21-Year-Old Leads School System

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By John Celock

Just under three years following his graduation from Hopatcong High School, a 21-year-old college student is now the school system’s top elected leader.

Montclair State University student Anthony Fasano this week became the president of the Hopatcong Board of Education, the youngest person to hold the post in Sussex County and one of the youngest in New Jersey. Fasano, a 2013 high school graduate, was first elected to the board in 2013 and has made student achievement, transparency and a focus on student issues his goals on the board.

“I served as class president in high school. Really acting in that role and planning trips and proms I had to interact with the Board of Education and I felt disconnected with the board,” Fasano told The Celock Report about why he ran. “Not through any fault of their own. It is them not understanding what a modern education looks like now. I felt I really could bring something to that table.”

Fasano, who served as board vice president last year, said that among the issues he has focused on since joining the board has been the creation of a public relations committee, all day kindergarten, updating the curriculum and creating more checks on school finance.

Fasano noted that he has worked to bring student leaders in to meet with the board on a regular basis in order for board members to know what is going on at the student level in the district. He said in addition to promoting student achievement he has tried to “think outside the box” in terms of how the district is run.

Among his goals for his presidency, Fasano said he wants to see more collaboration amongst board members on issues and show “effective governance.”

Outside of the school district, Fasano serves as a student member of the board of trustees at Montclair State. He noted a synergy between the roles, saying he can bring practices he sees at the college to the school district and vice versa.

Fasano is part of a tradition of young school board members in New Jersey and around the country. In the Garden State, 18-year-old Chase Harrison served a one-year term on the Millburn Board of Education in 2014, while in the late 1990s, recent high school graduate Harry Zikas served on the Alpha Board of Education. In 1999, Zikas would go on to be elected to the first of two terms as Alpha’s mayor.

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) started his public service career winning election to the Union City Board of Education at the age of 20.

Fasano said it is “humbling” to be asked about a future run for higher office but insisted that his focus is on the school system. He said he ran for the Board of Education to grow student achievement and his long-term focus is there. He said that if he finds a drive to focus on other issues he would consider a bid.

“I feel that I am in a place that I am needed,” he said.