BLOOMFIELD, NJ--While federal elections will be in the spotlight next month, important local elections will be taking place here in Bloomfield as well. Six candidates are vying for three open spots on Bloomfield’s Board of Education, with elected members serving a three-year term. This year, the three incumbents are running on the Experienced, Certified, Leadership platform, while the three challengers are running on the Vote for Equity platform. 

The Board of Education is of crucial importance to advancing the Township’s public schools, and implementing successful initiatives for the benefit of Bloomfield’s students and their parents. To learn more about what each candidate* brings to the table, we had the opportunity to delve into the candidates’ backgrounds and platforms - these conversations may be found below: 

*Jess Salinas was unavailable for comment.

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VOTE FOR EQUITY 

SATENIK MARGARYAN

 

How long have you been a Bloomfield resident? If you came up through the Bloomfield school system, what elementary school did you attend?

I am a nine-year resident of Bloomfield, and have two boys who attend Watsessing School. In my nine years in Bloomfield, I have been active in town, serving on the Civil Rights Commission and on Watsessing HSA as president, co-President, and currently as secretary. I am also a member of parent/resident grassroots organizations such as Bloomfield Families for Sensible Safety and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Network

What is your background in education / what field do you work in that you feel gives you the best experience to serve on the Board?

I am an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Borough of Manhattan Community College, and have taught at various institutions of higher education for over 19 years. Having taught thousands of students in New Jersey and New York, I have a unique perspective on student achievement and what makes a successful college student. Also, I am a social scientist as well due to my background in criminology. I will bring to the board my expertise and skills in data analysis and social science research. 

In your own words, what do you feel are the one or two biggest issues facing the Bloomfield school system today? 

One big priority that needs to be addressed in our district is the lack of universal full-day preschool. The district also lacks uniformity in regard to meaningful afterschool activities for our elementary school students. Another important need is to increase the diversity of teachers and staff in the district; our Vote for Equity platform outlines these three areas in the need of work. Please consult our Facebook page and our website for more information.  

In your own words, what does your platform stand for, and how do you feel it would benefit Bloomfield students and their parents? 

My main motivation to run for the Board of Education in Bloomfield is to bring the issues of school equity to the forefront. We can do better in our district to address the socio-economic inequity that exists among our elementary schools and which effects are felt beyond elementary schools. We will improve student achievement by making our schools more equitable and creating more opportunities for excellence.

 

KASEY DUDLEY

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/6gS_yMR3F8F31GXf35tgX7kxE7ZyKOYBMAJNRRzwAcQiKIMziXxPxdpZqMvHAK7kbjFD70FbMr9la1oLXcfBLPE6pLjBKNoINXULGFeIVH4SpZ7-UQGl5zHaLrmWFOty3BwAewc

How long have you been a Bloomfield resident? If you came up through the Bloomfield school system, what elementary school did you attend?

I have been a resident of Bloomfield for the last 12 years, and am a Monmouth County native of Red Bank (shout out #exit109!). I graduated from Red Bank Regional High School Class of 1995

My son, who is diagnosed on the autism spectrum, currently attends Berkeley Elementary School. I am also the sole caregiver for my adoptive sister, who has a developmental delay and several underlying mental health diagnoses. She is a part of the 2010 graduating class of Bloomfield High School. Because of them, I became heavily involved in the activities of our school district here in Bloomfield. Since 2012 I have been a supporter and volunteer parent when needed for our Bloomfield Bengals Special Olympics flag football, soccer, basketball, bowling and track teams. To date, my sister is still a participant with the Bloomfield Special Olympics team. I have also been a member of the Home and School Association at Berkeley Elementary School, and have had the opportunity to serve as a Class Parent for the last three years. In 2016, I was invited as a guest speaker for the district SEAPC where I discussed the rights and responsibilities of parents with children who have Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs).

What is your background in education / what field do you work in that you feel gives you the best experience to serve on the Board?

I am currently employed by SPAN Advocacy as the Project Director for the Parents as Champions for Healthy Schools (PAC) project. This position has prepared me for the role of service to others - one that I take deeply to heart - and has taught me a great deal as to how I can utilize my strengths to empower others. I aim to work with fellow board members to obtain consensus, when necessary, for the benefit of empowering our community in a way that translates to growth and opportunity for all learners. I intend to bring fairness, truth and equal opportunities when representing the community, and I will ensure that all voices are heard and that our entire community is represented. 

My experience dealing with the school district as a very involved and active parent has allowed me the opportunity to gain valuable insight into what our school district needs. I recognized the need for a school board to be responsive and receptive to parents, educators, students and the overall community. A board member must be willing to collaborate with others, and all voices must be heard.

I am a member of the National Center for the Study of Social Policy Brain Trust, where I have consulted with clinical practices and parents across the country to facilitate implementing promising practices to promote the social and emotional health of young children, strengthen the parent-child bond and improve kindergarten readiness. This work has been centered on serving students and their families of all backgrounds - all children matter. Our diversity strengthens our community so long as we partner together in our endeavor to serve the needs of our children. 

Lastly, but certainly not least, in a previous role I also served as an online marketing director, managing and overseeing budgets exceeding $1 million in revenues. I feel this skill set sets me apart, as I understand what it takes to manage budgets and allocate them in ways that benefit who I serve. 

I am self-motivated and a team player that strives to achieve the very best for students, families and the communities they live in. I realize it’s not just our town, but our country’s future that is decided in the classroom. I want to be a voice for this generation to ensure that every opportunity that can enrich and add to the success of our youth is made available to them.

In your own words, what do you feel are the one or two biggest issues facing the Bloomfield school system today?

First and foremost, I think schools must acknowledge the diversity of the community and student population. Our educators must do away with racial and ethnic stereotypes that all too often cloud true and effective communication. A culturally relevant, inclusive curriculum - one that respects, honors, and celebrates our differences - is a great way for schools to meet different cultural learning needs. 

I believe our school district needs to address that we are a diverse community that needs a more creative approach to education as opposed to a one-size-fits-all mentality. We all come from different walks of life, and our various backgrounds should be celebrated and represented. Our board must do their part to make significant contributions in the areas of improvement across our district and community, especially in areas that directly impact minorities and children with special healthcare needs.

Our board should be more proactive and open to working closer together and adopting the WSCC model (Whole School, Whole Child, Whole Community). This approach helps give parents the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to partner with their schools and districts to improve school health.

We should have an open-door policy, and most importantly ask parents and other community members what they need to address the learning needs, and then listen. The community is always appreciative to be a part of the conversation and solution, rather than have it imposed upon them. Some stress the importance of awareness, listening and most importantly empathy to foster collaborative relationships - use the principle, “people own what they help create.”  

In your own words, what does your platform stand for, and how do you feel it would benefit Bloomfield students and their parents? 

What my platform stands for, more than anything, is to empower all the students, youths, and learners in our community with strong, ethical values, such as a love of self, a love for others and a love for learning. I believe that when we have communities with these values in mind, as our community grows, and as the people in our communities interact with others, we will spread a positive message that will create the necessary change in our school community. We need to stress the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion training for parents and professionals to create an environment that supports the entire school system and allows the community to feel respected. I believe this is what will carry our learners, and our community as a whole, forward. I care deeply for our community, and I firmly believe my involvement is my humble way of giving back and serving in a way that I hope would allow our community to further prosper and grow. Strengthening our school system and improving our education programs will enrich our current families, attract new ones and bring about a community that values and respects all who are a part of it. 

“Inclusion focuses on whether the employer [school] has a workplace culture in which diverse employees [students] feel integrated, instead of isolated. An employer [school] can have a diverse workplace [school] without having an inclusive culture. In an inclusive workplace [school], the employer [administration] will develop a culture in which: It is clear the employer [district] values diversity; diverse employees [families] should feel included and have an equal opportunity for success; and Employees [families] should feel comfortable, welcomed, and valued.” 

-Borrowed (but modified) from Author: Sharon E. Jones, Jones Diversity Group

Ultimately the school/district and Board of Education needs to commit to the work, and collectively create or correct “systems” that will ultimately provide a safe environment of inclusiveness and belonging for all students.

 

NADEISHA GREENE

 

How long have you been a Bloomfield resident? If you came up through the Bloomfield school system, what elementary school did you attend?

I have been a resident of Bloomfield for six years, and I have two boys who attend Demarest Elementary School. As a parent in the district, I am an active participant at HSA meetings, and volunteer at school events. In collaboration with two other Demarest parents, we created activities to teach children about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa during our annual Winter Kids’ Paint Night. I have also been involved with the “Start with Hello” initiative, where I went to our district’s schools and chalked positive affirmations. I have a vested interest in this district because I’m a parent who understands the challenges and wants the best for all of our children. 

What is your background in education? If none, what field do you work in that you feel gives you the best experience to serve on the Board?

Having worked in elementary education for almost ten years, I have been responsible for ensuring a robust parent engagement and involvement for over three hundred parents, and provided access to excellent middle schools for 5th graders. Currently, I am the Director of Operations at a charter school where I’m responsible for purchasing and finance, student recruitment, safety, facilities, compliance, and hiring and recruitment for a population of almost three hundred students. I have been responsible for NJ DOE State reporting, and ensuring compliance is at the forefront. I’m also in charge of all facility maintenance, and work with state vendors to provide state contracting pricing. 

I have experience working with school boards to implement strategic plans, create policies and set the direction of a school district. I have also onboarded board members, and attended the New Jersey School Board Association Convention in 2019 where I participated in workshops to support local school boards of education. 

Being responsible for running efficient schools has afforded me the ability to implement systems to create optimal learning environments in support of parents, teachers and students. I know and understand the internal functions of a school, and have deep knowledge and insight on the role districts play within the town and the State, and the importance the Boards have in being responsive to not only its schools but its students and families. 

In your own words, what do you feel are the one or two biggest issues facing the Bloomfield school system today? 

Our Vote for Equity platform focuses on three issues facing the Bloomfield school system. The first priority is the district should focus on universal full-day pre-K for Bloomfield families. Currently, our school district offers half-day and TransK inclusive preschool classes for three and four-year-old children based on a lottery system. Studies show that universal full-day pre-K programs and early childhood education enhance the school readiness of a diverse group of children, and have many positive long-term effects. 

The second priority is the district should work to increase the diversity of our school faculty, staff and administration so that our schools reflect the population of the student body. Based on the NJ Performance Report, 73% of our district’s students are Black, Latinx, Asian and Hawaiian Native/Pacific Islander, while 87% of our professional teacher workforce is White and 13% of our faculty are teachers of color. Studies have shown that teachers of color can boost academic performance and foster positive perceptions among all children, which helps to prepare them for a diverse society. With intentional and strategic recruiting and hiring campaigns and a plan for retention, we can achieve this goal.

The third priority is the district should work to establish meaningful afterschool programs for its elementary schools. Children who attend after school programs with rich extracurricular activities benefit from improved emotional adjustment and higher academic achievement. 

In your own words, what does your platform stand for, and how do you feel it would benefit Bloomfield students and their parents? 

Our platform not only brings equity to the forefront, but also addresses diversity and inclusion. It also benefits every child in the district. Knowing the disparities and socio-economic inequalities within the district, our platform seeks to address those needs. We want to continue to understand the challenges, and devise a plan of action to acknowledge and correct them. We want the best for every child in this district, and we need to collaborate among schools and learn best practices from each other. What our children learn today in our beloved District needs to prepare them for success in college and beyond.

 

EXPERIENCED, CERTIFIED, LEADERSHIP

 

ELLEN ROGERS

How long have you been a Bloomfield resident? If you came up through the Bloomfield school system, what elementary school did you attend?

I am a lifelong resident of the Township of Bloomfield, and an alumnus of Fairview School, Bloomfield Middle School and Bloomfield High School. I am also the mother of two childreneducated here in Bloomfield, attending Watsessing School, the Middle and High Schools as well.

What is your background in education / what field do you work in that you feel gives you the best experience to serve on the Board?

My career has been in the field of Mental Health as a Clinician, which I have 25 years of experience in. I have been employed for the past nine years at Mountainside Hospital Medical Center in Montclair. Prior to this, I worked many years for Essex County’s Psychiatric Hospital Center in Cedar Grove. Being that I am an incumbent, I have also engaged in several training hours serving on a now Certified Board of Education.

In your own words, what do you feel are the one or two biggest issues facing the Bloomfield school system today? 

I feel the two biggest issues facing the Bloomfield school system today, with the exception of COVID-19, are the need for greater staff diversity and our aging school buildings. I am currently working with my fellow board members on measures to improve both of these issues. Settling a recent teachers contract will aid in offering more competitive salaries to attract more diverse candidates. Also, installing ongoing safety upgrades in the form of security cameras, anti-intruder locks, new lighting, lockdown shades and panic alarms in accordance with Alyssa’s Law have improved our buildings.

In your own words, what does your platform stand for, and how do you feel it would benefit Bloomfield students and their parents? 

My platform focuses on two core issues. As stated, greater staff diversity, as well as social and emotional learning initiatives for all students. I am able to utilize my background to helpmonitor and promote interventions to aid in maintaining student’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. Due to the increases in teen suicide and reported adolescent depression and anxiety, this approach has become extremely vital in today’s society. I will continue to advocate for programs which help the individual student possess a greater understanding of managing emotions, relationship skills and improved self-awareness.

 

THOMAS HEANEY

 

How long have you been a Bloomfield resident? If you came up through the Bloomfield school system, what elementary school did you attend? 

I have been living in Bloomfield for 20 years. We moved here when our first son was born, and he and all my children attended Fairview School. 

 What is your background in education / what field do you work in that you feel gives you the best experience to serve on the Board?

In addition to working at Katherine Gibbs School and Hackensack University Medical Center, I spent seven years at Saint Peter's University in progressive leadership roles and advancement to Network Manager. I have been teaching scout skills to teenagers for about eight years now. I am also currently serving in the position of Chair of Finance and Facilities Committee on the Bloomfield Board of Education, which is a position I have held for three years. I am familiar with the approximately $120 million budget and how to plan effectively in a fiscally responsible manner. In my professional career, I have managed multi million dollar restaurants, as well as multi million dollar data centers. 

In your own words, what do you feel are the one or two biggest issues facing the Bloomfield school system today? 

COVID-19 is by far the biggest issue we face today; the safety of our children and our teachers and all our staff are of paramount importance. We are having to re-prioritize our project lists and spending habits to plan for an expected budget shortfall from the state, as well as an expected increase in spending for items like PPE and air filtration. Combine this pandemic issue with the fact that most all of our buildings are over 100 years old, and you have your second most pressing issue. It would be smart to keep stability of people who are experienced with the budgets and are certified board members who show leadership on how to manage an administration, and keep a stable environment during such unusual times for everyone.  

In your own words, what does your platform stand for, and how do you feel it would benefit Bloomfield students and their parents? 

Our platform (Experienced, Certified, Leadership) is to make sure the Bloomfield Board of  Education continues to have experienced board members who are certified and demonstrate leadership on the Bloomfield Board of Education as well as in the community. It would help to provide a continued safe learning environment for our kids without any of the drastic changes called for in the opposing party platform, which would cause churn in retention of both administration as well as teachers.