BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - In preparation for the Berkeley Heights Board of Education election on Nov. 3, questions were submitted to each candidate to give residents insight into why they are running and how they feel they can contribute to the Berkeley Heights school district.

There are three candidates running for two open seats on the Board of Education. The candidates are incumbents Christine Reilly, Doug Reinstein and first time candidate Robert Cianciulli.

GET TO KNOW INCUMBENT BOARD OF EDUCATION CANDIDATE CHRISINE REILLY. 

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1. What is your background and connection to our schools?  What experience do you have in our schools and in education? Why do you want to be on the BOE?

I moved to Berkeley Heights over 21 years ago with my 3 young children -- all of whom attended the public schools here in town—because of the reputation and quality of the Berkeley  Heights school system. I am running for the Board of Education because I want to give back to the community that served me and my family so well for so long and because I believe I can make a positive contribution. Through my children I have seen the school system operate from 3 very different angles as their individual needs ranged from one who required the highest academic curriculum, to another who was more middle-of-the road, to another who needed special resources. I believe the diversity of these experiences enhances my ability to connect with ALL parents and will ultimately help to make me a more effective board member. Professionally, I am a semi-retired executive with extensive experience in the areas of strategy, operations and finance having lead a division of a public company, among other senior executive roles. I am a CPA and hold an MBA from New York University. I currently serve on the strategic planning and finance committees of the BOE. I have also served on several other not-for-profit boards including the NJ American Red Cross and Executive Women of NJ.  My full credentials are available for your review on LinkedIn.com.

2. What are the biggest challenges that face our district and how would you surmount them?

In my opinion, the biggest challenge facing our school system  today is making sure our schools are well positioned to adapt and respond to a fast and ever-changing world -- so that our kids develop the kind of critical thinking and operating skills that are absolutely necessary to compete and thrive in that world. To do that we need to make sure they have access to first class science, math and technology offerings (in addition to language arts and extracurricular activities), outstanding educators and superior support from our guidance function to ensure our students are well prepared for every academic transition and ultimately for life after GL. And we need to meet these challenges with a cost conscious rigor in order to ensure we are getting the very best educational value out of our tax dollars—which are not insignificant!

3. Do you consider our district to be a high performing district?  Please elaborate on your answer, why or why not. 

Yes—and no. By national and state standards we are clearly a high performing system. However, I do not believe that’s the right comparison for a community like ours. When measured against a peer group of 30 similar socio demographically relevant school systems in NJ, we come in at the top of the bottom third. Also, looking at our 5 year performance trends, we are flat to slightly down. I think we can -- and should --do better and I see no reason why, given the talents and resources of this community, we should not be consistently ranked in the top quartile of our peer group. As a board member, I will commit myself to working with my colleagues to develop a plan that will take us there—from good to great.

4. How pertinent do you think the school rankings in various publications (NJ Monthly, etc.) are for our District?

Although I do not believe that the school rankings presented in various publications such as NJ Monthly, etc., are the best measurement of student achievement, I think it would be naïve to think these rankings do not matter. Like it or not, people make decisions based on this information, and it is our responsibility as a Board and a community to make sure our schools are properly and positively positioned in these publications to advance our reputation and protect our real estate investments.

5. We have just rolled 1:1 iPads down to the 8th grade.  Do you believe the roll-down should continue to earlier grades?  Would you propose any changes to the district's approach to incorporating technology into our curriculum?

​Technology is an integral part of daily life and no one knows that better—or is better at it—than our tech savvy kids. We rolled out the ipad program to our high school 2 years ago and to our 8th graders less than a year ago. This was a significant change to how we communicate and operate as a school system. The Administration has been closely monitoring the effectiveness and efficiencies derived from that rollout and there is clearly more work that needs to be done to work out the kinks and ensure everyone is adequately acclimated. So I believe we need to optimize the technology investments we have made so far (and make sure they represent tax dollars well spent) before any further roll-down to the lower grades. In addition, it is worth noting that grades lower than 8th grade currently have access to tech carts which provide them with  ipads and the like to enhance their educational experience and prepare them for 8th grade and beyond -- which I believe is sufficient at this time.