Eleven candidates are vying for an assortment of seats. Nine residents - four incumbents and five newcomers - are running for three three-year terms at stake. Two others are running to earn the right to finish the one-year term that was left when a former member moved out of town earlier in the year.
Could it be that there's also a mayoral election on the horizon in the tiny township?
After all, the Democratic primary for mayor and Town Council is slated for June, with a new mayoral candidate set to take command of the town. Is it purely coincidence that there's also a crowded ballot of Board of Education candidates to coincide with the expected packed mayoral ballot come municipal election time?
The Board of Education has served as a springboard for local politicians in the past. Current councilman and mayoral candidate David Delle Donna has served on the Board of Education, as have fellow council members Javier Inclan and Carlos Garcia.
So is there a political overtone to the Board of Education election?
David Hepperle, who is running against Julia Dunn for the one-year term, doesn't think so, although he is politically aligned with the "Guttenberg on the Hudson Civic Association."
"There are some people who might be looking at it for political aspirations and reasons, but that's not me," said Hepperle, a local businessman who owns his own lace and embroidery manufacturing company. "I don't think the upcoming election has anything to do with the Board of Education election."
But what about incumbent Board member Thomas Rizzi, who is seeking re-election to the board while also entertaining ideas of running for mayor? Apparently, Rizzi has been actively seeking signatures for his mayoral candidacy petition.
Hepperle once ran for Township Council, but insists his intentions are strictly educational this time around. "I don't have a political motive whatsoever," said Hepperle, whose daughter attends the township's lone grade school, Anna L. Klein School. "I'm running for the Board of Education, because I think it needs a lot of help. It was once the diamond of Hudson County, but it's gotten dull over the years. The time has come to bring in someone to new and polish the diamond back up."
The incumbents running for positions are Rizzi, along with Armando Cabrera, Dr. Michael Baruch and Donna Buckman.
Ironically, Cabrera earned the seat on the board that became vacated when Delle Donna had to step down to take a seat as a councilman.
The challengers are Patricia Turnbull, Frank Criscione, Brian Guaschino, Adela Martinez and Dean Mannion. Mannion, a long-time North Hudson Regional firefighter and Guttenberg homeowner, is running on the same ticket with Hepperle and Guaschino.
Although Mannion is also a member of the new Guttenberg on the Hudson Civic Association, Mannion denied that his candidacy is politically motivated.
"I have a vested interest in what's good for the school district and what's good for the kids," Mannion said. "There's nothing political about it. I believe a change is needed. I live right next to the school and I see the cars with New York license plates pulling up and dropping off kids. There are too many out-of-towners, and we have to address that problem."
Mannion also believes that the school's overcrowding is a major issue.
"Teachers are at a disadvantage and I think in that respect, politics play a big part," Mannion said. "I'm really not involved politically and it's not the motivation behind me running. But I have a daughter in kindergarten and a son who will go to school soon. And we have a lot of members of the board who are not parents of children in the school. I believe to fully meet the needs of the school, the members of the board should be parents. Of the nine members of the board, seven people don't have children who go to the school."
Added Mannion, "In my mind, the biggest problem is the student/teacher ratio is not good. We have some teachers handling 40 kids. And our teachers are among the lowest paid in the state. Something has to give. We spend a lot of money in taxes and the kids are getting less and less. Money's being spent, just not in the right places."
Hepperle believes that there is a lack of pride in the school district.
"A lack of pride, a lack of morale and a lack of enthusiasm," Hepperle said. "The school should be the pride and joy of the community and it's not. The classrooms are overcrowded. We have low test scores and an outdated library. There's a lack of communication between the PTO and the Board. I feel like I can change that."