I attended the Lyndhurst Board of Education meeting last night to watch how an evenly split board of eight members would reorganize its leadership, absent the tie-breaking 9th vote of resigned Trustee-elect Vincent Tunnero.
Shockingly, they did the right thing; not however without the last vestiges of the past (Trustees Abruscato, Alcuri and Andrinopoulos) trying their best to do the wrong thing, yet once again.
Trustee Erin Keefe was without question the right choice to lead the Board of Education this year. She’s a licensed attorney, a PTA member with children in the schools, and she was just elected over a year ago, all of which make her the right symbol for fresh, intelligent, ethical leadership of a School Board that has been through the worst over the past few years.
I share a few observations:
Trustee Jim Donovan, another newer Board Trustee who ran against BOE corruption and nepotism has seniority over Keefe, being elected a year before her. But Donovan took Vice President after nominating Keefe for President. A financial expert, Donovan could have fought to be Board President himself, both as a qualified reformer and as a more senior member. But Donovan appeared to understand that the ethical symbolism of Keefe’s leadership for Lyndhurst Schools was more important than Donovan having the title of President himself. Donovan deserves credit for this selflessness, a lot of credit. The voters won’t forget this if he seeks re-election.
Outgoing Board President “Chizzie” Vuono, deserves credit too. Are you shocked I would say that? No one is more surprised than I am. But Vuono’s tie-breaking vote made Keefe and Donovan’s elevation to BOE leadership possible. Vuono did this as I watched longtime Trustee Joe Abruscato stubbornly pushed for Chris Andrinopoulos for BOE President and Susan Alcuri for Vice President like an out-of-touch, angry and cranky old man, even though Keefe had already won the vote for President. Vuono took a very different path than his former allies above and gave the newer Trustees elected by voters to reform schools an opportunity to lead. I don’t think Vuono is a saint, but I do think he took his background as a sports coach and applied it to how he handled last night’s reorganization decisions. He fought hard to win, but when Vuono lost, he lost with grace. In the last few elections, voters have chosen new over old on the BOE. Vuono candidates lost, and last night he lost like a gentleman by giving those Trustees, the new people elected to fix the schools Vuono and other older members helped break, a chance to lead. Bravo, Mr. Vuono. Your dignity deserves applause.
Trustees Rick Pizzuti and Frank Ferrandino were sworn in last night with their proud families standing with them. Pizzuti and Ferrandino then joined with Keefe, Donovan and Vuono to reorganize with Keefe and Donovan’s new leadership. I would have expected no less from these two new members, committed to reforming our schools.
The three Trustees stuck in the corrupt past…
Abruscato, who literally has his entire immediate family working for the Lyndhurst Township and/or the Lyndhurst Schools, has no business in local public office based on those major conflicts alone. Andrinopoulos was elected for change, and immediately sided with the hacks running the system for years. Alcuri has worked for the Lyndhurst schools for many years, as have her relatives. After retiring, Alcuri became a Trustee. She also needs to go too.
Who should fill the BOE seat vacated by Vinnie Tunnero?
You will no doubt hear from Mr. Abruscato and his BOE friends that the vacated Tunnero seat should go to former BOE member Stephen Vendola, who came in fourth after Tunnero’s third place finish last November 6, 2018. After Vendola was incumbent Sheri Jarvis, who was defeated for re-election and came in 5th. Close behind Jarvis was Giovani Gaccione, a first time candidate for BOE, with young children and a vested interest in a better future for Lyndhurst. Vendola and Jarvis both suffer from the same problems past BOE’s have had…massive conflicts. Both Vendola and Jarvis have immediate family members working for the schools. They have no business being appointed to return to the BOE to continue this practice and worse, just because Vinnie Tunnero fooled voters into believing he was a legitimate vote for change to steal the election from Gaccione as a change candidate.
If Mr. Vuono wants to cement his legacy in his last years on the BOE and protect our administrators, teachers and students’ futures, he will again join with Keefe, Donovan, Pizzuti and Ferrandino to do the right thing by appointing young Mr. Gaccione to the seat he would have won, had voters known about Tunnero’s recent arrest BEFORE the election.
Mr. Gaccione graduated from Lyndhurst Schools, and has multiple higher education degrees, from Stevens Tech and Columbia University. He holds a senior position in the cyber security industry.
The choice of Gaccione was, and still is, a no-brainer.
The Board of Education will be appointing the replacement for Vinnie Tunnero’s vacated seat at 6:30pm on January 28, 2019 at their meeting in the High School Auditorium.