Lakewood Board of Education President Chet Galdo resigned yesterday , ending a five-year reign just days after the board infuriated many residents by hiring an administrator from Newark to take over from the popular acting superintendent, Eugenia Lawson. District officials said Galdo, 77, submitted his letter of resignation Monday morning, and the board accepted it. Galdo, who was elected to the board in 2002, is leaving for health reasons, board attorney Michael Inzelbuch said. Galdo, who voted against replacing Lawson, could not be reached.Board Vice President Avraham Ostreicher was named president Monday, and Tracey Tift, who replaced board member Avi Braude in March, was selected as vice president. Former member Ada Gonzalez, who lost re-election in April after one term, was named to fill the vacancy on the board created by Galdo’s resignation.
Tift and Gonzalez must run for election in April to keep their seats. Neither could be reached for comment.
On Monday night, more than 100 mostly black and Hispanic residents gathered at New Life Christian Center to protest the replacement of Lawson, who took the interim post a year ago when Edward Luick retired.
The board’s pick, Lydia R. Silva, begins her three-year term Aug. 10.
Recent board meetings have been packed with Lawson supporters who repeatedly urged the board to appoint the Cuban-born and Lakewood-raised former Monmouth County school superintendent to the permanent post of township schools superintendent.
Many of them, therefore, saw the 5-3 vote to hire Silva as a blatant example of the board – split with members elected by parents of private school students – ignoring those in the public school community. A large majority of public school students are black and Hispanic.
“When a decision is made like what was made the other night . . . I seriously question whether the best interests of the public school children are at hand,” said Leonard Thomas, who with Galdo and Tift favored hiring Lawson to the permanent post.
Inzelbuch, who attended the gathering, acknowledged a “perceived inequity” existed in student services.
“This must be addressed head-on,” he said. “Eugenia will be sorely missed.”
Calling it “Silent No More,” leaders at the rally, at which Lawson herself vowed to no longer be silent, launched a movement to better hold the district accountable, blaming meager supplies and few field trips on so-called back-door spending on private schools. Cards were passed out seeking contact information so parents in minority communities can be alerted when a board meeting is set.
“If you’re not with us, we’re going to ask you to leave the room, because from now on we got to be of one chord,” Warren Sherard, the church’s associate pastor, said to standing applause.
Irene Miccio, who voted to hire Silva, said she sympathized with the public’s frustration, but added that Silva was, to her, the most impressive candidate and perhaps could instill more discipline in the district than Lawson could.
“Yes, she’s (Lawson) very presentable and a very social person, but I felt this school system needs more than a friend,” Miccio said.
Of the remaining members who voted against Lawson, Alan Gonter and Ostreicher declined to comment, and Meir Grunhut could not be reached.
Silva, who could not be reached for comment, is an assistant superintendent for Newark public schools. Previously, she was principal at a New York City public school.