Retirement generally is supposed to be a stress-free time, or at least as stress-free as possible. But during the past couple of years as part of the Stafford Township Board of Education, Walter Jauch hasn’t been able to free himself of the stressors of being the board president, particularly during these tumultuous times.
He freed himself of it on Nov. 20, when he informed the board via email he was resigning from his position.
“Being a board president isn’t all photo ops and graduation speeches,” he said by phone Saturday. “There’s a lot of time involved and a lot of stress that goes with it. I was in a high-pressure position for 32 years and left that behind when I retired at 56. I’m 57 now, and this is supposed to be one of the best times of my life.
“I’ve been thinking about this for a little while now, so this has been building up. A lot of times I’d come home from meetings and have a hard time winding down and shutting off all the stuff that happened. I’ve been spinning in my sheets a lot lately. It’s been weighing on me, and I think it’s time for me to alleviate that stress and make things better for my family. I wanted to make sure I was being true to myself and doing what’s best for the community, kids and teachers.”
Jauch first was elected to the board in 2016 and appointed board president at the beginning of the third year of his term in 2019, following the departure of former board President Mike Hemenway, who didn’t seek re-election in 2018. Jauch was re-elected last November and again retained his post as president when he was sworn in early this year.
But during the past year and a half, things have become increasingly contentious among board members, and in August Jauch was named in a tort claim brought by Superintendent George Chidiac, alleging 30 claims of defamatory, retaliatory or discriminatory conduct by Jauch and board members Patricia Formica and Mark Zoladz. However, Jauch said his decision to step away had nothing to do with the tort.
“To be clear, if anybody implies that this has to do with tort claim, that’s not the case,” Jauch said. “I still hope there’s a full investigation into that tort claim and a resolution to it. For me, this is really a time to eliminate stress in my life, and this is one step in doing that. I came home from our board meeting the other night and I told my wife that I thought it was time for me to go. So, that’s what I’m doing.”
With Jauch’s departure, the board is tasked with appointing a replacement for him during the next 60 days, which will require a legal solicitation for candidates and an interviewing process. Once an individual is appointed, he or she will remain in the seat until the end of 2021, at which time he or she can seek election to the spot for another year, ending on Dec. 31, 2022, which would have been the end of Jauch’s current term.
Two new board members – Christopher Fritz and Erin Sharkey – are slated to take board seats in January. Fritz was the top vote-getter in this year’s election, while Sharkey ran unopposed and easily won the unexpired one-year term left over from the departure of former board member Kevin Lyons Jr. and fulfilled for the past year by Kathleen Pierson, who opted not to seek election to remain on the board after being appointed last year.
But now, who may fill Jauch’s seat on the board is up in the air. Joe Mangino, who has been the board vice president since January 2019, will move into the president’s spot, and the board has to appoint a new vice president, either at the next meeting, on Dec. 17, or at the board reorganization meeting on Jan. 6.
Deborah M. Lyons retains her seat after a successful re-election. It’s unclear whether Gerald Simonelli, whose term is scheduled to end Dec. 31 since he sought re-election to return to the board and finished behind Formica for one of the three open seats, can legally apply for appointment to the board within the 60-day window, which will end Jan. 20.
Nonetheless, the board will change just a little more come January.
“I believe in community service, and I’ll find some other way to serve at some point down the road,” Jauch said. “It was an honor to serve and be part of the board. Being a part of it gave me a lot of opportunities to meet a lot of people. I wish everybody well on the board and in the district, and I still want Stafford to shine above all other districts in our area.”
— David Biggy