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Barbarulo Believes Unique Background an Asset to Board

Ron Barbarulo, a master plumber with a passion for coaching youth sports, is running for re-election to the Fair Lawn Board of Education.

This is the first in a series of profiles about each of the six Fair Lawn Board of Education candidates.

Three educators with advanced degrees, a financial risk expert and a lawyer comprise this year’s stable of Board of Education candidates.

And then there’s Ron Barbarulo, the master plumber with an assertive, tell-it-like-it-is approach. Barbarulo, who went straight to trade school after graduating from Paramus Catholic in 1981, believes his unique background has brought a breath of fresh air to the board during his three-year tenure.

“I don’t think you need a board made up of all educators,” said Barbarulo, after a recent board meeting. “I think you need a variety of people on the board to help because it takes a variety of items to run a school district.”

As the board’s chairman of buildings and grounds for the past three years, Barbarulo said the school district’s administrators have often leaned on him for maintenance-related questions. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene last year, Barbarulo’s plumbing expertise proved instrumental when he was able to independently analyzeMemorial Middle School’s cracked boiler and recommend that the district opt to replace the decades-old piece of machinery rather than spend nearly as much on costly repairs.

During his board tenure, Barbarulo's distinguished himself by speaking his mind, even if that’s meant disagreeing with the rest of the board or superintendent on some issues -- like its decision to outsource custodians earlier this year. He’s the rare board member who publicly questions Superintendent Bruce Watson, even if it’s just to ask for clarification on policy issues.

“Sometimes you’re going to get people in general that just are going to go along with anybody just to stay status quo,” said Barbarulo, who recalls telling Watson bluntly during their first meeting in 2010 that he wouldn’t just be a rubber stamp. “I don’t mind upsetting the apple cart. I’ve never been that way.”

Barbarulo’s interest in a board seat stems from his passion for working with, and on the behalf of, children. As a youth sports coach for over 30 years, he’s likely the most visible of the board's current members.

“I’m a very active person,” said Barbarulo, who’s held leadership positions in various plumbing associations and youth sports programs over the years, “but my biggest passion is coaching kids and dealing with kids and fighting for kids.”

He and his wife, Denise, have three children of their own -- Kayleigh, Dominic and Joe – all of whom attend Fair Lawn schools.

If reelected, Barbarulo said his goal is to find money in the budget to bring back a number of the music programs the district has had to drop in recent years due to budget cuts. He’s also hoping to eventually find funding to install lights and artificial surface at the football field, and work with the FLHS Athletic Hall of Fame Committee to find a dedicated home for the school’s athletic artifacts.

Barbarulo, who takes a measured approach to his position and won't cast a vote unless he feels comfortable he has all the facts, said that finding places to make sweeping cuts in the district's budget isn't as easy to do as people believe. He does, however, acknowledge that there are items in the budget he disagrees with and going forward thinks he could help the district save in maintenance costs and by improving the heating and cooling efficiency of its buildings.

Win or lose at the ballot this November, Barbarulo said his dedication to supporting the town’s children will never waver.

“Regardless of what happens, I’ve enjoyed it and I’ll always be here to fight for the children of Fair Lawn and all the children that I’ve always been associated with over the years of coaching,” he said. “I’m going to still give my best to the people of Fair Lawn, the taxpayers of Fair Lawn and most important, the children of Fair Lawn.”

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TeacherMom October 24, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Fair Lawn keeps so many children in district that other districts would send out. Your source must be mistaken.
Danny L October 25, 2012 at 02:20 AM
As a resident with an FLHS student, I have to agree with many things RB is supporting. I'm especially impressed with his handling of MMS's boiler system problems. However, a serious issue which is not being addressed in these comments is his want to increase spending on the football team's utilities. In all honesty, our football program is not great(better described as mediocre) and is unlikely to improve. Those funds could easily be used not just for other sports (Like: tennis: better lighting, covered courts. Fencing: measly budget with aged equipment that is all repaired by the coach.) But could also be used for academics, the real reason FLHS exists! Many classes are in need of new textbooks, lab equipment, etc. As much as it pains me to say it, I have to agree with my child's chemistry teacher, "Secondary education-where education is secondary". As for special education, I agree that cuts need to be made. Unlike every other student, which has felt the pain of cuts, most Spec. Ed. programs have been protected. They are a tiny part of the student population, yet more is spent on SE students individually than any "normal" student. Cuts need to be made, because many of these "normal" students are, just like in the rest of the country, struggling with the standard class level and for tutoring, can only rely on other students, unless parents can pay for a private tutor! I'm lucky enough that my child has the genes and opportunity to succeed, but we have to help everyone!
TeacherMom October 25, 2012 at 11:19 AM
Putting "normal" in quotes does not make your comments about special education any less ignorant. There are laws in place to guarantee that children with disabilities get a free and appropriate education, just like any other child. Not every family is blessed with genes and opportunity. I'm curious if you know enough about FL's Special Ed. Program to make true suggestions about what to cut. Educating children with special needs in our own schools is a huge cost savings. The tuition at private special education schools is often at least double the cost of educating kids right here in Fair Lawn.
Kathleen Echevarria October 25, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Danny L - I think you misread regarding football. Looking back at the article, the reference was to the football field and not the football program. While yes obviously the football program would benefit, so would many other sports that can potentially utilize the field, as well as, the Marching Band. A topic not discussed here is the support of the arts in school - the music program. My child was involved in the Marching Band for many years and I was the President of the Friends of Music the parent group in support of that program. There have been studies that student involvement in music has a positive impact on other areas of their lives i.e. self-discipline, dexterity, coordination, self-esteem, thinking skills, listening skills, creative abilities and personal expression. Not to mention that most music students tend to score higher in both math and english on the SATs. We need well rounded children. I would love to see more support of the Arts from all.
Isaac Finkelstein October 26, 2012 at 05:03 PM
From the article: "If reelected, Barbarulo said his goal is to find money in the budget to bring back a number of the music programs the district has had to drop in recent years due to budget cuts. He’s also hoping to eventually find funding to install lights and artificial surface at the football field, and work with the FLHS Athletic Hall of Fame Committee to find a dedicated home for the school’s athletic artifacts." So your stated goal is to spend even more of our money? Seriously? Realize, when you say "find money in the budget" what you are really saying is "find money in the already wildly overburdened taxpayers' pockets". The schools are already excellent, the goal of the BOE now should be to cut costs to bring down our insane taxes.

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