In a high-stakes Franklin Lakes School Board meeting, candidates from a myriad of professional backgrounds competed for an open board seat. Current board members were tasked with filling the seat which is temporarily vacant until the end of 2023. Surgeon Robert Morin, finance expert Anna Marchuk, physics professor Yu-Ping Huang, sales professional Carolina Severino, and diversity consultant April Flores were among the seven contenders interviewed.
The board stated that they prioritized candidates with a diverse range of skills and experiences, following a standardized procedure which included five main questions about the candidates’ skills, areas of improvement, motivation to serve, conflict resolution, and future plans.
Robert Morin brought to the table his surgical expertise, particularly in pediatric and craniofacial procedures, coupled with an MBA and experience in healthcare systems. He emphasized school security, particularly at High Mountain Road, and teacher-student ratios as key areas of improvement. Morin’s motivation to serve stemmed from his two young children, and he confirmed his intent to run for the open board positions in November.
Anna Marchuk, on the other hand, highlighted her analytical skills and experience in finance and HR. She pinpointed education quality, fiscal responsibility, and teacher accountability as areas requiring attention. Like Morin, Marchuk’s motivation came from her children in the district, and she, too, intended to run for the open position in November.
The Board and also engaged with candidates over the impact of the pandemic on student achievement. A board member drew attention to 2021 and 2022 state test scores, which they believed reflected inadequate preparation due to online classes during the pandemic. They proposed working with Superintendent Gregorio Maceri and other board members to address these gaps.
Another area of concern was communication and engagement with the community. The board addressed the delay of a security-related petition, despite parent pressure, indicating a need for more proactive engagement with parent concerns.
Yu-Ping Huang, a physics professor from the Stevens Institute of Technology, discussed his vision for preparing students for future technological revolutions and job market shifts. Huang advocated for data-driven decision-making, sticking to facts to address conflicts, and expressed reservations about the impact of AI and quantum technology on job availability.
Meanwhile, diversity consultant April Flores highlighted leadership awareness, security agenda, and an ethnic curriculum in the district. Flores, who has three gender-affirmed children, suggested the importance of continuously working on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). She plans to run for the open board seats.
However, it was sales professional Carolina Severino who stood out most to the board, with her 15 years of negotiating expertise. Severino identified three main areas of improvement for the district: combating the educational setbacks from the pandemic, enhancing communication between parents, teachers, and students, and improving the board’s engagement with the community. Her motivation to volunteer hinged on her three children, two of whom would soon be attending a school in the district. When asked about conflict resolution, she advocated for respectful disagreement and decision-making that prioritizes the community’s children.
At the end of the session, the board unanimously appointed Ms. Carolina Silverino to the open seat, pending a criminal background check and fingerprinting. However, the remaining candidates were encouraged to run in the November election to win a full term to the board. The school board will convene for its next meeting in the coming weeks, continuing its efforts to advance the district’s educational standards.