EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - One would think that John Gonzalez has had enough of education, kids, coaching and outreach since he is in the middle of a career as an educator who spends his days doing the tough work of a vice-principal in a school for students with special needs. Well, one would be wrong.
John Gonzalez grew up in Jersey City and moved to East Brunswick in 2011, mostly because of the township's reputation for superior schools. Since then, he has coached football for the St. Bart's Buffalos and baseball for the East Brunswick Baseball League.
He has also become involved as a parent of a student in Chittick School Elementary School, with a focus on the needs of Special Education students. through his professional life and personal experience, Gonzalez has seen both successes and struggles in the programs available to bring all children forward and to capitalize on students' skills.
"Last year, " Gonzalez said in an interview with TAPinto East Brunswick, "I reached the breaking point for becoming involved politically in the schools. I wanted to become part of the conversation about the correct placement and intervention for students."
Gonzalez described his son's difficulty in some educational placements - "push-ins," "pull outs," "self-contained classrooms" - and the lack of recognition for what "triggers" lead to success or failure for individual students. He became even more interested in the strategies that are "best for students to become successful."
Additionally, as a Vice-Principal and HIB Coordinator at Barringer High School in Newark, Gonzalez said he saw "an improvement of climate and culture" when pro-active anti-bullying strategies were implemented at New Jersey's oldest high school.
"It's a matter of raising up everyone, " said Gonzalez, "and creating a positive environment." Gonzalez cited efforts like "Caught Being Good," "Blue Bucks" (a school reward program) and Nuture Heart, a program of strategic interventions for students who challenge authority.
"However, " asserted Gonzalez, " what really works in preventing bullying is educating all the parties concerned - parents, staff, students, the PTA - everyone who comes into contact with the kids." Gonzalez supports speakers and assemblies about social and cultural differences.
He also stated that "Some parents give students too much freedom without adult supervision, especially on the internet, which sometimes leads to cyberbullying and targeting."
As member of the Board of Education, Gonzalez says, "I am ready to have the tough conversations with the parents at the bus stops. I come from a customer service background."
With regard to standardized testing, Gonzalez calls the PARCC and other formats a "necessary evil" to get the information required to adapt instruction. "We want some measure. We want to be informed, " said Gonzalez. Yet Gonzalez called the adminstration of the tests a "nightmare" and would prefer some flexibility in testing approaches. "I am up for that discussion, "he said.
"The best thing about East Brunswick, " said the candidate, "Is the community feeling and pride in the family. We are all doing this for the kids. I want to make a connection and get to know the children and the families."
*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.