Six Candidates File to Run for Three Seats on the Montgomery Township Board of Education
By Barbara A. Preston | Posted August 1, 2023 (Updated August 10, 2023)
Following a year of contentious school board meetings in Montgomery Township, six candidates have filed to run for three seats in the November 7 election. The filing deadline with the Somerset County clerk's office was Monday, July 31.
Incumbent board members Christina Harris, Victoria "Cookie" Franco-Herman, and Zelda Spence Wallace are running for re-election together on a platform. Their slogan is "Champions for Students." The other candidates include: John A. Sangiovanni, who unsuccessfully ran for the school board last year. His slogan was "Education, Values, Success." As of August 10, a change to the Somerset County Clerk's Office website shows that Sangiovanni is now running on a platform with regular school board attendees Santi Buscemi and Deatte Gettinger. Their slogan is "Respecting Parents."
About the candidates—listed below in alphabetical order
Santi Buscemi is the son of Italian immigrants from Sicily. He lives in Skillman and is the former chairperson of the English Department at Middlesex County College in Edison. Santi has authored several college textbooks and translated the literary novels by Luigi Capuana. He also taught composition and literature, he has said, for some 50 years.
He earned his bachelor's degree in English from St. Bonaventure University in 1966, completed studies for his doctorate at the University of Tennessee. He graduated from West Babylon High School in 1962, according to LinkedIn.
He retired in June 2021 at the age of 76, according to an article in "Quo Vadis, Your Paper, Your Voice." He is the author of several college textbooks including A Reader For Developing Writers (McGraw-Hill).
Victoria "Cookie" Franco-Herman (Incumbent)
Belle Mead resident Victoria "Cookie" Franco-Herman is an equity officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She is married to Dan Herman, a personal trainer. She has two children: Gabe Acot and Alex Acot.
Franco-Herman earned her bachelor's degree in political science and government from Ateneo de Manila University in 1997. She completed a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Program for public and nonprofit managers at Rutgers Division of Continuing Studies in April, according to LinkedIn. The program includes a series of four courses designed to provide public managers an opportunity to increase individual aptitude and knowledge in foundational concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
She has served on the Montgomery School Board since January 2021, and is currently the board's first vice-president.
Belle Mead resident Deatte Gettinger is a nurse practitioner who specializes in anxiety and depression, according to Headway. She has three children, according to her public statements at board meetings.
"I am a certified psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner and a certified family nurse practitioner. I specialize in treating patients 18 and older using individual therapy and medication management," she said on Headway. "As a dual certified nurse practitioner, I have a particular interest in the interplay between mental and physical health and wellness."
Christina Harris (Incumbent)
Christina Harris of Belle Mead is trained as a teacher, but she has been a stay-at-home mom to her three children. Her husband, Casey, works in the pharmaceutical industry.
As a school board member, Harris serves on the following committees:
Assessment, Curriculum & Instruction Committee
Food Services Committee
Human Resources Committee (alternate)
Special Education Committee
Somerset County Educational Services (alternate)
She has served on the board since 2019. Read her 2020 interview with The Montgomery News.
John A. Sangiovanni, III
Skillman resident John A. Sangiovanni III is a senior estimator for a large central New Jersey civil / utility contractor in Linden. His wife, Dara Zimmer, is an art teacher at Montgomery Upper Middle School and they have two children.
He ran unsuccessfully for the the school board last year. He had said that the three most important challenges facing the Montgomery School District at that time were: Chapter 32 Curriculum Concerns; Population Growth = larger Classes; and Keeping Talented and Experienced Teachers.
Zelda Spence Wallace (Incumbent)
Zelda Spence-Wallace of Belle Mead is the current president of the Montgomery School Board. She is also an educator with the Plainfield School District.
She is married to Darron R. Wallace, a business analyst and they have five children.
About the Board of Education
The Montgomery School Board is made up of nine seats. Elected members usually serve three-year terms. The board's responsibilities include: setting and evaluating policy; establishing goals; overseeing and ensuring that district schools are well run by the administrators they have hired; and adopting a fiscally sound operating budget.