Too often small groups have attempted to influence the programming offered in our schools or the policy set to be put in place through a series of closed door meetings. While these groups have had the best of intentions, many parents were either unaware or felt blindsided by the proposals. In some cases, it led to divisive discussions and battles that led to an all-or-nothing approach to implementing change.

As a district, we need to have a more efficient, transparent, and community based approach to enacting recommendations for change.

We need a process that seeks to build change from the ground up.

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To that end, I plan to propose a process that seeks to ensure that every community-based recommendation for change is heard and seen. This process could involve proposals that include:

-A needs assessment to demonstrate evidence that the proposal meets a need in the school/district.

-A scoring guide that standardizes how proposals are evaluated.

-A favorable scoring for proposals supported by peer reviewed research.

-A requirement that all proposals include a budget.

-100 signatures in support of the proposal.

-A 30 day public review period that requires the proposal to be posted in local news outlets and on widely used social media venues, which provides an avenue to gather feedback and resident input.

-A piloting of any proposal that involves new programming before full-scale implementation.

Having a predictable, wide open process for new proposals can work to ensure that new programming or change results in compromise vs. division or a winner-take-all outcome. My name is Sai Bhargavi Akiri, and I am running for the children and families of Berkeley Heights.