The New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) has announced Kevin E. Ciak the New Jersey Board of Education Member of the Year for 2013. Ciak is a 19-year member of the Sayreville Board of Education, who was elected to his first term the year after he graduated from the district’s high school.
Ciak is also a Northeast Region delegate to the National School Boards Association (NSBA) Board of Directors and an appointee to the NSBA Executive Committee.
“Kevin has been an incredible school board member in the state of New Jersey for almost two decades,” said John Bulina, NJSBA president. “His dedication to students has been recognized at the regional and national levels. He has been a mentor and a good friend to me and to many of the officers of the New Jersey School Boards Association.”
Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director, echoed Bulina’s sentiments. “Kevin embodies all the best qualities of school board members; he has devoted himself to the students in his district, while also advocating for public education at the county, state and federal levels. Without doubt, Kevin Ciak is the quintessential advocate for educational excellence. He truly cares about the quality of the education that our young people receive. I offer my sincere congratulations on this honor.”
Ciak, who was characterized by school board officials in Sayreville and Middlesex County as the “voice of reason,” will be presented with the award at Workshop 2013 in Atlantic City.
“He is that leader who garners respect, as Kevin gives respect and appreciation to others. He builds consensus,” said Middlesex County School Boards Association President Catherine Sucher Greeley, a school board member in nearby Piscataway, who nominated Ciak. “He is a problem solver: The calm in a storm, whether a heated discussion or a stalemate.”
Sayreville Board President Michael Macagnone described Ciak as a board member who steps forward to lead discussion on issues ranging from elementary re-districting to policy updating.
“Kevin has continually been the one who keeps the board focused on the issue,” Macagnone said. “(He) exudes confidence and is the perfect example of what a board member should be –intelligent, dedicated, honest and a team player.”
Ciak was elected to the Sayreville board in 1994, the year after graduating from Sayreville War Memorial High School. Elected seven times, Ciak is currently vice president of Sayreville’s board, and previously spent six years as board president. As well as serving as NJSBA president from 2006 to 2008, he has been on the NJSBA Legislative, Nominating, Finance, Executive, and numerous other committees, and is actively involved in the Middlesex County School Boards Association.
Ciak said he first got interested in public service as a high school junior, when he was selected for American Legion Jersey Boy’s State, a weeklong program on government and politics, where students run for elected office. “I had a great time and learned a lot. I thought, ‘what can I do with this?’ I decided that August to attend my first school board meeting,” Ciak recalled.
A year later, while a freshman at Rutgers University, he ran for the Sayreville board and won.
Ciak has published articles and been interviewed on television about school board leadership. He is president of the Middlesex County Arts and Education Council, and a past member of the Sayreville Human Relations Commission.
Earlier this year he traveled to Finland with the National School Boards Association, at his own expense, to study that nation’s well-regarded public schools.
Ciak, who holds a degree in electrical engineering and works in global-supply-chain finance, called the School Board Member of the Year award a “huge honor.”
“To have my own peers select me is truly an honor,” he said.
While Ciak said public schools face many more demands than when he began nearly 20 years ago, he said he plans to continue serving.
“I really love the profession. I love working with kids, working with my fellow board members,” he said. “Every day, you never know what new problem you’re going to be dealt. Even after 20 years on the board, I can’t say I’ve seen it all.
“It’s a challenge every single day,” he said.
Given annually since 2005, the School Board Member of the Year award honors an individual board member who makes significant contributions; exemplifies leadership in the field of education with a strong commitment to the children of New Jersey; demonstrates a strong commitment to his or her personal and professional development as a board member; and shows active involvement in school governance at the local, county and state levels.
Nominations for the honor were judged by an independent panel from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.