EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Five candidates are running for three seats on the East Brunswick Board of Education on Tuesday, November 5, TAPinto East Brunswick has asked each candidate a set of questions so that readers can learn their views on important elements involved in advising the administration of the East Brunswick Public Schools. Questions were sent to the candidates - Liwu Hong, Heather Guas, Mark Csizmar, Curt Philipczak, and Wesam Berjaoui - last week. The answers to one question at a time will appear in a series of four articles here on TAP.
This final question has been on the minds of many parents, students, and staff, especially since there has been in the scheduling of arts programs at Hammarskjold. East Brunswick has been known for excellence in its arts and music programs. With the impact of increased student time in core subjects like Math, there may be a reduction in available instructional time for the arts.
4. What is the best way to validate and strengthen art and music programs throughout the grade levels?
Liwu Hong - "Many researches show that art and music programs can help students to perform better academically, to raise their confidence, to develop creative thinking, an eagerness and willingness to learn, and to help our students to be successful long-term. Most people will agree that art and music education is extremely important in childhood development. One way to validate and strengthen art and music programs is to balance all subjects such as dance, drama, and music education in our classrooms, especially when the budget is tight. Additionally, schools shall take advantage of other possible social resources such as private donors and non-profit organizations. For certain programs, our school can share the services with local municipalities and other districts to provide more options to our students for the art and music programs."
Curt Philipczak - "Logically, you should not reduce the instruction time the arts in the secondary school (Hammarskjold) if you wish to strengthen the Arts. Not just to be discussed during election time, but when it came up in the budget time. I came to the board and spoke during the public portion, to voice my opposition to the reduction of class time of the Arts for the possibility of a two-period math. In my opinion the Arts offer something truly unique time of creative learning that must be valued not so much calculated on test results. In the process of the Board of Education, the logistics of a curriculum change of that level must be discussed over a sufficient amount of time so all the shareholders have the proper time to fully understand the administrative reasons why the change is being suggested. Nothing should be rushed or adjusted in the budget until a vote is taken specifically on that part of the budget. The Arts should be looked upon as an integral part of education in East Brunswick and enhances our children’s creative side and gives them another emotional outlet."
Wesam Berjaoui - "It is critical and of utmost importance to strengthen our arts and music programs starting from kindergarten. The East Brunswick Township has made a commitment to the Arts and Music and has been increasing their programs, and the schools district should do the same. The art and music programs spur a level of creativity in our children that many of the standard subjects can't. Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork. We live in a world where creativity is King and that leads to innovation and technology. Our schools should be at the forefront of enabling our children to be as creative as possible starting with the arts and music."
Heather Guas - "I believe that the arts are the soul of the schools. While all schools offer the core academics, it is the difference in offerings in the Arts that distinguish our East Brunswick schools. East Brunswick's Arts Programs have been used as a model program throughout New Jersey. During budget cuts in recent years, the East Brunswick Board of Education worked to preserve the arts programs and maintained their funding. My own children enjoyed the creative arts and music programs within the elementary schools, and have continued with instrumental instruction and arts electives in the upper grades. The supplemental programs, chorus, and instrumental music provide a way for our youngest students to begin to enjoy the arts of their choice. I believe that offering more fun opportunities for students to showcase their growing abilities within their schools and the community validates the Fine Arts Programs. The Visual Arts are often displayed within the Board of Education Building and in beautiful displays within the Public Library. At the Middle and High School levels, East Brunswick provides a wealth of offerings to allow students to find their area to shine in electives and clubs. The cycle classes at Hammarskjold combined with student electives allow the students greater opportunities to try new art forms and inspire a life long love of art and music. I believe the district should continue to support these programs and find ways to expose students to a wide variety of arts offerings in both classes and clubs at every grade level."
Mark Czismar - "Our art and music programs are already outstanding. Arts Ed NJ has rated our High School as a Model School in the Arts. We cannot sit on our achievements and should always be monitoring the quality of our programs. The best way to strengthen art and music programs in our schools is to first listen. Listen to experts like our Supervisors and Teachers to see what they need. Listen to our students and the programs they would like to have. Listen to the public and take heed to the programs they would like to see maintained or increased. I saw the passion of our residents in Board meetings this past year and I listened. Then the proper path for any changes should occur through review by the Curriculum Committee. When it comes time for me to vote on any changes, I will have taken in information from many sources and only then can I make an educated decision on how to proceed.