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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

Board of Education Candidates: Part Two

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

In an effort to provide important information about the Board of Education Candidates, This is Rutherford published biographical profiles about each of the candidates last week. This week TIR sent each of the candidates a set of questions regarding their reasons for running, their views about the district, and their specific goals and ideas.

Responses are published in the order they were received by the deadline (September 26th) that was provided.

TIR: Why have you chosen to run for the Rutherford Board of Education?

Laurie Corizzo

Laurie Corizzo: “Education is the key to unlocking the world. It is the passport to freedom.” Oprah Winfrey. I have devoted my life to being an advocate for children and their families. Being on the Board of Education has been a passion of mine since becoming a parent. As a certified Counselor and Teacher, I have the unique experience of working in public education, and therefore have a strong knowledge base on how schools function. For me, the natural “next step” would be to utilize the experience I have gleaned and channel my energies toward serving my community. Education is also a lifelong process, however. I want the community to know that if chosen, I would make every effort to learn and grow. I am a dedicated professional who strives to cultivate an atmosphere of inclusion and voice.

Dennis Mazone and his family

Dennis Mazone: I’m running for reelection to the Rutherford Board of Education because I enjoy serving and helping our community, our school district, and most importantly our students. I’ve been an active community member and volunteer since I was a Boy Scout, growing up in south jersey where I learned to appreciate the value of community service and the benefits of giving back and investing time in a local community. As a scout, I participated in community service projects including food & clothing drives, fundraisers, and other great community events, ultimately earning my Eagle Scout. Inspired by my scouting experience, I opted to study criminal justice in college and decided to pursue a career in government where I worked in both local & state law enforcement and public health. After dedicating over twenty-five years to public service, where I was able to participate in many complex criminal investigations and respond to several large-scale catastrophic incidents, I decided to retire and now work in higher education.

Since moving to Rutherford, over 21 years ago, I have continued to pursue my passion for community service by investing in our community by volunteering as a coach for recreational sports, a scout leader for Pack 168 and Troop 166, an EMT for Rutherford Ambulance, and serving as a member of both the Board of Education and the Board of Heath. Specifically, as to why I’m seeking re-election to the Rutherford BOE, I believe we have an amazing district and professional Board and would like to be able to continue to participate in and support the projects and good work currently underway. I also believe in supporting and maintaining a school district where every student can flourish by feeling welcomed, supported, included, and engaged. My wife, Jennifer, and I currently have three children enrolled in our schools and I feel so fortunate to have had the ability to serve on the Rutherford Board of Education for the past six years. I have the experience and appreciation for the challenges the district and administration have faced, more importantly, I understand the challenges the district will likely encounter in the future and am prepared to continue working with the Board, administration, and the larger community as we Build1Rutherford.

James Sprayberry and his family

James Sprayberry: First is for the students - I have had kids in the district for eight years and I wanted to be involved for them and all the students. The students are the driving force for me to seek re-election. As a parent in the district I am very close with a lot of families and being involved I get approached by kids and parents with questions or issues and being able to assist them or direct them to the appropriate people is very rewarding. Second is when the School Referendum passed, I thought what better way to stay involved and use my thirty years of construction experience than on the BOE and help make sure the projects are a success and they are a success! I have served on the Buildings and Ground committee for three years and been Chair for two years and I love the work we do and hope to continue that work.

Chris Conti: Growing up I was heavily involved in Boy Scouts and I was fortunate enough to have earned the rank of Eagle Scout. A big component of that was community service, so the idea of giving back to the community is something I have always supported and believed in. I have been a volunteer lacrosse coach here in town for more than 5 years now helping coach two different teams that my two sons have been on. I have also been active in Cub Scouts as well as town wide events like the Downhill Derby. Volunteering with all these teams, organizations, and events has been fantastic but it only serviced a small portion of our community. Being on the Board of Education has been an amazing way to continue to serve our community as a whole in a positive way. So I am running for reelection to continue to serve our community and to represent everyone to the best of my abilities.

TIR: What are the strengths of the Rutherford School District?

LC: Strengths of the district? Well, there are many!!! First and foremost, one must recognize that any organization is made up of many moving parts. The structural foundation of our administrative team, which provides the framework for our school system, is second to none. Our Superintendent, the Board of Education, and the administrative team are passionate, caring people who ensure the schools run efficiently, safely, and effectively. The heart of the district, however, are our teachers, educational support staff, secretaries, School Resource Officers, and custodians. We are beyond blessed and fortunate to have dedicated, professional, and compassionate educators who go WELL OVER AND ABOVE for our children. It has been my experience that at all times, children are treated with respect, kindness, and decency. In addition to our staff, our children are exposed to a myriad of learning opportunities enriched by current programs as well as some “tried and true” educational pedagogy. To sum it all up, we are beyond blessed in our community!!!

DM: I believe the single greatest strength of any company or organization is its people and the Rutherford School district is no different. Fortunately for Rutherford, we have exceptionally great administrators, teachers, and staff to lead, teach, and guide our district’s students. I’m hard-pressed to find a more caring, dedicated, and professional group of individuals who are committed to the academics, enrichment, and well-being of our students. I have had the privilege of being a Board member and working with these individuals on everything from budget, policy, buildings & grounds, and strategic planning, as well as being a parent in this district where I’ve been able to witness firsthand the hard work, encouragement, and support our children receive daily.

Another strength of our district is the vast array of programs and course offerings, enrichments, student clubs & organizations, and athletic programs our students have access to. Our children are so incredibly fortunate to have these opportunities in and out-of-classroom from the K-Center through High School, there is something for every student. The diversity of opportunities offered to our students includes advanced placement courses, technical courses, art & music programs, STEM and robotics, academic decathlon, and so much more.

Another strength of our district is the investment made in the physical infrastructure. The 2019 referendum and the corresponding construction projects have helped us to avoid overcrowding by adding classrooms and labs, two formable gymnasiums, an elevator for increased accessibility, as well as the replacement of floors, windows, and HVAC systems all designed to make our schools more efficient, reducing energy costs, and increasing sustainability.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention an overarching strength of our district is that we are lucky enough to be situated in the Borough of Rutherford. Rutherford is an amazing place to live, learn and work. Rutherford is a place where the community comes together to support our children, our schools, and fellow community members, from singles to grandparents, who are continually showing their bulldog pride day in and day out.

JS: Our students, teachers, administrators, and all the staff that works in the schools. The leadership from the administrators at all levels is second to none and its shows in the results of our students and their pride in being a Rutherford Bulldog. Our response to COVID really set us apart from so many districts and that was due to the forward-thinking of having 1 to 1 computers for our students. The nights and weekends all of the staff put into laying out the schools so our students could be in the classroom led to more classroom time which is where the students wanted and needed to be.

CC: Without a doubt, it’s our teachers, administrators, and staff. I have never seen a group of professionals who work so hard, care so much, and are so dedicated. Being a parent with sons currently at Union and Pierrepont has really helped me see, first-hand, how great everyone who works in our schools is. Whether I am on the sidelines at a game, at a school art show, at a school play, at a PTA meeting, or just out around town I constantly hear stories about how amazing all of our teachers, administrators, and staff are. It gives me so much pride to be able to say that I have two boys who are attending Rutherford Schools, Best of all, being on the Board has just been the icing on the cake for me.

TIR: What are some of the challenges that you believe the Rutherford School District faces this upcoming year?

LC: I love that this question utilizes the word, “challenges”. Challenges are an invitation of engagement. Stakeholders are invited to the table to work together to collaboratively overcome hurdles. Most unfortunately, the pandemic has left in its wake a large gap in educational and emotional progress. Children are struggling. To me, this is simply the largest challenge Rutherford faces in the upcoming year. In addition, the ongoing construction in our district has also been an uphill battle. The progress has been incredible, and the results to date are wonderful, however, any type of renovation brings with it certain obstacles.

DM: A comprehensive assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on learning and student success, as well as our district's response to help our student's continued academic achievement. And Completing the 2019 referendum construction projects.

JS: I believe that the most important challenge is understanding the impact COVID had on the students. The classroom time missed, and the social impact needs to be understood so we can put the right resources in place to help them. Personally, being a dad is the best OTJT out there. We talk to and listen to our kids, and I take that feedback back to the BOE – we share information, and we discuss what our kids are hearing and seeing, they are the ones we must listen to as well as the teachers and administrators, they live this every day and provide extremely valuable input.

CC: First and foremost I believe the fallout from COVID is the biggest challenge that faces our school district. Truly understanding how it impacted not only our students and their families but also our teachers and staff. Secondly, school security is always a challenge. It’s also something that, during my current time on the board, I have seen first-hand how our teachers, administrators, and staff have continued to meet this challenge and constantly strive to improve. Third, strategically planning for the future. Previous boards had the foresight to get every student a Chrome Book. Can you imagine if we had to go through COVID without them? So strategically, it’s about looking to the future and thinking about what things we need whether it's technology, people, or plans.

TIR: What have been some of the greatest accomplishments of the Rutherford School District?

LC: One of the qualities that drew my family to Rutherford was its schools’ Blue Ribbon status. When families are searching for a community to call home, schools are at the top of the list of considerations. Traditionally, our schools have performed well, therefore making Rutherford an ideal place to live. I always come back to the teachers. A school is only as good as the people it employs. Rutherford, again traditionally, employs the best of the best. Caring, compassionate, masters of their craft, knowledgeable, the list can go on and on. Having had a child go through the system, I can honestly say another major accomplishment is the array of programs that are available to our children. To name a few, we have extracurricular after-school offerings, programs made possible by REF grants, clubs that include our most vulnerable populations, and groups that seek to recognize and include our learning-challenged children. Again, the list can go on and on. Finally, the evolving and prudent recognition that our schools need facility updating. While construction is certainly not a smooth process to navigate, our district has done it!!! Our schools, and ultimately our children, will benefit from these “facelifts” in the long term.

DM: I’m very proud of our school district for so many reasons. The Blue Ribbon School designation, the 2019 referendum projects, the establishment of the Bulldog academy, competitive athletics programs, and our variety of arts, music, and STEM programs are all great accomplishments and some of the many reasons to be proud of our district’s, faculty, and students. One of our most recent accomplishments that I’m particularly proud of is how we were able to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. From the very start, our district was ahead of the curve due to having one-to-one computer devices already being deployed to our students in grades 4th through 12th. Our district was able to return to in-person classes for the entire 2021-2022 academic year with little to no interruptions or pivots to remote learning. At the same time, the district was able to foster our student's academic growth and the development of strategic plans to support the social and emotional well-being of our students. COVID-19 has had an impact on so many aspects of how we learn and work, but no matter what our district has been able to meet the challenge and proven Rutherford students have still been able to thrive and achieve academic success.

JS: As the Chair of the Buildings and Ground Committee I believe successfully navigating the referendum during the pandemic has been a major accomplishment while also dealing with the pandemic during the same time. Escalating material costs and labor shortages have been a major impact in the construction industry and we have managed to stay on schedule and on budget throughout – that is a major accomplishment and that is all due to the oversight from everyone involved.

CC: Staying safe and engaged as well as and being as open as we could be during COVID was a major accomplishment. It is also a major testament to the resilience and perseverance of everyone involved, students, teachers, administrators, staff, and parents too. Passing the facilities improvement Referendum was also a great accomplishment. Completing the projects on time and, more importantly, on or under budget during a pandemic was without a doubt a greater accomplishment though.

TIR: What particular experiences or skills have prepared you to serve as a Board of Education member?

LC: Being a parent of children in the district is probably the most valuable experience I have obtained. Over the continuum of my children’s lives, I have been involved in our community on so many levels. These experiences fill me with such incredibly fond memories, but more importantly, knowledge. Coming in at second place, is my career. Again, I am fortunate enough to be a public school educator. For the past twenty-five years, I have staunchly advocated for children and families in our state. Very rarely have I come across a scenario that I didn’t know how to negotiate. My vocation has taught me that by thinking creatively, working collaboratively, and communicating effectively, there are few obstacles we can’t overcome. My skill set has been refined over the years. Life has taught me to constantly examine myself, my beliefs, my values, and the ways I interact with others. No matter the location, I strive to treat all people with courtesy, kindness, respect, and compassion. Those qualities, skills, and experiences are what I would “bring to the table”, should I be lucky enough to serve on the Rutherford Board of Education.

DM: I have served an entire career in New Jersey law enforcement and public health, now as a public safety professional in higher education, and have gained knowledge, skills, and experience which I have freely shared with our Board of Education and district. This experience has given me insight into the areas of campus operations, facilities, risk management, and business continuity. All of these areas have been central to my contributions to the Rutherford Board of Education and have helped me to provide needed support to the benefit of our students, faculty, and staff.

In addition, I have served on the Board for the past six years, I have experience and knowledge of district and BOE operations. All while fully understanding the BOE doesn’t run our school district, but instead helps to ensure the schools are run well. All Board members must provide the necessary support to our district Superintendent and administrators to ensure student success and district operations.

JS: Professionally I have been the construction industry and leader for 30+ years and I have used that experience in my role on the Buildings and Ground committee. I earned my Bachelor of Science in Business and that along with my professional experience helps me in role on the Finance committee as well. Personally, I have volunteered throughout my life from my days in the Navy and the Saturday Scholar program, and then at EDS where we mentored struggling students in the district. I believe in giving back to my community and throughout all of my volunteering, I have gained skills that help me perform my role(s) on the BOE.

CC: Being a parent of two boys currently in the school system. Being a volunteer coach for over 5 years on multiple teams and actually getting to work with lots of kids who are currently attending our schools as well as meeting and talking with their parents. Professionally, I have 24 plus years working in the Live Event industry as a leader, manager and developer. I have worked on multiple large, complex, and high-profile live events like the Superbowl Halftime show. And as a parent, a coach, and an organizational leader one of my most crucial skill sets has been listening and trying to understand the issues at hand.

TIR: Is there anything else you would like to add?

LC: Yes, on November 8th, please consider my candidacy favorably. I am in the “FOURTH

position on the ballot. Citizens may vote for THREE candidates, as there are currently three positions available. Please feel free to join my Facebook page, Corizzo for Rutherford BOE or follow me on Insta (I think I am cool by saying that!!!) I am very accessible and transparent and look to talk to as many residents as possible. Regardless of the election’s outcomes, this has been such an amazing experience for me. I have learned so much valuable information, have pushed my limits, traveled far outside of my comfort zones, have visited places in town that have forever impacted me, and at the end of the day, have truly given it my all. Learning is an ever-evolving process. I am blessed that my journey has taken me here.

DM: I sincerely hope my friends, neighbors, and follow Rutherfordians will take the time to come out to support and vote for Chris Conti, James, Spraberry, and me for re-election to the Rutherford Board of Education. At our core, we are simply parents, fathers, and smart Rutherford citizens who care for the education of our children and yours, this school district, and the Rutherford Community. We have no aspirations beyond the Board of Education or associations with larger political influence, nor have we taken political funding to help support our reelection campaign. We are earnest in our efforts and believe in supporting a school district where every student has the necessary resources to achieve academic success, grow socially and emotionally, and feel a sense of belonging in our district. This is a school district where every student, faculty, and staff member matter and are valued for their unique contributions and I sincerely hope we are all able to learn and grow together as a district.

JS: We have had a child in the schools for eight years now and we have been involved in the PTA since the start. We are very active parents in our kids’ school(s) and over the years have gotten to know the staff and teachers at all the schools. We have donated to the schools in many ways and I look forward to continuing to be a part of that as a parent, volunteer, and BOE member if I am fortunate enough to be re-elected.

CC: As a member of the Board of Education our job is not to actually run the schools. We have amazing and highly talented administrators and staff who do that. Our job, on the Board of Ed, is to make sure that the schools are being run well. Part of that is also making sure that we are being fiscally prudent, planning for the future, and representing our entire community to the best of our abilities. Being on the Board of Education has been an amazing experience. It’s one I hope to continue to do along with my running mates, fellow parents, and just generally all-around awesome people, Dennis Mazone and James Sprayberry. Follow us on our Facebook page, Building1Rutherford. So I ask for everyone’s trust and confidence again and to please vote 1,2, and 3 for the Board of Education on November 8th.

Look for information regarding an upcoming "Meet the Candidates" Night at Rutherford High School in mid-late October.

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