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Board Of Ed Candidate: Michael Unis


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Michael Unis, one of the four candidates in the November 5 Board of Education election.
Michael Unis, one of the four candidates in the November 5 Board of Education election.
The world of public school boards has changed dramatically since Michael Unis was first elected six years ago. Back then, a board like Verona’s would have been able to count on 4% more from tax levies from budget to budget. But the 2% cap imposed by Gov. Chris Christie put an end to all that, and cut state aid to boot.

“We lost over $1 million,” says Unis of the changes. “I feel very fortunate to have been given these challenges in my first year or two. I’ve gone through the heavy lifting.”

Unis is now seeking to be elected to a third term on the Verona Board of Education. He, and fellow incumbent Glenn Elliott, are seeking to retain their seats in the face of a challenge from two new candidates, Jim Day and Judy DiNapoli. (Unis and Elliott ran unopposed the last time.) The election takes place Tuesday, November 5.

A graduate of Verona High School, Unis was finishing college when he first joined the BOE. He taught in Newark under the “Teach for America” program–using the Common Core standards that have since come to Verona–and went back to school for his masters. In August, he stepped out of teaching to become the director of operations at the Merit Preparatory Charter School in Newark.

To Unis, his time in a classroom and his time on the board, which includes three rounds of contract negotiations, are among the strengths he would bring to a third term. “I’ve had a chance to work on the fiscal end of the district and on its culture,” he says. “When I ran the first time, I talked about technology like Google applications. We didn’t do that, but we brought in a larger technology base.”

Going forward, he wants to focus on three areas on the BOE: fiscal responsibility, improving education around the Common Core standards, and “school preservation”, which encompasses long-term financial planning and school safety.

“Schools should have a way to invest for the future,” says Unis, who now serves as the BOE’s vice president. “A secure vehicle in the financial markets. To have to go to taxpayers all the time is troubling.” He wants to find a sustainable, renewal funding model, and get Verona thinking about the legacy of its schools. He knows that’s not something the campaign will resolve, but thinks it is possible down the road. “We can create a legacy around what we do,” he says. “Now we have one field out of commission and another that is partly so. We need to shift from sustainable to renewable.”

Unis is relying on his campaign Web site and Twitter (@MichaelUnis) to get the word out, and begin a conversation around what he hopes will be the next of many stints on the Board. “For me this is a career,” he says. “I want to do this long term.”

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].


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