By MADDY VITALE
The Ocean City Board of Education will look dramatically different come January, with four newcomers who won the November election taking their seats.
Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting was the last one for four incumbents, Board President Dr. Patrick Kane, Dr. Charles Roche, Greg Whelan and Ryan Leonard.
All four board members received a warm sendoff from their colleagues and Schools Superintendent Dr. Matthew Friedman.
“I just want to say thank you for volunteering your time, your leadership and your collegiality and welcoming me and my family,” said Friedman, who became superintendent last summer. “I wake up every day very proud of being the superintendent of schools in this district.”
He added that while they will no longer be part of the decision-making process on the board, he hopes that they continue to participate in some way as members of the community.
“I know this is the official end of the road as board members for some of you,” Friedman said. “I feel honored and privileged to know you and to have built relationships with you. I can’t thank you enough for everything you have done in your time here.”
New board members Catherine Panico, Liz Nicoletti and Robin Shaffer, who ran on a slate, will take their seats along with Kevin Barnes during the reorganization meeting Jan. 4.
Panico, Nicoletti and Shaffer were outspoken in their opposition to the Board of Education’s approval this year of state sex education standards that they assert are too graphic for schoolchildren. The four incumbents who lost the election had voted in support of the sex education standards.
During the meeting, Kane received added praise from his fellow board members.
He was the chairman of the COVID-19 committee that enacted safety protocols to protect students and school employees during the height of the pandemic. Kane continued to serve in that capacity, along with some of his medical colleagues, including Roche, throughout the pandemic.
Roche, also a medical doctor, could not attend the meeting Wednesday, but he was also recognized for his contributions to the district.
“When we look around tonight at who is leaving us, they are the chairs of the committees and that is where the work is. There are many behind-the-scenes phone calls and meetings so we can come in and do the right job,” Vice President Joe Clark remarked. “With Charlie (Roche) and Patrick (Kane) coming on, we formed a new committee.”
Clark noted that Roche and Kane worked hard during the pandemic and through their knowledge and expertise, they were able to be an “unbelievable” asset to the community.
“I hope we continue to have that committee and have others to fulfill the roles,” he added.
Board member Cecilia Gallelli-Keyes said she will miss the outgoing board members for their efforts, especially Kane’s contributions.
“I want to thank Dr. Kane. Thank you for everything you have done for the board since you have been on the board,” she said. “And I am sorry to see you go. I will miss you guys. Thank you. There are a lot of times we needed you, Dr. Kane, and you came to our rescue.”
Kane called his experience on the board “challenging and humbling.”
He said he was grateful to be able to give back to the community.
“The parents, faculty, leadership, most of all our students and our schools will continue to be great and continue to thrive,” he said.
For Whelan, the last meeting of his term ended eight years of service to the school district as a board member.
“It has been a privilege and pleasure — a great journey. We have a fantastic school district,” he said.
Leonard was appointed to the board in August to fill an unexpired term of Michael James, who relocated and lost to Shaffer for the one-year term.
Friedman said they hope to still use his expertise in IT in some capacity for improvement to technology in the district.
In other matters, board member Chris Halliday, who chairs the Buildings and Grounds Committee, said a new sound system for the high school auditorium will go out to bid on Dec. 20.
“We are hoping to award a contract during the January reorganization meeting,” Halliday said.
The next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Jan. 4 at 7 p.m. in the library of the Ocean City High School. For more information visit www.oceancityschools.org