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Laura Lab Secures Sole Seat on School Board; Budget Approved

Incumbent board member and vice president wins re-election

The West Board of Education will welcome back a familiar face.

Incumbent Laura Lab appears to have clinched the one open seat on the school board, winning re-election for another three-year term and beating out opponent Mark Meyerowitz.

"I'm very happy that the electorate in West Orange has chosen me to continue to serve on the board of education," said Lab, as she celebrated with her supporters at Essex House Wednesday night. "I really do care a lot about education and I really think it's critical somebody who cares about education is on the board."

Lab won with 59 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results Wednesday night from the Essex County Clerk's office. The township clerk's office unofficially reported Lab won with 2,123 votes, trumping Meyerowitz, who received 1,550 votes. These results are not official and exclude absentee votes.

West Orange Superintendent of Schools Anthony Cavanna said, "it was fantastic" to have Lab continue on the board.

"She's an asset to the school district and her experience on the board will pay off to the children in West Orange," he said.

Mayor Robert Parisi said he was "happy" for Laura. "She's a dedicated public servant," he said. 

The school district's proposed $132.4 million operating budget was also approved Wednesday night. School officials appeared relieved and had feared the budget could face further cuts if it was voted down and sent to the township council.

According to unofficial returns from the township clerk, the school budget was approved with 2,111 "yes" votes to 1,656 "no" votes.

"I'm thrilled," said West Orange President Megan Brill. "We saw what the school district needed and we came up with the a budget that came well under cap."

With the budget approved, Lab said she already plans to begin work, "Im back on the job tomorrow."

Cavanna said once the vote is certified by the township clerk, the school district will implement the budget July 1. "We have roofs to fix, boilers to repair, textbooks to buy," he said.

Supporters said Lab's trail of experience is what garnered the majority vote. 

"She's been extremely active in education issues for many years in our town," said Tony Edelstein, 48, of West Orange. "She's a tireless worker." 

Meyerowitz also congratulated Lab on her apparent win. 

"It's a powerful position and she should use her power carefully," he said. "It doesn't just affect the 6,800 kids at the schools, it affects the 40,000 people that live in the entire town." 

Meyerowitz, a registered investment advisor, said he plans to continue to build his business and isn't sure if he'll run for public office again. He previously ran twice for state assembly. 

Residents flocked to the polling places between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. Wednesday to cast their votes, but school officials say they were disappointed with the low turnout. 

"I really wish the West Orange community would understand this is a great thing that we do and that this is a great right that we have," said Brill. 

She said voter turnout was low because it was an off year and the mayor is not up for re-election.

Elections officials at the polls reported voter participation was down by 50 percent. The township clerk reported that 12 percent of registered voters cast ballots Wednesday.

[Editor's note: This article was first published April 27 at 10:41 p.m.]

Gary Englert April 28, 2011 at 05:59 PM
@ carrie & richard lackowitz: First, I meant precisely what I wrote and would challenge either of you, or anyone else, to provide their cogent reasoning as to why they possibly supported Mr. Meyerowitz. Was it because his decades old (or so thoroughly photoshopped as for him to be unrecognizable) campaign picture represents what he actually looks like? Was it because of his long and stellar record of community service and accomplishment? Was it because of his interest, involvement and knowledge of the intricacies and issues concerning our school system? Was it because your conservative philosophy motivated you to vote (inexplicably) against a fellow conservative? If your vote for the man was geared towards expressing your displeasure with the budget, it was ill-conceived as approving or disapproving it was the only other matter being contested and you had a vote to cast there. If your issue was to insure future fiscal restraint, you'd have been far better served by casting your vote for the fiscally conservative incumbent. So please, pray tell, what good reason did anyone have to vote for this guy? Finally, and this is specifically directed to carrie, hiding behind a screen name is precisely what fosters incivility on the Internet. I'm not saying one damned thing here that I wouldn't say to Mark Meyerowitz's face...or anyone that voted for him.
carrie April 28, 2011 at 06:07 PM
gary you have absolutely no idea who i voted for!!!! thank God we live in america and you never will. this aside, why are you so angry with people you have no other connection with except to bully about over the internet? really, is this the way you were brought up? i will not stoop to your level. i will pray for you that your anger subsides and you can begin to have real, honest, respectful conversation with anyone you come in contact with.
john prignano April 28, 2011 at 07:24 PM
An epigram from Sir John Harrington : " Treason doth never prosper , what's the reason ? Why when it prosper , none dare call it treason "
Gary Englert April 28, 2011 at 07:58 PM
@ john prignano: You're repeating yourself (ad nauseaum) but, what else is new?
richard lackowitz April 28, 2011 at 09:32 PM
Gary, I didn't vote for Mr. Meyerowitz. I couldn't pick him out of a crowd of two men. But 1,550 well intended residents of West Orange thought enough of him to take the time.....make the effort.....to cast their vote for him. Can't you just be pleased your choice of candidate won without being so judgemental and critical of those who thought differently. I'm sure you're really a nice person.
Gary Englert April 28, 2011 at 09:51 PM
@ richard lackowitz:I am quite content that Laura won but, do need to question just how "well intended" 1,550 residents were. For me, it's just mind boggling that anyone pushed a button for this man, as the disparity between the two candidates was just that glaring! Sorry but, that's my story and I'm sticking with it.
Lori April 28, 2011 at 10:30 PM
I agree!! Did these people NOT know that the WOBOE's budget has been cut (lowered)...how in the heck that is going to increase our taxes is a mystery to me.
Lori April 28, 2011 at 10:36 PM
FYI, the budget was approved at a reduction from what the WOBOE received last year. Don't understand what there is to 'wake up' about??? Also, West Orange has one of the best educations for our children, that's why there was such a huge problem with outsiders trying to get their kids into our school system illegally.
Lori April 28, 2011 at 10:45 PM
It's really sad to see all the bashing back and forth on here. We do live in America and we are not going to all agree, but can't we at least get along?? Or go with the saying, 'if you can't say something nice, don't say it at all'? There are better ways of 'disagreeing' without loosing the respect of others. just saying.
carrie April 28, 2011 at 10:48 PM
thank you laura.
Gary Englert April 28, 2011 at 11:05 PM
@ Lori W.: I'm perfectly fine with "loosing the respect" of anonymous Internet nitwits and, yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion. The problem, unfortunately, is that a great many people formulate an opinion without first engaging in even a modicum of critical thought. That certainly seems to have been the case with +/1,550 people who cast a vote for Mr. Meyerowitz in yesterday's election. Other than than the man's immediate family (who may have had some personal obligation), why anyone else pushed his button is beyond me.
Lori April 28, 2011 at 11:24 PM
@ Gary: I can't speak for the +/1,550 people who voted for Mr. Meyeowitz. All I can say is that I've only been in West Orange for almost 4 years. Although I don't know either candidate all that well, I'm happy to know I must voted for the best one. I'm not perfect (although I wish I was, lol), and I'm definately responsible for making opinions without serious thought in the past. I'm sure I will in the future too. It's part of the human race issues...we are human. I'm sure that accounts for some of the reason for such votes you question. I'm not sure that in any election in the past, that any candidate has every won by 100% (for any type of election), but correct me if I'm wrong. :)
Gary Englert April 28, 2011 at 11:50 PM
@ Lori W.: Actually, we have had candidates run unopposed who gathered nearly 100% of the vote but, even at those times, a stray write-in or two marred perfection. Generally, however, whether I agree with the choice or not, there's usually something positive to say for most anyone running for office and, in that, a cogent reason for doing so can be formed. In yesterday's contest? Not so much!
john prignano April 28, 2011 at 11:55 PM
In 2008 New Jersey Monthly Magazine rated West Orange High School 114. In 2010, it rated West Orange High 128, a loss of 14 positions. The Great Schools Website rates Gregory school a 7 out of possible 10.Redwood School rates a 7, St. Cloud School rates a 7, Edison School rates a 5 ,Mount Pleasant School rates a 5 , Roosevelt School rates a 5 , Liberty School rates a 4 , West Orange High School rates a 4 , Hazel Ave. School rates a 4 , Pleasantdale School rates a 4 , and Washington School rates a 3 . The average for all West Orange public schools is a 4.55 out of a possible 10 . On S.A. T. scores , West Orange High School ranks 172 out of 320 New Jersey High Schools . On Per Pupil Spending, West Orange is ranked 7 out of 76 districts in our demographic category. To vigorously defend and indeed praise this system as " Excellent " or "Great " really shows a callous disregard for reality. To not just stand idly by , but to empower a clearly declining system must be motivated by mean spiritedness , self- interest , or both. When I used to talk to people about test scores and spending , they would often say ; " I don't much about all that stuff. " Now they do.
Lori April 29, 2011 at 12:19 AM
@ John: I'm not empowering a clearly declining system, nor am I mean spirited or of complete self-interest. I was familiar with the ratings of the WO school system. I researched all that when I was living on the west coast in March of 2007. We made a conscious decision to live here based on the school ratings (in the area of W.O. we are in, the diversity and all of the criminal statistics at the time. I'm not saying there's not room for improvement. Obviously there is!! But in relation to the education my children received on the west coast, I feel my 2 children in the WO school system are learning MUCH more than my adult child did on the west coast. By all means, lets improve the school system, and hold accountable how the money is spent!! But I disagree that a 'cut' budget causes our taxes to rise. [side note: I do admit that due to the decline in school ratings my use of the word 'excellent' was inappropriate, my bad] Because my children are school-aged I do have a stronger interest in the school system than maybe those who don't. However, I firmly believe that the children today and children in the future will end up being our future and therefor education is extremely important. Do I agree in the high taxes of Essex Co., and/or W.O.? Definitely not, it's almost 12 times higher than where we used to live!! It's ridiculous. But I believe with the passing of the budget, we are making a step in the right direction (though maybe not as huge as we all want it to be).
john prignano April 29, 2011 at 01:08 AM
Lori, your" my bad " is accepted . Teaching is very hard work. That's why so few people who CALL themselves teachers are willing to do it in a sincere way. As the curriculum mandates piled up higher and higher, the teacher's union and the school board CUT the hours. I did not have any standardized testing, let alone days of it. There was no D.A. R. E. program , no S.A.L.E. S. program , no computers, no character curriculum, no multiculturilism , no early world language instruction , etc. etc. . So what do they do ? Put in a dozen or so early dismissals. In my opinion , no one sincere about educating children would be involved in that kind of a system . And years ago, we used to get a letter every year from the P.T. A warning if the budget is defeated, "Hazardous route courtesy busing may be eliminated, and children may have to walk dangerous highways to school. "Now what does that sound like to you ? To me, it sounds like a system Al Capone would be proud of. Now, why do so few teachers and Administrators , even those born and raised in West Orange, live in West Orange ? My daughter had one whole teacher who lived in West Orange. Her son went to Seton Hall prep. Clearly ,this person was not going to expose her son to the crap her and her colleagues were pushing. What did I do ? I would complain, and often I would get action. Lori , I respect your sincerity, and admire your efforts on behalf of your family. As to the other stuff, I sincerely hope you're right .
sternie April 29, 2011 at 01:42 AM
Let me chime in here and say that I really enjoy living in West Orange. I like many of the people that I've met. I find that the diversity is not only refreshing but also very comfortable for me. The residents are fun, sophisticated without being snobby, and the kids are really amazing. Rankings are fine. But they don't represent everything. We have a great town here. While I do not always agree with the decisions and investments that the BOE makes, I must say that they have allowed me to live and work here for the past 8 years. It's been some of the best years of my life.
Cynthia Cumming April 29, 2011 at 01:51 AM
I have one child that is a Junior at WOHS; another is an eighth grader at LMS. I began my involvement in the school district when my older son had an IEP and attended Pleasantdale preschool program. I do not take the report of NJ Monthly very seriously. What I take seriously is the experience my children are having and the opportunities for a good, possibly excellent education, here in West Orange. The demographics of this town have changed dramatically over the past 10 years as well as the economic climate. Education and children are not a business and cannot be treated as such. This year's school budget did not raise anyone's taxes, and neither did the town budget. So I can't understand why so many people voted against it. As for the candidates, Mr. Meyerowitz seemed relieved to have lost the election. The amount of time, energy, commitment and effort that goes into this unpaid elected position, along with the endless criticism, is mind boggling. As for teachers, I know several teachers that do live in West Orange or whose families still live in West Orange. There is an outstanding education to be had for students that are willing to work hard, and plenty of statistics to back that up as well.
Gary Englert April 29, 2011 at 02:06 AM
Mr. Prignano's always critical commentary is subjective at best and the fact that he has nothing positive to say about anyone or anything should be readily apparent. The simple fact remains that a truly wonderful education is available to any child that wants one and, toward that end, there is no substitute for parental encouragement and involvement. Dependent upon the severity of their challenges, raising a special needs child can be a daunting prospect for any parent. It can either be born with dignity and grace by people of character, or leave one embittered and an angry; the latter often looking for scapegoats for the hand they have been dealt.
john prignano April 29, 2011 at 02:40 AM
Lori , I don't believe the world is filled with nothing but wonderful people who sometimes have sincere philosophical differences , but always with the best of intentions .I hope tonight eyes were opened
Gary Englert April 29, 2011 at 02:59 AM
And I believe that it is far better to light a candle than to curse the darkness and worse still to curse the people who light the candles. Your problem, Mr. Prignano is that is all you have ever done.
Lori April 29, 2011 at 03:02 AM
John, I KNOW (firsthand) the world is not filled with wonderful people. Because of my upbringing I learned some pretty awful stuff, as set by example of my guardians. I learned about lying, disrespect, stealing, abusive behaviors, manipulation of others, and even a little drug dealing. Unfortunately, I was too scared to report the majority of it due to the nightmares I had of my mother being sent to prison. So please, put your mind at ease, I in no way think the world or people in it is as wonderful as I wish it were. I just 'wish' that people could learn from their own mistakes and maybe even from others' as well.
john prignano April 29, 2011 at 04:18 AM
This is on PATCH { The capitals are mine } "The School Board further decreased the budget by $ 680,000 at a March 28 hearing passing an amendment with a 4 to 1 vote that decreased the average single family home tax rate by $20. The projected school tax impact would be reduced TO $99 for a typical single family home . " Translation: A $119 dollar tax INCREASE on the average single family home was reduced to a $99 tax INCREASE . Translation : HIGHER TAXES
Gary Englert April 29, 2011 at 04:46 AM
And now Mr.Prignano turns a reporter's grammatical error into a tax increase?
john prignano April 29, 2011 at 04:56 AM
Lori W Please stay involved
Lori April 29, 2011 at 11:41 AM
Following quoted information is copied & pasted from the 'West Orange Board of Education School Budget Facts 2011 -2012' found on the BofE's website (shortened link provided) http://bit.ly/kccRmj (I still see no evidence that the passing of the school budget is costing taxpayers more money. If I am wrong and the BoE worded the facts in a crafty way to get the budget passed, may it come out in public knowledge and the news. However, I don't believe that's the case and I'm sticking with this information, thank you! Lori W.) "The school budget that residents will be voting on is $114,498,112. This amount is $1,008,000 less than last year’s tax levy." "The projected tax impact on the average single family home after the revaluation is expected to be a reduction of $99.07." "How does West Orange compare to surrounding towns? The $1,008,000 decrease reflects a .80% reduction in the tax levy, while surrounding towns show increases. Glen Ridge, Verona, South Orange/Maplewood, Cedar Grove, Nutley, Essex Fells, and Roseland all had 2% tax levy increases. Livingston had a 1.53% tax levy increase, as well as Millburn with a 1.35% tax levy increase." "The budget presented is $4,579,016 below the State allowable cap for West Orange."
Cynthia Cumming April 29, 2011 at 12:36 PM
Thanks for the info about the other towns...
m. margot April 29, 2011 at 11:00 PM
I've decided to stop reading. I cannot believe such mean spirited people share this wonderful township with me. Instead of publically bashing each other in this inappropriate way, why not research ways to assist the board of education members in improving and reclaiming our status as an outstanding school instead of one where kids are often on the streets or riding around during classroom time instead of learning. Maybe we should be asking how is the board communicating with our parents to encourage and assist our children towards excellence. margot
Michael May 02, 2011 at 02:02 PM
they always put out the first budget knowing it wont pass, to later pass the one they really wanted so it looks like they conceded something. why would you include Essex Fells, they have 1 school actually in the town, and share the Jr. and High Schools with neighboring towns?? Roseland and Cedar Grove had the lowest taxes in Essex county for decades and the new budget is reflecting them having to catch up since the populations grew substantially. The only comparison I could think of is that West Orange does have Essex Fells type tax rates without the big mansions.
Karen Yi May 03, 2011 at 02:30 PM
Hi everyone, let's please keep personal insults out of the comments section. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but we need to keep this forum a space where people can express themselves freely and safely. Thanks all. -Karen Yi

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