Forget Obama and Romney, the real debate Wednesday night took place at Maple Place School during the Meet the Candidates Night for Oceanport Board of Education candidates.
The two-hour event, sponsored by the district's PTO and moderated by the League of Women Voters, proved that the seven candidates vying for three full-term seats on the board are not too far apart on the issues.
The candidates for the three-year seat are John F. Coffey, II, Robert L. Huber, James C. Kopec, Michael Murpy, Joan Osgoodby-Latacz, John A. Patti and Thomas Welsh. Incumbent Spencer W. Carpenter is running for the single one-year term.
Most all of the candidates indicated that boosting the district's technology would be among their first order of business if elected and updating the school website was also a general area of concern.
And while most candidates supported sharing services with other districts and in particular the business administator's duties, there was no support for moving to a regionalized model with just one superintendent and board overseeing numerous districts.
"We have something special in this town," said candidate John Patti, adding, "We should strive to keep Oceanport, Oceanport."
Incumbent Joan Osgoodby, who pointed out that if re-elected she would be the only woman and Sea Bright resident to sit on the board, said, "I think we'd be lost in the crowd."
"This is what makes Oceanport ... so special," said Jay Coffey of keeping the operation of the district separate. "We control our own destiny."
"It costs more to do that," Coffey continued, "But that's the premium we pay."
Restoring a perceived lack of order and civlity to the board was another issue candidates said they'd address.
Coffey said that since starting to attend board meetings two years ago, "What I have seen transpire ... absolutely boggles my mind."
He said he would "get the internal house in order" by pushing for clearer minutes and agendas and changing the monthly board meeting dates so they don't conflict with borough council meetings.
Candidate Michael Murphy said he was running for the board to "contribute a more civil tone."
Moving the school board elections and budget vote from April to November, which a few of the candidates — in particular Robert Huber, Patti and Coffey —contended the public deserved the right to vote and the district was now confined by the 2 percent budget cap.
"The last level of government you can trust is local," said Coffey, adding that taxpayers would support the board of education and its initiatives if they felt they could be trusted. If the district needs to raise the budget over the cap for major improvements, "We've got to sell it to the public."