• Left to right: Dr. Timothy Purnell, executive director and CEO of the NJSBA; Karen Cortellino, M.D., the Association's president; Bernadette Dalesandro, the 2023-2024 Board Member of the Year; and Lisa Mezik, vice president of the Rockaway Township Board of Education, at the lunch honoring Dalesandro.

Bernadette Dalesandro, the New Jersey School Boards Association’s 2023-2024 Board Member of the Year, was honored by Association staff and officers, former Board Members of the Year and other school leaders at a recent luncheon.

Dr. Timothy Purnell, executive director and CEO of the NJSBA, welcomed attendees to the event at the Association’s headquarters on June 21. He called attention to a book each attendee was given that highlighted the achievements of Dalesandro and former Board Member of the Year winners.

In fact, the first winner of the award, Maria Alamo, who is also one of the founding trustees of the Educational Leadership Foundation of New Jersey, which she serves as chair, was among the attendees who turned out to celebrate Dalesandro and her commitment to the schoolchildren of New Jersey.

“This book captures the history and the landscape that this organization has faced since Maria Alamo was named our first Board Member of the Year,” Purnell said, adding that he thinks it’s great that the newest winner is added to the book each year while the stories of former winners remain.

“The work our former Board Members of the Year remains the cornerstone of the foundation we’ve built,” Purnell said.

Karen Cortellino, M.D., president of the NJSBA, congratulated Dalesandro on being recognized with such a prestigious award.

“As you all know, each year since 2005, the New Jersey School Boards Association has honored a local board of education member who makes significant contributions to public education, exemplifies leadership, demonstrates a strong commitment to their own personal and professional development as a board member and shows active involvement on school governance at the local, county and state levels,” she said.

Dalesandro began her board service at the Lenape Valley School District in 1995 and went on to serve as a board member of two districts concurrently on the Lenape Valley Board of Education and the Netcong Board of Education from 2000 to 2005, all while serving the nation as a full-time Marine, retiring after 25 years of service. Starting in 2005, she began serving solely as a Netcong school board member.

Cortellino applauded Dalesandro for her work in getting a referendum passed, enabling her district to integrate technology into the curriculum, as well as her efforts in implementing a day preschool program and ensuring staff training.

“Bernadette truly embodies everything that a dedicated school leader should be — deeply committed to the students of the district,” Cortellino said.

Dalesandro thanked the Association for recognizing her as the Board Member of the Year and highlighted some of her happiest moments as a board member, such as shining a spotlight on student achievement as president of the Netcong board and in her role as president of the Morris County School Boards association.

You can read more about Dalesandro and why she was chosen as the Board Member of the Year in this School Leader article.

At the luncheon, attendees enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation, focusing on why they’ve worked so hard to advance the education of children and how they’ve overcome challenges as board members.