Fair Lawn School Board Elects New President Amid Controversy and Plans School Repairs

The Fair Lawn School Board meeting was marked by the election of Julie Mahan as the new board president and Joe Baldofsky as vice president, alongside discussions of an alleged incident of emotional abuse and concerns about high school roof repairs. During the proceedings, the official results of the annual school election were announced, and the newly elected board members were sworn in. Tensions arose regarding the nomination process and the appropriateness of discussing candidate conduct, which brought to light past allegations against Mahan. Meanwhile, Superintendent Rui Dionisio addressed concerns over the high school’s infrastructure and outlined repair plans.

The meeting commenced with the declaration of the school election results, which saw Julie Mahan garnering 4,450 votes, leading the polls. She was followed by Jean Brown with 4,061 votes, Rita Fayvelevich with 3,755 votes, and Manda Papakar with 3,598 votes. Following the announcement and a brief celebration, the newly elected members were administered the oath of office by the board attorney.

The proceedings took a contentious turn with the nomination of Mahan for the board president position. Despite a lack of specific policy prohibiting discussion on nominations, the board attorney advised against a substantive discourse on the matter. The call for a roll call vote ensued, solidifying Mahan’s position as president. The vote for the vice president followed a similar pattern, with Joe Baldofsky securing the role after a seconded nomination and a roll call vote.

During public comments, Rita Fayvelevich, a district employee, brought forth an email she had authored in June 2023. The email detailed an incident involving Mahan’s alleged emotional abuse and harassing behavior during an executive meeting. Board president Ron Barbarulo responded by committing to consult with the board attorney and the human resources director to address the issue appropriately.

In addition to the internal board matters, the public comments segment highlighted infrastructure issues at the local high school. A parent raised concerns about the state of the school’s roof, noting leaks and damaged ceiling tiles that posed a safety risk to students and staff. Superintendent Dionisio responded by reassuring the public that the district was not only aware of the infrastructure problems but also had formulated plans to undertake necessary roof repairs.

The meeting also included the mandatory approval of the code of ethics for school board members, which was methodically read and approved paragraph by paragraph. The adherence to this code is critical in maintaining the integrity and trustworthiness of the board, especially in light of the allegations presented during the meeting.

As the meeting drew to a close, dates for upcoming meetings were announced. The motion to adjourn was seconded and approved, concluding a session that was as much about governance as it was about addressing the ethical and infrastructural challenges faced by the Fair Lawn School District.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Rui Dionisio
School Board Officials:
Ron Barbarulo, Julie Mahan, Joseph Baldofsky, Eugene M. Banta (Attorney), Edward Bertolini, Rita Fayvelevich, Michael Rosenberg, Mark Spindel, Lisa Yourman

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