Update: Part 2: Meet the Board of Education Candidates

Eight Westfield residents will interview to fill the seat vacated by former BOE President Julia Walker at the public meeting to be held on Tuesday, Jan. 3.

Eight candidates will interview for the seat vacated by at the public meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 3. Originally there were nine candidates; Susan Dauber has withdrawn.

While the meeting is open to the public, . Following the meeting, members of the BOE will meet privately to make their selection. An announcement will be made at the Tuesday, Jan. 10 meeting.

Patch will profile the applicants in a two-part series. Part 1 was published on Thursday, Dec. 29. Peter Tsirigotis opted not to participate.

Sheila Raftery Wiggins, 38, is a litigation partner at Duane Morris LLC who has lived in Westfield for 10 years. She has two children, ages three and five. Her son will enter first grade in the fall. 

Sona Jepsen, 40, is the head of consultant relations for a Fortune 500 company who has lived Westfield for four years. She has three children, two at and one in kindergarten at  

Lucy Biegler, 42, is a literacy coach who has lived in Westfield since she was six years old. She has two children who are 14 and 10 years old.

What made you decide to submit your resume to the Board?

Wiggins: Like many others in town, we moved to Westfield in part because of its excellent school system. I am interested in working with the BOE, the Administration, and the community to help ensure that our schools continue to be run well. As a BOE member, I will work with others to identify and implement thoughtful policies that effectively address the challenges facing our schools. As a mother of two children and an aunt to five Westfield students, I appreciate the day-to-day needs which arise in the school context. I bring a fresh perspective which will help the BOE to achieve innovative policies which address challenges. 

Jepsen: I decided to throw my name into the ring because I think the education our children get is probably one of the most important gifts/privileges we can give our children and I've always been interested and actively involved in education-related initiatives at home and work.

Biegler: I have children in the Westfield Schools and as a graduate from WHS, I’ve always wanted to give back to the community that brought me where I am today.

What qualities or experience do you bring to the Board that make you the best candidate?

Wiggins: The Westfield school district is a large and complex organization that is subject to countless funding and legal constraints. Overseeing the management of such an enterprise requires a background with the sophisticated business, regulatory and ethical issues that are faced by the administrators every day. In my capacity as a partner of a large law firm, I have negotiated contracts and dealt with labor issues. I am also a New Jersey court-appointed mediator, and I will use those skills to ensure that the interests of all stakeholders in our school system - parents, teachers, students and taxpayers - are considered in crafting solutions to challenges facing our schools. I was a board member for a not-for-profit corporation for six years. This role provided me with experience regarding budgeting, policy drafting/programming, and fundraising. As a member of the New Jersey Attorney Ethics Committee for four years, I am sensitive to the ethical requirements that must be upheld by professionals. These skills will help me to be a productive and effective member of the BOE.

Jepsen: I can offer the town of Westfield and the BOE someone who is extremely organized, efficient, logical, practical but above all a candidate who is passionate about the future of not just my children but the children of Westfield.

Biegler: I have been an educator for 20 years and I believe I bring unique talent and skills to the Westfield Board. In addition to being a Literacy Coach/Reading Specialist, I am a member of the Advisory Council for the NJ Department of Education Teacher Evaluation Pilot, committee member of the Anti-Bullying Committee, advocate for special need students and a member of the IR&S Committee, knowledge with writing curriculums and have detailed experience with instructional technology in pedagogy. I have significant experiences that I would like to share, especially in areas where I know the Westfield School District will need to be in the future.

In your opinion, what is the biggest issue facing the Westfield school system?

Wiggins: The next few years will require innovative solutions to meet the demands created by a growing student population with constrained financial resources. Inherently, this will cause conflict. However, we have the opportunity to set the stage now so that the schools run smoothly in the upcoming years by anticipating challenges, obtaining community feedback, and implementing policies which are fair. The beneficiaries of such planning will be our students.

Jepsen: We live in a great town where our kids have an abundance of opportunities, access to activities and resources. I think our biggest challenge lies in preparing our children for the new world ahead - global landscape, technology changes etc. Making sure we are aware of the macro changes occurring but then being able to develop a plan to prepare them and execute at a micro level - that's the key to our town and children's future success.

Biegler: In my opinion the biggest issue facing the Westfield School System, is the assurance that it will remain one of the elite educational programs in the state, and to provide a tremendous education to its students at an affordable rate to its citizens.


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