WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange Board of Education kicked off the new year at its reorganization meeting on Jan. 7 at West Orange High School, swearing in two new members and electing a new president and vice president. Cheryl Merklinger and Terry Trigg-Scales took the seats previously held by former board members Ron Charles and Irv Schwarzbaum before the board also chose liaisons and committee chairs.
Sandra Mordecai nominated Ken Alper for board president, while Mark Robertson nominated himself for president. Alper was elected to the position with a vote of 3-2; Robertson and Trigg-Scales cast the opposing votes. As the board had already reached a majority selecting Alper, the vote on Robertson’s nomination became unnecessary and was not done. This is Alper’s first term as president.
Mordecai became the board’s vice president after Alper nominated her and she won the position with a vote of 4-1. Robertson was the only opposing vote, having nominated Trigg-Scales for the position. A majority was reached in favor of Mordecai before the board voted on Trigg-Scales’ nomination.
Merklinger will be the liaison to the New Jersey School Boards Association and Trigg-Scales will serve as the alternate, while Mordecai will be the liaison to the Essex County School Boards Association with Alper serving as the alternate. Trigg-Scales was elected to be the legislative chairperson and Alper will be the alternate.
The Negotiations Committee will be headed by Alper and Robertson. Mordecai and Trigg-Scales will share the duties of the policy chairperson while Alper and Merklinger will be the liaisons to the township government. The Public Relations Committee will be led by Robertson and Merklinger.
“I would like to thank everyone who came out tonight,” Trigg-Scales said in her first comments as a board member. “I certainly look forward to being a part of the government that overlooks the running of our school district. That is an awesome responsibility and something I take very, very seriously. It takes a village to raise a child and we certainly need everyone’s input. We don’t know everything.”
Trigg-Scales also discussed the search for a new superintendent that will begin this year, stressing the importance of the community’s input in the process.
“We need to be good listeners and we need to be eager learners,” she said. “We need you at the table to move forward with the very, very important job of searching for a new superintendent. I know many of you out there are very eager to be a part of that and, believe me, the board will be working to figure out how we can include you. So again, thank you for being here tonight and please keep coming.”
Merklinger also thanked audience members for being at the meeting and mentioned several projects and initiatives that she wants to address during her term on the board, including the rebuilding of the athletic bubble at WOHS.
“Most of you know that I’m heavily involved with sports, so I’ll definitely be involved with the bubble and I’m looking forward to seeing that coming to fruition,” she said. “As well as the mobile app and website, I want to get that updated.”
Several parents of special needs students were at the meeting, and Merklinger said she is looking forward to working with the families and teachers of those students in the future.
“I’ve worked on several special needs events with the West Orange PAL and I’d love to bring that to a broader scope in town, so I look forward to working with all of you,” she said. “Thank you to everyone for coming out tonight.”
Photos by Amanda Valentovic