West Milford School Board election primer

West Milford. A step-by-step approach to electing three new school board members.

| 22 Oct 2020 | 10:46

This year, as in most years, West Milford voters are instructed to “Vote for Three” Board of Education Candidates from the list of five candidates’ names.

Each of the three top vote-getters in the election will serve a full, three-year term as a Volunteer School Board Trustee starting in January 2021.

What are “Brackets?”

According to the NJ Division of Elections (www.nj.gov,) legislation enacted in 2018 permits Board of Education candidates to be bracketed together with other school board candidates of their choice on the election ballot. This permits candidates with similar views and positions to be grouped together under one common slogan.

Bracketed candidates are selected together (to be bracketed together on the ballot) during the random process for ballot positioning. Non-bracketed candidates are listed singly in the same ballot section with their ballot position numbers as assigned by the process.

In this case, voters will see the school board candidates listed on their ballots with bracketed candidate names stacked together beneath their running mates; but each still has their own ballot position within the bracket grouping for voting purposes, just as the non-bracketed candidates do.

It is important to note, as noted on the state election website, that one vote (one filled-in circle on the ballot) counts only for that one candidate whose name is listed next to that circle - even for candidates that are listed within a bracket. So if voters wants to vote for all (or any) of the candidates within a bracket, they still must select each candidate they wish to choose individually - by filling in the corresponding circle next to each of those candidate’s names on the ballot; the same way they would do for selecting a non-bracketed candidate.

For the West Milford Board of Education Election, voters can select a total of three candidates from the five candidates listed on the ballot, regardless of whether they are in bracketed or non-bracketed positions.

The West Milford Ballot choices for school board

At the top of the ballot section, “ELECTION: West Milford School District”, underneath the office title: “Members of the Board of Education”, are instructions on how many candidates voters can choose for that office, and the number of years they will serve.

According to the school district website: “There are nine elected Board of Education Trustees, each serving a rotating three-year term. Each Trustee has an equal vote on all issues. The Board President and Vice President are elected by the School Board for one year of service. The Trustees volunteer their time and do not receive financial compensation for their service.” 1

Each year, three Trustee positions are on the election ballot for the public vote to serve a three-year term on the school board.

Candidates and Ballot Positions
Board of Education candidates Lynda Van Dyk and Raymond Guarino III are two incumbents seeking re-election to the school board in 2020. The third seat is currently held by Trustee Nicole Fritz. fter serving four years on the school board, Fritz has decided not to run for re-election. Fritz was appointed by the BOE in early 2017 to fill a vacancy left by former Trustee Marilyn Schultz when Schultz announced plans to move out of the area. In November 2017, Fritz was elected to serve a full three-year term of her own through December 2020.
Candidates Debbie O’Brien, Michelle Buntzen, and William Cytowicz are the challengers. Cytowicz and O’Brien have both previously served as School Board Trustees. Buntzen is a newcomer to the school board race.
Candidate numbers 1-3 have submitted candidacy to be listed together under one slogan in a bracket: “Vote the First Three for BOE.”
● 1 - Lynda Van Dyk
Van Dyk is an incumbent and current Board of Education President. She has also served as a Board of Education Trustee prior to this most recent term from 1996-2010. Van Dyk has been elected to serve as School Board President by her fellow Trustees in 2009, as well as for all three years of her current term (2018, 2019 and 2020). Van Dyk is seeking re-election to continue her volunteer work as a Trustee of the West Milford Board of Education.
● 2 - Raymond Guarino
Guarino is an incumbent. Completing his first term on the school board, Guarino is seeking re-election to continue his volunteer work as a West Milford School Board Trustee for a second term.
● 3 - Debbie O’Brien
O’Brien is a challenger candidate on the ballot, but listed as a running mate and bracketed together with the two incumbent candidates Van Dyk and Guarino. O’Brien previously served two terms as a School Board Trustee (2013-2019), but didn’t run for a third consecutive term in 2019 due to personal responsibilities in caring for a family member. O’Brien is now seeking to return to the school board and pick up where she left off, continuing her volunteer work as a member of the West Milford Board of Education.
● 4 - Michelle Buntzen
Slogan: “Our Community Voice.” Buntzen is a challenger candidate seeking election for the first time to the West Milford school board. Buntzen is the sole newcomer in the Board of Education election this year, seeking to serve her first three year volunteer term as a School Board Trustee.
● 5 - William Cytowicz
Slogan: “Will to Succeed.” Cytowicz is a challenger candidate, having served one previous term as a School Board Trustee from 2016-2019. At the end of his first term in 2019, Cytowicz threw his hat into the political ring to run for a County Freeholder position. He later removed himself from that election and instead, sought re-election for a second term as School Board Trustee, which was unsuccessful. Cytowicz is once again seeking to return to the school board to pick up where he left off, continuing his volunteer work on the West Milford School Board.
To read more about the duties of a School Board Trustee, see “Responsibilities of the Board” on the West Milford Township Public Schools website at- www.wmtps.org/board
Editor’s note: The West Milford Messenger asked each of the five candidates to answer five questions about their candidacies, their thoughts about the school district and the challenges that the district faces in this time of COVID-19.
The candidates’s responses can be found online at www.westmilfordmessenger.com.