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RED BANK: FOREST LEAVES SCHOOL BOARD

ben-forest-062023-1-500x375-8398178Ben Forest addressing the board of education Tuesday night. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank’s school district said goodbye to a longtime board of education member Tuesday night – and welcomed a new one.

christina-bruno-062023-2-500x375-9617524New appointee Christina Bruno prepares to take her seat on the board Tuesday night. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

Nineteen-year member Ben Forest was required under conflict-of-interest laws to give up his seat as he prepares to become a member of the borough council under a form of government he helped shape.

Forest, 60, of Locust Avenue, was elected to the council in the May 9 election triggered by a referendum he backed as a member of the 2022 Charter Study Commission. He’ll be sworn in, with Mayor Billy Portman and five other council members, on July 1, under a “council-manager” form of government authorized by voters last November.

Addressing the board and a small audience at the primary school, Forest said the worst mistake he made as a board member was voting to approve a contract he had not read, which he came to regret. That taught him to be thorough will all documents, he said.

Highlights of his board career, he said, included fending off an effort by “the borough government and others” to take ownership of Count Basie Park, the stadium and fields still owned by the school district; the introduction of pre-K schooling and the AVID learning program; and three one-year terms as board president under “very challenging” financial circumstances.

He said “the best thing” he’d been involved in was the search and vote that made Jared Rumage superintendent in 2014.

Rumage praised Forest as “an advocate for our students and community” who “asked questions, in a way that’s always been professional and supportive.”

Forest and his wife, Amy Goldsmith, are the parents of two children, both now young adults, who went through the borough school schools.

The board also appointed Christina Bruno, of Elm Place, to replace Laura Camargo, who resigned in April after three years at the table. The unanimous vote followed brief presentations by Bruno and three other contenders for the seat; Linda Hill, Paul Savoia and Gay Steinbrick.

Bruno told the board she’s lived in Red Bank for three years and is the parent of a child in the district’s pre-K program. The majority of her career, she said, has involved working with nonprofit organizations “that promote quality and equity in public schools,” including Teach for America and Educators for Excellence.

President Dominic Kalorin said any of the four candidates would have been good additions to the board, and reminded the unsuccessful ones that they could again seek a position when the board fills Forest’s seat, expected in July.

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