as she seeks to implement the Education Strategic Planning Vision and help students reconnect with each other.

The election will ultimately be decided on November 2. 

With few students eligible to vote, the actions of the board must be interpreted primarily by the parents, who will decide whether they will continue with the current direction of the board, bring in brand new faces, or a mix of both. One of the most controversial rules in place is the mask mandate, however both incumbent members made it clear they had no choice in the matter as the state Executive Order mandates it.

However, Coniglio did say “she was pleased with that” in reference to the actions taken to keep everybody in the school safe.

The school board is crucial to keep the gears of NPHS running smoothly, but the board has less sway than the town council, whose elections are also coming up. 

Republican leadership has been at the reins of the New Providence town council for about 50 years now, with very little opposition from Democrats. The town has run fairly smoothly so far, but one Democrat believes it’s time we move on from this so-called “one party system.” After an interesting primary election, Allen Swanson has been nominated as a Democratic candidate for town councilman. This came as he was nominated via write-in ballots, which earned him a spot as a listed ballot candidate. 

  With this nomination, Allen Swanson faces a challenge many politicians dread. He must defeat the sitting councilmen of a town that has voted for the same party for nearly 50 years. The two councilmen are Matthew Cumiskey and Pete DeSarno, who both share leading positions on the ‘Community Activities, Seniors’ committee and the ‘Finance Committee’. Receiving many endorsements, most notably from the Mayor and former Councilman Dr. Robinson, these two candidates have established themselves as formidable opponents to Swanson, who has the advantage of voter registration in New Providence. Democratic votes outnumber Republican 32% to 29%, while 39% remain unaffiliated. It is likely that these endorsements will sway the neutral, as the party’s historic dominance will tell you. 

    The general election could be an interesting one, with a crowded BOE race and a Democrat on the ballot in the town council race. With so many possibilities, it seems like a daunting task to narrow it down to only a few candidates. But residents will have to as they choose some of the most crucial positions in government this November. 

    Everyday students should keep a close eye on these candidates. There are many opportunities to participate in and learn more about local and national politics. In fact, it is crucial that we become active members of our democracy in order for both our national, state, and local politicians to get the job done. Students 18 or older are encouraged to vote in all elections, as both local and national candidates shape the world we live in.