The borough council held its bimonthly meeting at the Knollwood School, where student Peter Maris, below, was a particularly engaged citizen. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)


Students from Knollwood School in Fair Haven got a glimpse of how their local government operates Monday, when Mayor Ben Lucarelli and the borough council held their bi-monthly meeting in the school’s gymnasium, continuing a tradition that started four years ago.

Students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade attended, with the council members introducing themselves and giving a step-by-step analysis and demonstration of each part of the council meeting, as well as the specific duties and powers of the council itself.

Many students readily participated in the “good of the borough” portion of the session, designed to let attendees speak directly with council members.

One young lady voiced her concern about school days missed due to Hurricane Sandy closures, a topic that was directly addressed by Fair Haven Superintendent Kathy Cronin, who was in attendance.

“We’re having a meeting on Thursday to directly address this problem and sort out the solution,” Cronin said, from the audience. “But we missed six days due to Sandy, and we’ll have replace them with vacation days,” she added, to the obvious disappointment of students.

Several students asked questions regarding the proposed plan to turn the Charles Williams estate on DeNormandie Avenue into a “passive” park and about an effort to give Fair Haven Fields a half-million dollar make-over.

Seventh-grader Peter Maris was particularly vocal during the Q&A session. Maris asked several questions, including the council’s policies on hot-button topics, the placement of 9/11 memorial sign plates on Hance Road, and bicycle safety issues – which Lucarelli, an avid biker himself, readily addressed, accentuating the point that helmet laws apply to residents of all ages.

Maris, a student-council member, said he was extremely happy that he was able to attend the council meeting.

“I always wanted to be a politician, so it’s really cool to get an up-close look at how it works,” he said. “It’s just another one of those things that really makes Fair Haven special.”

Councilman Robert Marchese said he spearheaded the effort to hold a meeting within the community’s middle school in 2008, for several reasons.

“First of all, we think it’s a great experience for the kids to see a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on at the borough meetings,” Marchese told redbankgreen after the meeting. “And we like to get at least one daytime session in – especially at this time of year, to give senior citizens who avoid nighttime meetings (because of weather and earlier darkness) an opportunity to come out.”

Lucarelli also waxed on the value of these annual, school-day meetings, which the council plans to continue for the foreseeable future.

“It’s great to get the kids involved, and to expose them to the inner-workings of borough government,” he said. “Plus some of these kids have excellent ideas, we can learn a lot from them.”