Winds of change sweep through Campbell BOE
What message were the voters of the Campbell School District delivering when they ousted the two incumbents, Dr. Walter Rusnak and Michael Tsikouris, in Tuesday's general election? The answer to that question can be summed up in two words: No more.
No more backroom deals. No more nepotism. No more hiring of an individual as a consultant whose name is linked to organized crime. And, no more carte blanche for the superintendent of the Campbell city schools.
Our opinion is bolstered by the results of the election, which established Karen Repasky as the top vote-getter. Yes, the same Karen Repasky who was rejected by the voters in 1999 because she had the temerity to publicly criticize her colleagues on the board for their decision to hire Frank Fasline Jr. as a $200-a-day consultant -- after they refused to renew his contract as district treasurer. Fasline was identified by Mafia boss-turned government witness Lenine Strollo as a conduit for organized crime bribes paid to former Campbell Police Chief Charles Xenakis.
Fasline was taped by the FBI having discussions with Strollo about an illegal fund-raising plan for the schools. Campbell Schools Superintendent James Ciccolelli Jr., who failed to properly inform the board about the fund-raising proposal, got away with a nondisciplinary resolution directing him to provide and maintain full information concerning board resolutions.
Support: Rusnak and Tsikouris made no secret of the fact that Ciccolelli had their full support. Thus, when the superintendent recommended his wife, Christine, for a part-time post, four of the five board members, including the two who were on the ballot Tuesday, confirmed his choice.
The only dissenting vote was cast by Carmel Gerlick, who chose not to seek re-election this year. Like Repasky, Gerlick has been an outspoken critic of some of the practices of the board of education. It is quite possible that the voters realized that the school district would be losing a watchdog and, therefore, decided return Repasky to the board.
Tuesday's election also saw Diana Petruska, a political novice, beat the odds and win a seat. In endorsing Petruska, we pointed out that she was committed to holding the superintendent much more accountable for what is going on in the schools. We also said we were taken with her refreshing honesty, as when she contended that the comparatively low academic test scores are a reflection of the performance of the teachers.
That message obviously struck a responsive chord with the voters.
The third winner in the race was Bob Dolan, whom we did not support. We hope that Dolan is true to his word when he says he sought the office "for our children and our community" and that he does not become one of the good old boys.
By giving Repasky front-runner status, the voters of Campbell have made it clear that the status quo is unacceptable. We trust that board members Rev. Daniel Rohan and Theodore Cougras, who did not run this year, are paying attention.