Appreciation From A Grateful BOE Candidate

WESTFIELD, NJ - In a very close, and still not officially completed, race for Westfield Board of Education incumbents Gretchan Ohlig, Charles Ostroff and newcomer Tara Oporto appear to be the winners and each candidate had a different takeaway from Tuesday's general election.

I'm grateful for the endorsement of the community and for the opportunity to serve for three more years," Ohlig said. "I'm looking forward to focusing on our district goals, in particular the social and emotional well-being of our students, in the coming months."

Ohlig is the current president of the school board and garnered 5,164 votes according to the unofficial tally from the Union County Clerk.

For her part, Oporto was quick to thank the team she ran with.

"I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that there is no I in team. I could not have done this without Dennis Cariello and Simon Cirasa," Oporto told Patch. "Just knowing them more throughout this process has made me stronger not just as a future board member, but as a person."

Oporto also thanked the community who helped her run a successful campaign.

"I would like to thank everyone who encouraged me, supported me, and voted for me," Oporto said. "I am honored to have the chance to make our schools safer and better for all of our children."

Oporto will be new to the school board and garnered 4,206 votes according to the unofficial tally from the Union County Clerk.

Ostroff told Patch he believed luck of the draw and ballot placement was a major factor in the election, claiming the concept of slating did not work to the advantage of anyone below the first line of the column.

"This would seem apparent by the top three vote getters and their ballot placement— top line of each column," Ostroff said. "The idea of slating for the Board of Ed election is a bad idea and I believe we have proof based upon the results."

Ostroff also said he was told a pollster informed a voter to vote for one person in each column for the Board of Ed.

"If true, this would tell me that the people working the polls were not educated appropriately and therefore put those on the same slate at a disadvantage versus an advantage by running together,: Ostroff said. "Look at the results one person from each column claimed a seat. Look at the top vote getter being Gretchen had no one else in her column. I will admit that Gretchen was the most deserving to be elected and her anti-slating stance served her well."

Ostroff said his concerns should be analyzed.

"I believe in my case I was pitted against my slate mate instead of running on a ticket together. I believe the same could be said about Tara in column 1," Ostroff said. "It has been been proven over time that the person in the first slot in the first column has a statistical advantage. And in this election all the slot ones triumphed."

Ostroff said the concept of slating needs to be examined regarding school board elections.

"This first run in my opinion was a big fail," Ostroff said. "Ultimately for me and the other two elected, luck of the draw played a part of the results. Yes, I know this plays a part in all elections but this result proves to be disturbing."

Ostroff earned 3,825 votes according to the unofficial tally from the Union County Clerk. He outpaced Robert Garrison's 3,729 by 96 votes with mail-in ballots still being counted.

Results remain unofficial until certified by the county clerk. In close races, uncounted mail-in ballots could change the results.

(Photos courtesy of Gretchan Ohlig, Tara Oporto and Charles Ostroff)

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