By DON STINE
Three Neptune mothers, all newcomers to elected office, swept the Board of Education election this week capturing all three seats by a more than two-to-one margin.
Nicole Green, Dorothea L. Fernandez, and Brady Connaughton – the “Moms for the Neptune BOE” – ticket far outdistanced the “Team With Vision For Neptune” ticket which featured incumbents Dwayne Breeden and William Wells and newcomer Joann T. Valentine.
Green was the high vote-getter with 1,209 votes, or 24.05 percent of votes cast. Fernandez was next with 1,181 votes, or 23.49 percent, and Connaughton with 1,115 votes, or 22.18 percent.
Valentine was high vote-getter on the “Team With Vision For Neptune” ticket with 532 votes, or 10.58 percent of ballots cast, followed by Breedan with 510 votes, or 10.15 percent and Wells with 474 votes, or 9.43 percent. There were six write-in votes and provisional ballots have yet to be counted.
“The three of us were a completely unified team and we clearly showed that to voters during our campaign. We all have the same collective goals and views and want to do what is best for the children in this district. And we were completely honest during the entire process and the children are the real winners in this,” Green said about their upset victory.
“I think people realized that we are here for the kids first and foremost and that this was not a political race. The public saw through the politics and saw we are here to make a difference in education in Neptune,” Fernandez said.
“We ran a positive campaign by reaching out to the community and I think that worked in our favor. We are really excited and look forward to representing our community and children and doing what is best by them,” Connaughton said.
The three women, who will be sworn-in on May 2, also thanked their supporters and people voting for them and said they are ready to support their community and the school staff.
During the campaign, the “Moms For Neptune” team said they want to maintain and support a safe and personalized learning environment for students and make fiscally sound decisions. They said they will organize a contract negotiating team that will in engage in good-faith negotiations for a fair teacher’s contract. They said they want to increase transparency on the board and involvement with the community.
Connaughton, 35, is a labor attorney with three children in the school district. This is her first time running for office and she has lived in Neptune for 10 years. Fernandez, 47, is a vice principal in Howell and a superintendent for special education. She has lived in Neptune for 10 years and has two children in the school district. Green is a certified school social worker employed by the Fair Haven school district. She has provided in-home counseling and therapeutic services to children and families throughout the county. She and her husband have a preschooler and a first grader
The “Moms For Neptune” team said they would also like to create more specialized programs in the district, especially for special students, that can bring in tuition-paying students instead of paying money to send Neptune students to similar programs outside the district.
Voters also passed the school district’s $37,491,489 tax levy, or the amount to be raised by taxation, for the anticipated $79.3 million operating budget by a vote of 984, or 64.23 percent of ballots cast, to 548 votes, or 35.77 percent.