EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - New to politics and eager to do service to the East Brunswick Public Schools, Board of Education Candidate Jean Reger thinks that students' mental health and school climate are important issues that could use some more attention.
"Students' mental health is the #1 key to school safety," said Reger in an interview with TAPinto East Brunswick. "We need more Student Assistance Counselors (SACs) at the high school and in Churchill." (Currently, there are two in each building.)
"The Student Services staff is comprised of brilliant people who make a positive difference in the schools. They show compassion for students in crisis or students who have mental health issues. People don't feel comfortable talking about problems with just anyone."
Reger also is concerned about the impact of cyberbullying on students and would like the BOE to take a sophisticated, technology-based approach to tracking down those who abuse their peers on the internet. "I know this is hard to enforce," said Reger, "But it matters a lot. Threats go unaddressed, and nothing really happens. I am sure that there is room in the budget for tracing messages."
An EBHS 2016 graduate, Reger is currently at student at Middlesex County College, majoring in Political Science. She said, "I think the BOE may be missing the mark in relating to students, My age brings a great perspective. I know the actual teachers. I have been through the lockdowns. I have taken the standardized tests. The BOE is doing a great job, but sometimes they just don't get it. I know the teachers, the students, and the issues."
Reger, who became interested in running for a Board position because of her dissatisfaction with the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, said, "I want to work to protect the East Brunswick School District from a federal government that doesn't seem to care about public education."
Reger, who has played piano and violin onstage in East Brunswick, also praised the Performing Arts and Arts Education programs in the schools. "I am concerned about the allocation of funds. I perceive that there may be some waste in athletics that could be spread to other activities that involve many students."
As a candidate, Reger looked into the backgrounds of the other BOE members, all of whom are considerably older and have some experience on the Board. "They are going to be my colleagues," she said. "They care about our schools, so we all have that in common.
Reger would like teachers to have a greater say in the decision-making process. "I want them to be in the meeting. If there were an opportunity, they would show up."
With regard to the PARCC and other forms of standardized assessment, Reger sees testing as a "necessary evil" upon which to gain information and build a strong academic program. She noted that the PARCC was "too expensive" and took "almost 2 months to get through, which was stressful for students and teachers." She sees the time taken up by testing and test preparation as "slowing down" the educational process."
Inspired by Middlesex County Freeholder Kenneth Armwood who began his political career as a member of the Piscataway Board of Education when he, too, was 19, Jean Reger said, "I will work in the best interest of the district."
*EDITOR'S NOTE: 5 candidates are on the ballot for 3 places on the East Brunswick Board of Education in the election that will be held on Tuesday, November 7. The incumbents running for re-election include current BOE President Todd Simmens, Susanna W. Chiu, and Laurie Lachs. The 2 first-time candidates are Jean Reger and John Gonzalez, who will be featured in an upcoming article.