Wunderkind Chase Harrison Takes Spot on New Jersey Town's Board of Ed

At 18, He's Youngest Official in State

He’s Our Boy: High school senior Chase Harrison makes a point during debate for Millburn, N.J. school board election. He won!
courtesy of chase harrison
He’s Our Boy: High school senior Chase Harrison makes a point during debate for Millburn, N.J. school board election. He won!

By Michael Kaminer

Published November 22, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

After a canny Facebook-fueled campaign helped him trounce an incumbent, Chase Harrison will take his seat on the Millburn, N.J. Board of Education in January. He’s aiming to loosen rules around Advanced Placement courses by serving on the Board’s program committee. And he’s vowing to “shake things up” at the staid, tight-knit elected body.

Oh, and he just turned 18.

Harrison, a senior at Millburn High School, became the youngest elected official in New Jersey history – and one of the youngest in the nation – when he defeated vice president Rona Wenik this month. Local network NJTV News called it “a stunning upset.”

An award-winning debate champ, Harrison credits his success on the stump to his verbal skills. But using social media to connect with voters also helped elevate his candidacy, he told the Forward. “The level of responsiveness was amazing,” he says. “I got immediate feedback on how citizens felt about issues.”

Harrison lives in Millburn with his parents, Beth and David, two brothers, and a pet guinea pig. The Forward caught up with him after a busy school day.

MICHAEL KAMINER: First of all, why run for an elected office in the first place? It sounds like there’s enough going on with college applications and homework.

CHASE HARRISON: It was two-pronged. First, I have a strong interest in politics, and that’s where I want a career. I figured that just being able to campaign would be great experience. And I knew that if I actually ran, getting elected as a public official at this young age would be unprecedented. Second, Millburn’s known to be one of the best public schools in New Jersey. But it’s also one of most stressful high schools in New Jersey. There’s a lot of pressure on students, a lot of pressure to achieve. Some of the policies in place to get students to the top are destructive. I want to make sure the health and well-being of students are taken care of.

**Which policies do you consider “destructive”? **

There’s something Millburn has that no other school has at the level we do: AP [Advanced Placement] qualifiers. If you want to take an AP class, you have to sit for a 90-minute standardized test on a topic you don’t know, or a reading you get on the spot. AP classes become competitive, and students find they can’t access classes they love in a subject they feel they’re ready to work at. And certain students hog the AP classes just because they can get in.

How do you think your fellow board members will treat you once you take office in January?

When I’ve spoken at meetings of the current board, some members have been receptive. But the Millburn Board of Education has a big problem with cronyism. Most votes are 9-0. The board members will even say they don’t disagree publicly. They haven’t been receptive to input from citizens. Sometimes, I didn’t even receive something as basic as eye contact when I spoke.

Some board members are trepidatious about my becoming a board member. I want to shake this up, bring transparency, change the conversation. They fear they won’t be able to continue with the agenda they’ve been pushing.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.