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10 Candidates Vie for Seats on Montgomery School Board after Community Members Clash on Issues

By Barbara A. Preston | August 3, 2022 (Updated August 8, 2022)

Ten candidates have filed to run for three open seats on the Montgomery School Board, following a year of peppery debate at board meetings. Issues include: an extracurricular drag queen story hour for elementary students; the new LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed standards; an increased emphasis on teaching racial diversity, especially about slavery and systemic racism; and masking requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two incumbents and eight new candidates will be competing for the three seats on the Montgomery Township Board of Education in the upcoming November 8 election.

New candidates Mohammed Fahd Ansari of Belle Mead; Michelle Dowling of Skillman; Danish Mirza of Belle Mead; Joanna Filak of Skillman; Ania Wolecka-Jernigan of Belle Mead; Douglas Herring of Skillman; Craig Rothenberg of Belle Mead; and John A. Sangiovanni, III of Skillman, along with incumbents Phyllis Bursh of Belle Mead and Richard Specht of Belle Mead, each filed to run for three-year terms with the Somerset County Clerk's Office by the July 25 deadline.

Montgomery community members speak their minds at a recent school board meeting.

Three board members' terms expire in December: Bursh and Specht, who are each running for another term. The third seat belonged to Shreesh R. Tiwari, who resigned his seat on the board in July. The Montgomery School Board plans to appoint a replacement at its next meeting, August 23, to fill out Tiwari's term.

The Montgomery News emailed all 10 candidates on July 31, asking them to provide statements and background information for an article in the September issue of The Montgomery News. Also, all the candidates were invited to participate in an in-person forum to take place in October. In addition, space will be provided for their opinions in a fall issue of the newspaper.

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Board of Education Vacancy

Montgomery and Rocky Hill residents who are interested in applying for the vacant school board position should send a letter of interest and a resume to Alicia M. Schauer, board secretary, at or via mail to 1014 Route 601, Skillman, NJ 08558. Letters of interest must be either postmarked or emailed by 4 pm on Friday, August 12.

The position became available when Tiwari resigned on July 27. The individual appointed to the vacant position will serve on the board through the 2023 organization meeting, which will be held January 3.

About the Board of Ed

As described by the Montgomery board of education website, "the board’s responsibilities include: setting and evaluating policy; establishing goals; overseeing that the district schools are well run by the administrators they have hired; and adopting a fiscally sound operating budget for the school district. Board members act on the superintendent’s recommendations, meet with civic groups, and receive input from parents, students, and community members."

The board has a total of nine members who usually serve three-year terms, as elected by residents of Montgomery Township and Rocky Hill. Three seats usually come up for election each November.


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