Out with the old and in with the new. That seemed to be the theme during the West Windsor-Plainsboro Board of Education’s reorganization meeting on April 27. ##M:[more]##

The reorganization saw the leadership of the board change hands in two 5-4 votes with Hemant Marathe of West Windsor edging Steve Smith for the position of president, and Patricia Bocarsly of Plainsboro winning vice president over Linda Geevers of West Windsor.

The reorganization marked the second time in as many years that the board presidency came down to a 5-4 split between Marathe and Smith. Last year Smith was on the winning end.

“I believe we have the full support of the community with the passing of the 2004-2005 budget in both townships by an impressive margin,” says Marathe. “I am looking forward to working with the board and the administration to continue the progress we have made in the last few years and to ensure our educational excellence.”

“The vote in both years was a question of continuity or of rotation (among board members for the position),” says Smith, who has served as president for the last three years. “Last year the board voted for continuity and they voted the other way this year. In either case, Hemant and I are both committed to supporting each other and will work very well together.”

In addition to himself, voting in favor of Marathe were Linda Geevers, Stanley Katz, and newly-elected members Robert Johnson, Ellen Walsh. Voting for Smith, in addition to himself, were Bocarsly, Henry Wieck, and Liyou Yang.

Katz said the hiring of new Superintendent Robert Loretan gave the majority of board members a confidence level in voting for a new president. “The board vis-a-vis administration has stabilized remarkably with the hiring of a new superintendent,” says Katz. “So the reason for staying with same board leadership in the past to maintain stability just didn’t exist any more. We felt it was time to give other people an opportunity. For years we stayed with the same leadership because with everything that was going on we felt we needed continuity.”

“There was no controversy here,” Katz adds. “In some sense it reflects the comfort the board has with the new administration that we felt could make changes without jeopardizing stability.”

“Hemant has wanted to do this and he has worked hard to show that he’s deserving of a chance to show his leadership,” Katz says. “He put his hat in the ring and wants the position. I think it’s important that we had two people who wanted the position rather than a situation where someone took it who didn’t really want it.”

Bocarsly says she supported Smith because he has done a good job in his tenure as president. “Steve has proven himself to be an extraordinarily talented board president and he played an absolutely pivotal role in bringing Bob Loretan to the school district. I thought that warranted his re-election.”

In accepting the vice presidency, Bocarsly said a majority of the board members felt that the time had come for a member from Plainsboro to be represented in a leadership capacity.

“Historically, township balance in board leadership has been the norm,” says Bocarsly. “For a number of reasons in recent years, there has been a West Windsor team leading as president and vice president.

“We thought that should change this year, especially given the very large increase in taxes Plainsboro saw this year. Despite the increase, Plainsboro voters supported the budget and we thought it was important for them to feel that they are being represented.”

In other business at reorganization, Johnson, Marathe, and Walsh were recited the oath of office after winning seats on the board on April 20.

In the West Windsor school board election, Johnson and incumbent Marathe each won three-year terms. Johnson garnered 1,"341 votes and Marathe was reelected to a second term with 1,"540 votes. Peter Weale lost with 738 votes. In Plainsboro, newcomer Walsh won a three-year term, outdistancing her opponent, William Probasco of Plainsboro. by a vote of 509 to 258.