Education

East Brunswick Board of Education: Meet Candidate Todd Simmens

cbc7e506918dcd328d95_Todd.Simmens.bus.full.0708_-_Copy.JPG
BOE President Todd Simmens Credits: Professional portrait
cbc7e506918dcd328d95_Todd.Simmens.bus.full.0708_-_Copy.JPG

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Todd Simmens, current and past president of the East Brunswick Board of Education, has served the township during a period of tremendous change in education locally and nationally.  When he started in 2007 as a BOE member, he watched the district manage and succeed on the NJASK and HSPA standardized testing programs.  That was tough enough, but the walking in the PARCC has been much harder.

Simmens recognizes that standardized testing for established benchmarks as indicative years throughout a students education (eg. testing at grades 4, 8, and 11) has been around for decades and the information was valuable in updating curriculum and monitoring students' progress.  However, Simmens says, "There never seemed to be such a disruption in the past.  The tests captured the information that the schools needed." 

"Today, " he continued, "There is far more pressure on staff, schools, and administrators to 'produce'  plus there's the implementation of technology....We need to understand what we really want out of testing."  Simmens noted that the testing has been used for student placement; evaluation of individual schools and the school system itself; teacher evaluation; the high points and low points of what a district is doing; and, in some sense, it is "a measure of the entire community."

Sign Up for E-News

"Policy-makers in New Jersey are still not sure what data they want from the test.  Testing every year is too much, " said Simmens, while admitting, "I totally get that a technology-based test is what is needed now and in the future." 

"In East Brunswick, we are getting better at the local piece; every year it has gotten a bit better.  Then the state sends a sterile, computer-generated report to the parents," said Simmens.  "Parents are right to ask 'What does that tell me about my kid?'  Teachers report on students 8 times a year, sometimes more.  Surely that is solid, understandable information."

Referring to the upcoming state gubernatorial elections, Simmens said, "I am hopeful that he way we test and the idea of testing every year could be revised."  He suggested that the new administration could "Bring all the right stakeholders into the room to discuss the testing in all districts A-J and walk through what the right way to do this is. (Schools in New Jersey were formerly evaluated according to a matrix based mostly on the economic level of the community.  The designation A represented the lowest income districts.  East Brunswick was an I district. Schools are now evaluated to a  more complex "apples to apples" format that compares schools with similar variables.)

When asked about the students who "opted-out" of the PARCC tests and the parents who allowed them to do so, Simmens said, "As I parent, I feel that parents should be parents first.  You know them better than anybody else.  Do what's best for your child."

"As a member of the Board of Education, I feel that this testing is put in the laps of every district in the state of New Jersey.  Yes, there are consequences for the district and to individual students.  I am hopeful that the new administration will take a fresh look."

With regard to bullying and climate concerns in the district, Simmens was hopeful and supportive of the special programs, workshops, training, and general awareness and cultural sensitivity expressed by the staff.  "I think that principals can select the programming that works best for their schools.  What is effective in high school is not necessarily the best thing for an elementary school.  Principals, counselors, teachers, and Special Education staff know the students best."

He also noted that the security program has its role in creating and maintaining a safe environment.  In the upper grades, Simmens says he is pleased to see guards building rapport with the students.  "There needs to be a balance between security and caring."

"However, " stressed Simmens, "The best thing to do is to keep students engaged with school and school activities. How do we reach the student who will be interested and looking forward to the next day of school?   Connected students are less like to be bullies or bullied." 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

East Brunswick

Pinkin Resolution to Raise Awareness of Gun Violence passes Assembly

May 24, 2018

TRENTON, NJ - Assembly Democrats Yvonne Lopez, Angela McKnight and Nancy Pinkin resolution to raise awareness of gun violence was voted out of the Assembly 67-0 on Thursday.
            The measure (AJR-100) designates June 2 of each year as “Gun Violence Awareness Day” in New Jersey in order to promote ...

Learn How to “Ace The Interview” at the East Brunswick Public Library

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—Looking for a new job? East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) is here to help. The library offers a special program called “Acing the Interview” on Saturday, June 16 at 10:30 am, which is designed to help jobseekers.

“Acing the Interview” focuses on what many feel is the most stressful part of the job search process: ...

East Brunswick Public Library Launches “EB Grow” Seed Library

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—Every spring, library customers visit East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) to find resources on how to garden. Thanks to a joint partnership between East Brunswick Public Library and the Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission, gardeners will be able to get some “seed money” to start their first crops for the year.

The ...

The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani (Ballentine Books, 2005)

            The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani, a New York Times best selling author, was recommended to me by a young woman who actually came from the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania, the place where the novel is set. “The author did such a wonderful job of describing how the town actually is,” said the young lady.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press, 2018)

            What is the “final frontier” on the Earth's surface? Many people would say Alaska, the 49th state, which was added to the United States fifty years ago. Once one has traveled to that remote land, it is impossible to forget the magnificence of the terrain and beasts. Floating by ship in Glacier Bay, surrounded by ...

'Turning Off the Morning News' brings comic twist

‘Turning Off the Morning News’ tackles today’s issues with a comic twist

By Liz Keill

PRINCETON, N J – Despite the late night comics, no one quite captures the insanity of the political/social status world like Christopher Durang.

His latest play, “Turning off the Morning News” hit the ground running.  John Pankow as Jimmy addresses the audience, ...

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Sustains Timeless Appeal

SUMMIT, NJ – The Summit Playhouse provides a stellar production of a much loved classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The Harper Lee novel, later a Gregory Peck film and now a stage production, retains all the warmth, intensity and integrity that made it such an appealing hit in the 1960s. And there will be a new production on Broadway in December with a script by Aaron Sorkin ...