Metuchen Mirror Q&A

What is your involvement in the community • METUCHEN BOARD OF EDUCATION Elected role serving on Finance, Technology and Athletics (2015-present).  Chair of Technology in 2017

• METUCHEN BOROUGH COUNCIL MEMBER (2008-11) was on the Municipal Alliance, TV & Technology Committee

• FOUNDING MEMBER OF FUCILLE FOUNDATION AND FUCE 5K

• PLANNING COMMITTEE AND CHAPERONE – Habitat for Humanity Youth Mission Trip, First Presbyterian Church of Metuchen (2015-present)

• PRESIDENT, BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Community Nursery School (2007-08)

• VOLUNTEER, COACH AND COMMISSIONER
Metuchen Baseball Rec, Tournament & Travel
Metuchen Recreation Floor Hockey

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I am funding my own campaign in its entirety.  I am not accepting any contributions.  I have no blood relatives or in-laws who are employed by the Board of Education or Borough of Metuchen.  I do not anticipate any conflicts of interest in serving the Board of Ed.  My ex-wife was once a paraprofessional in Metuchen and then later Edison but now teaches at a private school.

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We have amazing teachers who are led by a dedicated administration, all focusing on providing an educational experience for the “whole child”.  While we have nationally recognized arts and language programs, we trail in math and science and need to improve.  We are investing in new science labs and equipment but will also need to find enthusiastic and well-trained teachers to take the program to the next level.

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As a sitting Board member, I cannot comment on the existing vulnerabilities of our schools out of the utmost regard for the student’s safety.  We have made tremendous enhancements to the video surveillance equipment, which included giving remote access to Metuchen PD.  We’ve conducted a security audit led by a nationally recognized firm and will be taking additional steps to ensure the highest level of safety we can without placing armed guards in our schools.

 

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I believe the Metuchen schools are more crowded than I would like them to be.  I think “overcrowded” is a matter of opinion.  In the estimation of the school Principals, we have not reached our maximum capacity.  I believe we need to come together as a community now to work towards a solution that provides the spaces necessary to accommodate the educational offerings we want.  In an ideal world I’d love to see a school configuration with pre K – 2nd , 3rd – 5th, 6th – 8th and 9th-12th

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I believe the cafeteria space in all schools needs to be addressed.  All the Principals have asked for the same.  Greater space allows for larger lunch groups and reduces the amount of time that is dedicated in scheduling to providing the students a reasonable amount of time to eat.  By reducing the number of lunch periods, for example in the HS we would be able to move to more modern block scheduling that would prepare students for college.

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Yes and I think we need to be working towards a bond issue referendum.  We have existing bonds that will expire in 2024.  Our operational budget growth is capped at 2% and is not a way to fund large long-term initiatives.  In the 12 years my son, now a senior, has been in the Metuchen school system, we have added 300 students.  We continue to see incremental growth every year and we need to add space to accommodate the programming we want.  In addition to needing more space, our HVAC equipment and roofs are reaching end of life and are in need of upgrades.

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I do.  I also think we should provide the option for some parents to choose half-day as we have now.  I believe the implementation could potentially require 2 votes of the public, first to support a referendum to add the space necessary to add the classrooms and then to address the impact that could cause our operating budget to exceed 2% growth in one year.  As a result, of this timeline, I think we need to be acting now because the unfortunate reality is that it might take so long that a child born today might be the first one in FDK in Metuchen.

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When I ran three years ago, all 3 elected candidates were advocating for additional business classes.  We have done that and in addition increased our AP offerings.  We are alternating years with offering AP Micro- and Macro- economics.  I believe we need to upgrade our technology offerings, specifically programming languages that are more modern as well as data science classes.

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The Achieve NJ law required school districts to choose a measurement model approximately 5 years ago.  Metuchen chose the Stronge Model which is named after Dr. James Stronge a Professor from University of Virginia.  We measure teachers for effectiveness in 7 standards across multiple performance indicators where they receive a score of highly effective, effective, partially effective and ineffective.  I believe the system works very well.

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As a district, we need to continue to invest in professional development of our staff.  I am a very strong supporter of the investments we are making in Orton Gillingham training and thankful for the teachers who are taking their time to learn it.  It is an excellent approach to helping students with reading difficulties.  I would love to see us add more paraprofessionals, especially in the lower grades, so that we can identify and work through challenges sooner than later.  Finally for gifted and talented I believe the curriculum committee should reevaluate the entrance criteria to make sure it reflects what we want as a community.

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Frankly, I did not understand this very difficult topic well until I was elected to the Board and trained.  What you and I would consider bullying is not what the law states as it requires the action to be motivated by a distinguishing characteristic.  Cases that do not fit HIB can absolutely be considered Code of Conduct violations and even met with greater punishment even if they are not deemed to be HIB by the Administration and the Board.  Also many parents are frustrated because the privacy laws prevent the Administration from revealing punishments given to the perpetrator.  It can leave parents thinking “nothing was done” when in fact that is rarely the case.  I think we need to do a better job communicating with parents on both sides every step of the way during the due process.  To prevent HIB we need to continue our focus on social emotional learning of the students.

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That is a difficult question that we have been fortunate enough to avoid during my time on the Board.  It would have to be a process where we would together rank our priorities and the financial impact of a potential cut.  Courtesy bussing is always tossed in the conversation as it’s not a required offering though it would worsen traffic significantly.  We could also consider participation fees for athletics and other offerings should we need to.  I am just proud to have served on the finance committee all 3 years where we take proactive management of our finances and facilities as seriously as any district you will find in NJ.

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The most important question involves the most important people involved in our children’s education.  I would ask any potential Board member, what will you do to help the teachers?  My answer is continuing to work towards providing an environment where teachers are happy, rewarded and challenged.  We need to do a better job recruiting new talent and holding on to them when they are here.  We have lost several supervisors over the last few years and it concerns me greatly.  I do not want Metuchen being seen as the training ground for districts with deeper pockets to steal our talent from.  I want us to be a place teachers want to come work and spend their entire career.  We can do better.

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Thank you for the opportunity I was given to serve the past 3 years.  No matter how the election goes this time, I will sleep well knowing that the Metuchen School District will be well served by the new Board.

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