At least two newcomers will join Nutley Board of Ed

There will be at least two new trustees when the votes are tabulated on Nov. 8 for Nutley’s Board of Education.

That’s because two of the three incumbents whose terms expire have opted not to seek re-election, those being Daniel Carnicella, who has been serving as the board president and Frank DeMaio.

Only longtime school trustee Charles Kucinski is hoping to return.

Aside from Kucinski, voters will have a choice of all new faces in a field of six candidates. A seventh who filed petitions to run – Daniel Fraginals – has opted to bow out.

“Due to moving to a new home over the next few months and needing to travel internationally for work during the (school) election, I have decided to withdraw my candidacy for this year’s election,” Fraginals said.  “I hope to be in the mix in the future.”

That leaves the following would-be trustees on the ballot: Laura Valente and Andrea Lynn Podgarsky (both listed under the slogan “Looking Forward”), Kucinski, Emanuele Triggiano, Theresa Teri Quirk and Tom Elia, all running for 3-year terms.

All the candidates, except for Kucinski, are career educators, although Kucinski did earn a B.S. degree in education from Montclair State University.

In their campaign literature, Valente, an assistant dean for student affairs at the graduate school of Montclair State University and an adjunct professor at Ramapo College of New Jersey, says she and Podgarsky “value a collaborative relationship with educators and the community based on mutual respect.”

Podgarsky, a graduate of the London School of Economics & Political Science, works as assistant vice president at Kumon University, Ridgefield Park.  Between 2003 and 2008 she taught special education at a middle school in the Bronx.

The pair have organized a series of informal meet-and-greets throughout the community and Podgarsky says, “Because we want to hear from as many voters as possible, we also want to make ourselves as accessible as possible right from the start.”

Kucinski, a retired Nutley firefighter who now works in private security, previously served on the BOE from 1982 to 1997 and, again, from 2010 to the present. He says he’s running now to “maintain the stability of the board” which, during his tenure, has “achieved improved ratings and a much-needed balance between academics, the arts and athletics.”

Kucinski says he played an instrumental role in hiring new school administrators, adding security officers at the high school and middle school, securing entrances at all schools with Yantacaw in the process of completion, creating threat assessment teams, upgrading HVAC and adding air filtration systems at every school and replacing the turf and installing lighting at the Oval.

If re-elected, Kucinski pledges to “continuing to improve our academic ratings, student-to-teacher ratio, technology and promoting security, health and wellness procedures that will provide an even more comfortable environment for our students and teachers.”

Triggiano retired in 2020 after 13 years as superintendent of Dumont public schools, the culmination of more than half-a-century as an educator, all in Dumont, which the state recognized four times as a “high performing” district during his tenure as chief school administrator. Triggiano says he guided the district to four contracts with employee groups, set safety protocols, launched several major infrastructure projects and developed a district website and mail server.

Triggiano and his wife have raised two sons who completed their education in Nutley schools. Now he says he is “seeking an opportunity to share his experience (as a career educator) and give back to the community of Nutley.”

Quirk, a lifelong Nutley resident who raised three children in the district and a speech/language therapist, says she’s worked 29 years with special education children in Saddle Brook and is currently working with special needs toddlers through the state’s Early Intervention program.

“I strongly feel that my expertise in this field will be invaluable to our district, as I can bring new insights and knowledge of best practices into the decision-making process, particularly with respect to special needs,” she says.

Quirk has also been president of the Nutley Parent Advocacy Network.

Quirk says she’s gained an “intimate understanding of the many issues with which the district has faced and has earned a reputation as a fierce advocate who is not afraid to challenge the status quo when it comes to improving educational standards and demanding accountability to the citizenry.”

D’Elia is director of operations/chief talent officer for the Belleville school district. He earned his Ph.D. in teacher education and development from Montclair State University where he was inducted into several honor societies. He holds certificates as a teacher of psychology, teacher of students with disabilities, elementary school teacher, supervisor, principal and school administrator. He is an adjunct faculty member in MSU’s Educational Leadership program and Centenary University’s doctoral program in educational leadership.

A 20-year Nutley resident and the father of two girls in Nutley schools, D’Elia says he has “a vested interest in the success of the school system.  As an innovative and current public school administrator, I understand the inner workings of a school district and the importance of accountability, both fiscally and educationally. I would be a knowledgeable asset on the board to represent the best interests of this community.”a

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Ron Leir | For The Observer

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc.

He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter.

He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based WHATCo. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, New York