Kenneth Saunders was voted in as president and Joe Grillo was voted in as vice president at the Asbury Park Board of Education reorganizational meeting held on January 4. Barbara Lesinski was nominated for the vice presidency by Jessie Ricks, but the nomination did not garner support.

I want to speak directly to the students and children of Asbury Park. We care about you, and you will always be our first priority. With every decision we make, we will ask ourselves, “how does this impact the children?”

President Kenneth Saunders

Kenneth Saunders is a lifelong resident of Asbury Park and a graduate of the Asbury Park school system.  A nurse by profession, Saunders served as the director of the operating room at CentraState. His family is well known in the city. His father, Butch, was a long-time employee of the Boys and Girls Club of Monmouth County as well as the former mayor of Asbury Park.

Saunders read a prepared statement directed towards the students, families, residents and staff and his daughter who was present at the meeting:

I want to speak directly to the students and children of Asbury Park. We care about you, and you will always be our first priority. With every decision we make, we will ask ourselves, “how does this impact the children?” To the families and residents, we hear you loud and clear. You will see greater transparency, communication and empathy both in our meetings and in outside events. We hear you and we see you. To the staff, we look forward to working together to bring you more resources and support. Educators and staff are the front line in educating our kids and we honor your noble profession. You will be supported and not vilified by this board. Together we can and will make our schools a place where children are instilled with the tools for success in college, career, and in life. We are honored to serve you and we will not let you down.

Newly elected Asbury Park Board of Education President Kenneth Saunders

Joe Grillo has lived in Asbury Park since 2006. For almost twenty years he worked for his family’s ceramic tile business before taking a role organizing for the Democratic Party in Monmouth County. He was previously employed by Sustainable Jersey as a development professional and currently serves as board member. Gaining the Vice Presidency was significant for Grillo’s political career. He recently welcomed a new baby with his wife Julie. Grillo currently has a daughter that is a freshman at Asbury Park High School.

Wendi Glassman is the newest member of the Asbury Park Board of Education. She ran for the Board with Joe Grillo and Anthony Remy. Wendi has roots in Asbury Park, and recently moved to the city with her husband Paul Weinstein. She is a retired attorney. She first ran for the Board of Education with Grillo and Carritta Cook in 2020.

Both Grillo and Glassman were sworn in by newly elected Assemblywoman Luanne Peterpaul.

Board Vacancy Update

There were five letters of interest and/or resumes received by the Interim Business Manager and Board Secretary by the deadline of 1/3/2024 at 4:00 PM.

  1. Carritta Cook
  2. Shadab Maghsood
  3. Craig Di Paola
  4. Natalie Passerini
  5. Phalia Kendall

Carritta Cook is the outgoing President. Craig Di Paola ran for the Board in the last election but did not succeed.

Discussion on the Length of Executive Sessions

A key discussion of the Board happened after the executive session in regard to keeping the public waiting for long periods of time while in executive session. A presumed 20-minute period extended to 74-minutes. Recently, a publicly noticed two-hour Board meeting turned into a four-hour meeting. Grillo suggested that the Executive Session happen prior to the full Board meeting so that meetings end on time and the public is not kept waiting. After a robust debate, the decision was to keep the meeting process the same for now, with the stipulation that executive sessions are kept succinct.

Fisher Appointed State Monitor

Ronald Fisher was appointed State Monitor. Fisher formerly served as the monitor for Lakewood Public Schools staring in 2022. Prior to that, he was the Assistant State Monitor in Atlantic City beginning in 2016. Dr. Lester Richens, the Executive County Superintendent for Monmouth County, introduced Fisher at the meeting.

Findings from the School Ethics Commission

On the agenda, listed under Findings from the School Ethics Commission were three items. The first item was a “Decision for Failure to Complete Mandatory Training – Mr. Kenneth Saunders.” Directly after that, was the “Dismissal of Decision for Failure to Complete Mandatory Training – Mr. Kenneth Saunders.” Essentially, the School Ethics Commission found Saunders did not attend mandatory training but that finding was later dismissed.  

The third and final item was listed as, “Resolution of Suspension – Mr. Anthony Remy.” Remy failed to file his personal/relative and financial statements as required. Although disclosure was provided prior to the decision, the Commission still recommended suspension. The School Ethics Commission determined that the suspension be served for 30 days.  

Kerry Margaret Butch is a founding member of the Asbury Park Reporter. Throughout her career, she worked to increase grassroots input in local public policy. She served as the Executive Director of both the Asbury Park Consortium and the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. Notably, she produced the documentaries entitled, “Greetings from Asbury Park,” shown throughout the country and on PBS, and “Storming for the Vote: Hurricane Sandy and the Election.”

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