METUCHEN – November’s election will see five candidates, including three incumbents. They are running for the three three-year seats on the Metuchen Board of Education.
Incumbents Alicia Sneddon Killean, Jonathan Lifton and Eric Suss join newcomers Michael Cummings and John “Jack” Hand.
Killean is seeking her third term, Lifton is seeking his fifth term, and Suss is seeking his third term. You travel with the Excellence for Metuchen ticket.
Cummings and Hand walk on the Parents’ Rights, Excellence ticket.
The Criterion Sentinel sent out an election questionnaire for candidates to fill out. Below are the candidates who answered in alphabetical order.
Cummings, 56, has lived in Metuchen for 17 years. He is married and has two children aged 16 and 13.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Carolina and master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Kean University.
Profession: Principal at Elizabeth High School Frank J. Cicarell Academy.
In the community: Coached softball and baseball, served on the board of directors of the Metuchen Municipal Pool Swim Team and on the board of Boy Scouts Troop 14.
Why are you running for a seat at BOE? I am running for the board to provide more students with more opportunities to take an accelerated curriculum, including Algebra I for all eighth grade students and more Advanced Placement (AP) opportunities for college-bound high school students. Also, I would like to see an AP Capstone program at Metuchen High School. I am a supporter of parental rights and am concerned about the Board’s recent willingness to engage with highly controversial political issues without being willing to seek input from parents. As students grow and develop, school should be a place where students learn how to think, not what to think.
What area would you like to focus on in the event of an election? I would love to be part of a curriculum committee trying to expand opportunities for students to take honors level and AP courses. Gifted and Talented (G&T) should be a tide to raise all ships meeting the needs of G&T students while deepening professional learning for employees. Ideally, G&T should help schools to develop and expand best practices.
hand, 48, moved to Metuchen just over 13 years ago because of its “wonderful schools and teachers”. He has a daughter who is a freshman at Metuchen High School and a son who is in sixth grade at Edgar Middle School.
Education: Graduated from College of New Jersey, formerly Trenton State College, with a degree in business administration. I also minored in art and took many computer science courses, which eventually led me to what I do today.
Profession: I’m a software engineer for the video streaming service Tubi. I have a very analytical mind, so my job suits me perfectly. I would like to contribute with my logical thinking (if chosen) to improve things at the schools in Metuchen.
In the community: I have volunteered for a number of activities in Metuchen which also involve my children. I coached soccer for a couple of years. I attended the Spring Extravaganza when my kids were in Campbell/Moss. I was my son’s cave guide in the Boy Scouts. I helped organize the dad/daughter snow tubing trip with a few other dads that was originally started by another member of the community. Last but not least, I have volunteered my time with the Metuchen Gives Back organization, making sandwiches, backpack pickup and delivery to those in need, etc.
Why are you running for a seat at BOE? The last few years have been tough for our children who have had to socially isolate, wear masks and have had their education and test scores suffer. At first we assumed it was better to be safe than sorry, but when the superintendent ordered our kids to go back to wearing masks last spring, we knew better. We need members of the BOE to stand up for our children on this and other issues. COVID is behind us, but there are still some who wish everyone was following the strictest precautions.
What area would you like to focus on in the event of an election? A loving parent is the person most interested in his/her child’s future, so I want to be the board representative to ensure that parents are not just seen as one of many voices, but as the most important voice around to attain the very best education for the kid. A parent also has the right to raise their child the way they please, so I would like the school to become less political and more academically focused. After all, parents are taxpayers, and I want to be frugal rather than relying on the concept that more money is always “better.”
killean, 46, grew up in Metuchen, moved away briefly after studying and returned after getting married. She has three children – seventh grade, fifth grade and third grade.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from the University of Dayton, Master’s degree in Education from Rutgers University.
Profession: Maths and Science Supervisor at Holmdel Township Public Schools.
In the community: I am involved in many school and community events, either through activities for my children or as the chair of the recreation committee. I also teach CCD at St. Francis.
Why are you running for a seat at BOE? I am a proud product of Metuchen Public Schools, my mother was a teacher in Metuchen for a long time and now all three of my children are in the Metuchen school system. Having a full-time career in education myself, I have great respect and commitment to school communities. I am grateful for all I have gained from my experience as a student at the Metuchen Schools and I am committed to ensuring that we continue to provide our students with the same level of education for years to come.
What area would you like to focus on in the event of an election? I want to focus on getting back to the basics of education. The last few years have been a whirlwind for students, staff and families. Returning to an academic focus and providing opportunities for students to become well-rounded citizens of the world, critical thinkers and problem-solvers is something every district should strive for right now, and Metuchen is no exception. We have a tremendous amount of talent in our schools guiding our children and finding ways to support their needs so they can help our children grow is very important to me.
lifton, 54, has lived in Metuchen for 23 years. He is married and has four children aged 23, 21, 17 and 14.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor.
Profession: Owner of LB Electric Supply Co. Inc. in Brooklyn, NY
In the community: I have been with the BOE for 12.5 years, four and a half of which as President. I am currently Vice President of the Board of Directors. I am also a member of the Metuchen planning committee. I am also a former Metuchen Little League coach.
Why are you running for a seat at BOE? It has truly been the honor of my life to have served my neighbors and friends as a member of the BOE for the past 12 years. We have overcome many challenges as a district during this time, but the Board has never abandoned its long-standing commitment to teaching the “whole kid” and continually improving our performance for the district’s children. The District will continue to face challenges, including a potentially large construction project and managing tight budgets in a high-inflation environment, but I hope to be part of a BOE that continues to fulfill our commitments to the students and residents of Metuchen.
What area would you like to focus on in the event of an election? As a construction professional and Chair of the Referendum Committee, I would be in a unique position to help the district efficiently and effectively implement the referendum plans should they be approved by the public. Additionally, as our teacher contract expires at the end of this school year, I hope to bring my experience as chair of our negotiation committee for the last four teacher contract negotiations to the discussions and to help continue the Metuchen tradition of respectful and positive relationships with our teachers and their leadership.
Sweet, 57, has lived in Metuchen for 31 years. He is married and has two daughters.
Education: Master’s degree in Computer Science from Stanford University, Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Cornell University.
Profession: software developer
In the community: In addition to being with the BOE, I currently help support a number of local groups. In the past, I’ve also coached Rec-League sports like softball and soccer.
Why are you running for a seat at BOE? Long before I was elected to the BOE, I was involved with the schools. As a parent, I experienced the schools from first grade through high school. The schools have been great for my family and I have enjoyed giving back to them. Unfortunately, I’ve spent much of my sophomore semester responding to the pandemic, and I feel like I have unfinished business, including improving my STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) experience, maximizing our Investing in technology, raising the bar for all students and providing the best physical environment for our children in a fiscally responsible manner. As far as the latter is concerned, I was involved in the forthcoming referendum from the start and would like to accompany it through to implementation.
What area would you like to focus on in the event of an election? It is difficult to select only one area. I want to enhance the STEM experience at all student levels and grade levels, provide our children with the best physical environment to learn and grow in fiscally responsible ways (see the upcoming referendum), increase transparency of district operations, and provide more opportunities for community involvement Parents, maximize our investment in technology to enhance the educational experience of all our children, continue to raise the bar for all students and ensure they are constantly challenged, and ensure our schools continue to function on a daily basis tax-responsible manner.
The polling stations will be open on November 8 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.