Having grown up in Berkeley Heights and having moved back here, in large part to take advantage of the education afforded in our town, I have a vested interest in our BOE and the quality of our education.  As such, I am encouraged to see Ramya Kasthuri and Joy Young running for our BOE.

In my adult life, I have lived in Berkeley Heights for 10 years. I have known Joy Young and her wonderful family for the past 7 of those 10 years because our daughters played town basketball together. Through Joy, I have also come to know Ramya Kasthuri, her husband and two children.

Both Ramya and Joy are hardworking moms, both hold full-time positions while taking care of their families and both also find time to give back many hours of volunteerism to our town. I can think of no better candidates, with this type of track record of volunteerism, who are also knowledgeable about education and who will be strong advocates for all children. Most importantly, I think it is imperative that our next BOE leaders are those that listen openly and take all viewpoints into consideration, even those that do not align with their own personal beliefs. The only candidates I have seen who possess all these qualities are Ramya Kasthuri and Joy Young.

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For me, what parallels Ramya’s and Joy’s efforts and courage to move towards a post within the BOE’s has been my wife’s volunteerism over the years. Even when her schedule (or pocketbook) may have least afforded it, my wife continued to contribute years of volunteering within our schools from the very earliest days of our children’s education along with other events in our community. It is this drive, passion, and long term commitment to make all of our children’s experience better that I see in Ramya’s and Joy’s actions and platform.

Each of us as parents and residents have our own unique priorities and concerns when it comes to educating our children. But as BOE members, a parent must balance those very personal needs with the needs of our entire town. I have logged in to Ramya's and Joy's Listening Sessions. The purpose of these sessions was to understand the voices and concerns of our community. During these sessions, they listened, not lectured.  They took copious notes, which lead to the discovery of new concerns and topics brought forth by our other parents.  At no time did they push a specific agenda or self-interest.  And not once have I heard them dismiss a parent’s desire to have comprehensive discussions on sensitive subjects. This is not the Ramya and Joy I have come to know.

While I am not terribly active on the town's online forums, I thought it imperative to add my voice as I have been witness to terribly divisive comments that can only be meant to tear down and divide, and not build us up. I believe the approach that Joy and Ramya have put forth will be over and above more successful.  They want to build up our BOE and our town, not tear it down.

The things I have read on the town forums about Ramya and Joy are shameful and not true. They are meant to sow confusion both about who Ramya and Joy are and about the important work they are both prepared to do on the BOE, for our children and the wider community.  People who know the truth (and do not listen to the gas lighting and misrepresentations) know that they are both talented, hardworking and make a great team who can work together to make tough decisions.  They will unite us through positive and professional discourse; I have already seen this firsthand.  Coming to the table (or our community forums) with an axe to grind will only lead to divisiveness and a lack of open dialogue of the work ahead of them. In that future, only our kids will suffer as a result. 

I know Ramya and Joy understand that collaboration and open minds will bring about the transparency and progress we are looking for.  As I said, I have seen it.  That is why I will be casting my vote for Ramya Kasthuri and Joy Young.  I encourage you to read what they have written and said and do the same.  They are approachable and kind people who will do well for the future of the BOE and for the concerns of our children.