“Reimagine” is a term that needs little explanation for most Cranford Residents. A year ago, Cranford Superintendent Dr. Scott Rubin started a conversation with the community bearing the now-infamous moniker. The conversation included ideas such as centralizing grade levels, adding additional busing, and offering Full Day Kindergarten. Months of debate led to a town-wide survey that showed a desire to maintain neighborhood schools. The district committed to pursue change in line with the community’s values and brought an end to discussions about centralization and additional busing.
While I did not support the centralization initially proposed, I supported the effort to deliver Full Day Kindergarten, create space, and offer new services. I believed in the goals, but the tradeoffs of disrupting the neighborhood school model and introducing an unpredictable traffic impact were a bridge too far. I applaud our superintendent and board for being bold with their ideas and engaging the community to provide feedback and influence the process.
A year later, most of us have moved on. Unfortunately, some remain focused on the past. Rather than engaging constructively, they have resorted to anonymous mudslinging, misdirection, and fear-mongering about the intentions of current board members and the superintendent. Those who stand up to the negativity have become targets themselves.
Despite attempts to conflate the issue, this is not a debate about educational philosophy, zoning preferences, or the public’s right to transparency. Enlightened disagreement and healthy debate move a community forward. Fighting to maintain the things we love about Cranford – while asking tough questions of our elected volunteers -- is our shared responsibility. But in this fight, the method is as important as the cause. The slanderous politicking we’ve witnessed is unacceptable; it is the type of nonsense that many of us hoped to avoid when choosing to raise our families here.
Over the next decade, we face a growing student population driven primarily by state mandated high-density housing requirements, and we will need to invest in solutions that keep our schools at the top of the charts. At times, this will challenge our paradigms and sacred cows. We need honest, forward-thinking representatives to lead us through that journey.
According to the district survey, we favor plans that deliver improvements but also come at a higher price tag for taxpayers. Some of our priorities will prove costly to keep, and it is disingenuous to claim otherwise. Alternatively, doing nothing and maintaining status quo may seem fiscally attractive, but it is certainly not the way to remain a top school district. This is short-sighted thinking, and it will negatively impact our property values and quality of life.
As Election Day nears, my request is simple: stand up to this counterproductive behavior and reflect on the message received by children when it is normalized rather than repudiated. Regardless of who you choose to support, put our children’s education and emotional well-being first. Beware of hollow rhetoric and grandstanding that politicizes discontent with “Reimagine” and drums up fear about the resurgence of a proposal that is dead. Do not allow anger and hyperbole to overshadow experience and good judgment.
It is time to reimagine politics and move forward together. It cannot be overstated: we are all neighbors in Cranford, and our community is founded on good principles. Disparaging your neighbors for political gain is unacceptable. If we allow that behavior to persist, decent and civic-minded individuals will be discouraged from pursuing public service – the negative effects of which would be far worse than any school bus. We must reject the negativity as passionately as we reject high-density apartment buildings.