Diana Ferrera and Denise Verzella have won three-year terms on the Verona Board of Education, according to unofficial results from the Verona Municipal Clerk. Ferrera received 3,087 votes and Verzella got 1,745.
Aaron Spiegeland, who shared a campaign manager and treasurer with Ferrera, finished third with 1,621 votes. Mike Boone was fourth with 1,306 votes and Sara Drappi, who had been seeking a second term on the BOE, was last with 1,259 votes. Turnout was strong for an off-cycle election, with a total of 5,760 of Verona’s 12,607 eligible people, or 45%, voting in-person, by mail or using the new early voting option.
A tally has still not been posted to the website of the Essex County Clerk. There were problems transmitting results from municipalities to the county office all evening. The Essex County Clerk was finally able to post a tally at 2:54 a.m. MyVeronaNJ reached out to all the candidates for comment on the election, but as of 2 a.m. had heard only from Boone.
“It was a privilege to be able to serve you for the past 3 years,” Drappi said by email early this morning. “I will continue to work hard to ensure that you all feel welcome and safe in your schools. Thank you to the parents for your engagement. Thank you to my family for the sacrifices you have made allowing me to put in the hours required for this volunteer position. Finally, thank you to my fellow board members for your collaboration. It has been a pleasure working with you. Best of luck to Diane and Denise in the coming years!”
“I am overwhelmed with gratitude by the outpour of support throughout my campaign and ultimately at the polls,” Ferrera wrote this morning. “I look forward to serving the Verona Public Schools through community outreach, a student focused approach, and insight driven leadership. As a board member, I will work to lead by way of example with compassion, integrity, and respect for our wonderful community. I would also like to congratulate Denise Verzella on her win. I look forward to working alongside her and the rest of the Board come January.”
“Although the election results still must be finalized, I am very excited to have been selected by the residents of Verona as a member of the Board of Education,” said Verzella by email this morning. “I am proud of the campaign that I ran with a lot of support from friends and volunteers. I got into the race, in large part, to advocate for those whose voices may not always be heard, and I am glad that my message was heard. I look forward to jumping in and working with the BOE. Most of the current members have already reached out to me to welcome me aboard and I look forward to working with them. Verona should be proud that we had such a competitive race. It is a testament to the level of engagement of our residents. Congratulations to Diana on her win and thank you to all the residents who got out and voted.”
“I am happy for the winners,” said Boone in an email. “They showed great dedication and drive. I am certain they will do their best on behalf of Verona. I am particularly amazed at the incredible voter turnout. Of course turnout was high all over but I also felt that Verona residents were driven because they care about their schools. Amid these polarizing times, I take great comfort in knowing we can move forward in a united fashion.”
“Thank you to everyone who supported me in my campaign for Verona Board of Education,” Spiegeland said late Wednesday by email. “I had the privilege of meeting so many great people, enjoyed truly rewarding conversations and gained many new insights into our community. I look forward to continuing my involvement in Verona and our schools and to seeing everyone in and about town. Congratulations to Diana and Denise and thank you again to my supporters for all your time and hard work.”
Ferrera and Spiegeland raised substantial sums for their campaigns and spent heavily. According to her October 27 report to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, Ferrera had raised $13,365.50 and had spent $10,934.38. Spiegeland, who shared a campaign manager and a campaign treasurer with Ferrera, had raised $14,534.00 as of October 27, and had spent $11,965.34. Both received a substantial amount of their campaign funds from people who do not live in Verona: Spiegeland got $6,600 and Ferrera got $4,000.
Boone, Drappi and Verzella took a different approach to campaign spending. Verzella reported raising $1,390.43 and Drappi raised just over $1,000 for her campaign. Boone self-funded his campaign and spent just $455.
The race was the most expensive campaign for Board of Education, though not the most expensive election over all. In 2019, Michael Nochimson, now chairman of the Verona Republican Committee, raised $18,766.34 for his Town Council race, and spent $13,896.894. In that same race, Christine McGrath raised $13,703 and spent $8,617.40. In 2021, Christopher Tamburro got $15,717.82 in donations for his Town Council race, including an $8,200 donation from the NJEA Political Action Committee.
The results are not final until all provisional ballots are counted and mail-in voters who have been notified by the County Clerk that there is a problem with their ballot have a chance to rectify those problems, a process that can take 12 days. The new BOE members will join the Board when it holds its January reorganization meeting.
Candidates need to file a final report 11 days after the election, which could include additional fundraising and expenses. State rules require a contribution report if any one of several different thresholds are hit, such as getting $300 from any one source, getting donations in cash, or receiving donations of campaign goods like signs. Campaigns also must report if expenses reach $5,800 or more.