WEST ORANGE, NJ — After 10 years of service, West Orange Board of Education member Laura Lab retired from her seat, and was honored by a host of former colleagues and members of the community at the Dec. 18 BOE meeting. The rest of the board and Mayor Robert Parisi, along with parents of students that Lab’s work on the BOE affected, thanked her for her service.
“I just want to say on behalf of the board, on behalf of my colleagues, the school district, the community, and most importantly all of our students: Thank you for all of your dedication and service,” BOE President Sandra Mordecai said at the meeting.
In her time on the BOE, Lab served as both president and vice president, won the West Orange Citizen of the Year Award, the Township Council Citizen of the Month Award and was a member of the Children’s Initiative Committee under Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.
“You’ve never been one to shy away from criticism,” Parisi said to Lab at the meeting. “You are incredibly committed to your convictions and I’ve always respected that about you. Kids in high school now started school when your service started and in many ways your contributions to this community and their future success is due in large part to your contributions.”
In addition to thanking Lab for her service to the school district and the town, Parisi also thanked her as the father of two children who grew up in the West Orange School District.
“I am a father of two children who had a wonderful experience in the school system and a large part of their tenure was under your leadership,” he said. “As a father, I offer my sincere thanks.”
Councilman Jerry Guarino was also at the meeting to express his thanks to Lab for her time on the BOE.
“The children and students of West Orange could ask for no better advocate than Laura Lab,” Guarino said. “My children benefited from their time here in the school system. A lot of the things that you implemented and a lot of the things that you brought about will be here forever.”
Lab was the last member of the current BOE who worked with former Superintendent Jerry Tarnoff, who was also at the meeting to wish her well. Tarnoff said that Lab was someone who was willing to do all the work that a seat on the Board of Education requires.
“When you’re a superintendent, probably one of the most important things you can ask for in any board member is somebody who not only cares about the community and cares about the kids, but somebody who truly knows that they have to do the hard work to get prepared for each and every board meeting,” Tarnoff said.
He added that he could always count on Lab to come prepared to a meeting, with questions and research ready to go.
“She asked the hard questions and, most importantly, she cared in the end to make it right,” Tarnoff said. “I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated it on a personal level and on a professional level to have you as one of my board members.”
Ken Alper, who will be taking over Lab’s seat on the board, expressed his thanks for her work, saying that he hopes to emulate what she did on the board during his own term.
“You really exemplify a couple of the things I believe,” Alper said. “Doing the work between the meetings and being prepared and showing up. It’s the people who show up that make change and get things done. You’re an inspiration in that regard, and going to be a hard act to follow.”
Superintendent Jeffrey Rutzky closed out Lab’s send-off by saying that she always put the students in the district first, and helped to make controversial decisions easier to handle.
“When we as administrators have to make difficult decisions and we have the support knowing that the decision is controversial but it’s best for the kids, people greatly appreciate that,” he said at the meeting. “That’s going to be missed.”
Lab had a few comments of her own, after thanking community members and people who spoke. She said that some of the work of which she is most proud is her involvement with the special education programs and campaigning to get a traffic light installed on Alisa Drive, which will happen soon. Lab also said that she would like to see more civility in the community, both on social media and in person.
“I have found social mores and standards to be at a precarious crossroads,” she said. “And I do hope that greater civility can be a consideration. I chose not to run again because I felt it was time for another generation to add to that discussion.”
Photos Courtesy of WOSD