BOE elections: candidates Yaros-Ramos and de Leeuw

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — The Glen Ridge Board of Education will have a contested election this year. Running for three, three-year seats are incumbents Elizabeth Ginsburg, Heather Yaros-Ramos and Michael de Leeuw, and challenger Teresa Boyle-Vellucci. Each candidate will be interviewed and asked the same questions. Two candidates will be presented here and the remaining candidates in a later edition. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Heather Yaros-Ramos
Yaros-Ramos, who is running for her second term, began attending BOE meetings about five years ago. She has two daughters in the Glen Ridge school system and serves as a delegate with the NJ School Board Association.

“I thought it was interesting. I was learning new things; my background is in education.”
Yaros-Ramos, an adjunct chemistry professor at Montclair State University and William Paterson University, said a friend at the Glen Ridge Civic Conference Committee suggested that she run with the committee’s support.

“I had kids, but I ran,” she said. “It can take up a lot of time. I don’t have a lot of time except for work and home. My first year was learning how the whole thing worked. I didn’t know, as a person in the audience, how the board is run by committees.”

She said her first term was also a time of learning to trust her colleagues on the board and learning whether she liked being a board member.

“Being an educator, I was excited to get on the curriculum committee my second year,” Yaros-Ramos said. “I am also on the negotiations committee. It’s using your common sense, no experience beyond that.”

She said that, before she became a member, she thought everyone on the school board was happy with the status quo in Glen Ridge. But experience has shown her that the board is always trying to make improvements for the students.

“We’re always focusing on the National Baccalaureate Program,” she said, potentially for the high school, referring to the nonprofit foundation that offers courses to students to prepare them for a “globalized” world.

She said the question board members must ask themselves is “How can we have the best educational environment?”

Yaros-Ramos said class size is an issue the board is addressing and demographic reports confirm this.
Michael de Leeuw
Michael de Leeuw is running for his third consecutive term on the school board “for several reasons,” he said. He has two daughters in the school system.
“The board is in the middle of exciting things of which I am a part and I want to continue. I want to finish out what I’ve been working on.”

He is a partner in a law firm dealing primarily with security disputes, and also does pro bono work in voting rights disputes and for the Innocence Project, which attempts to exonerate wrongly convicted defendants through DNA testing. For eight years, he has been on the board of trustee of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The economic downturn has been devastating to Glen Ridge residents, de Leeuw said, adding that he is “comfortable with financial matters. We’ve worked hard and done well for the school system. We’ve weathered the storm, maintained high standards and improved the schools.”

As chairman of the curriculum committee, de Leeuw has worked on Vision 20/20, an overall view of updating the curriculum and modernizing teaching. He said the school is in the middle of this initiative.

A major school board concern is the acquisition of more classroom space, and de Leeuw pointed to the Wells Fargo Bank on Bloomfield Avenue as a possible solution.

“A vast part of the building is not being used,” he said. “We’re bursting at the seams at our schools and our infrastructure is old. We’ll need more educational space and more swing space where we can move people in and out. Classes are as big as they’ve ever been and more young families are moving into Glen Ridge.

In addition to chairing the curriculum committee, de Leeuw is chairman of the negotiations committee. “Negotiations are similar to what I do as a lawyer,” he said. “A legal background and experience is important to the school board. I also feel I am fairly helpful in building consensus.”

With children in the seventh and 10th grades — and one in the marching band — the de Leeuws are active in the schools and attend marching band events and host band parties.