1. Why are you running for the Board of Education? If elected, what will be your priorities?
I am seeking re election to continue my quest for better education for the children and the parents have an independent voice. I would like to give the children in middle school more choices for electives, so they can start seeing their interest prior to high school. I would like to give the young men and women to leave hillside with the best chance to succeed after high school, whether that is college or a vocation.
2 Is there a particular issue that motivates you to serve on the board of education?
- I want students having more elective classes prior to high school to help them see their interest earlier. School safety and receive grants to free up money to be achieve these goals and keep taxes low.
- I also believe that you need people who have children in the schools on the board. As a parent, I see and experience the challenges that students and families face directly. I also know and understand how all of the schools operate and I can see how parents and students are treated.
3. What particular experiences or skills have you to serve as a board member?
- I am currently on the board and have had the 3 years to learn about our district and to see what the it needs to help the students succeed.
- I am a parent with children in the district so I have a vested interest in the how we educate our children and keep them safe.
- As a parent, I have been very involved in the schools as a PTA member and by volunteering at the schools for more than 10 years. As a result, I know how the schools operate, and have a broad view of what the experience at most of the schools is like.
- I work as a Firefighter here in Hillside, so I get to know and assist the families for many students. I also respond to emergencies in the schools so I know what challenges the Teachers and administrators face and I can see first hand, how our schools manage difficult situations.
- Before I was a firefighter, I was an office manager for a large New Jersey car dealership, so I understand how to build and manage a complex budget and deal with the administrative aspects of managing many buildings and people.
- I also own a house in town so I work to manage a better education and cost low. I understand why it is important to have highly rated school system that attracts new homeowners and retains my own house value.
4 .In what school district or community activities/organizations have you been involved?
- I work for the town as a firefighter and I am an FMBA representative.
- I previously volunteered as soccer coach for the recreation department and as a little league coach in town.
- As a parent, I have been very involved in the schools as a PTA member and by volunteering at Book Fairs and field days, chaperoning school trips. I was even the school santa for photos for many years at AP Morris (even after my children were no longer there).
- I support student and Hillside clean up activities thru out the year (example--the park clean up sponsored by the HS last year, the Hillside township clean up)
- I was a volunteer member of the Roselle Park First Aid Squad for more than 20 years. I was also the Captain for the organization for 10 years. In that role I led the organization, assured that we met all training standards and worked with the town and local FD.
- I am a Eucharistic Minister at the Church of the Assumption in Roselle Park and also assist as an usher and support their community events thru out the year.
- I am an active member of the Knights of Columbus.
- My wife will tell you that I have a habit of helping my neighbors before attending to the stuff around my house. I frequently assist my older neighbors with their gutters so that they do not need to be on a ladder, i rake their yards, I shovel their sidewalks and driveways and am always a phone call away any time they need help.
5. Why should you be elected to the Board of Education?
- I am currently on the board, working for the students and taxpayers. I have a head start on what the district needs to move forward.
- I am a parent with children in the district who also play in Hillside athletic programs. This helps me to understand what the district is doing in a very personal way. The decisions that I make, affect my children as well as the other residents.
- I also help to bring diversity to the board. I am the child of two Cuban immigrants. I am completely bi-lingual and can communicate with many of our families who might otherwise be unheard. I understand the cultural challenges that children of immigrants face and the deep ties to family and culture. I an example of what investing in the children of immigrants can bring. I am a dedicated and loving husband and parent who has devoted most of his life to serving his community.
- Finally, I am running as an independent, which means I am tied to no political party or agenda. I make independent decisions based upon what I truly believe are the best possible options for our students and the Township of Hillside.
1. What issues do you believe your district needs to address in its academic program and offerings? What changes would you recommend?
I think we need to offer middle school students more electives to prepare them for high school.
We need to offer more diverse and challenging reading materials
2. What should your school district do to better prepare students as citizens?
- Offer more elective classes and make sure the elective classes we offer are preparing them them for college and career ready. We have to poll the students to make sure we are offering them classes that are preparing them for their future.
- Consider options for students who will not go to college but pursue vocational careers. We need to present them will all options and help them understand what is available at Vo-tech as well as our schools.
- Focus on volunteer opportunities and grow our High School internship opportunities for students. Our partnership with the Hillside Family Success Center should continue.
- Support mentoring programs from Elementary School thru High School, for academic, social and emotional growth purposes.
3. What can be done to improve student achievement and ensure everyone who graduates is college-ready?
First, not all students who graduate will have a goal to attend college, and that is OK. Vocational careers are important to our communities and provide many students with stable futures, so we should still continue to support those students. For college ready, See question 2.
4. What is the role of schools in teaching children about topics such as: sex education, cyber-safety, AIDS, wellness, bullying?
- Schools already cover these topics in most health courses taught. We can enhance this by having public speakers touch on cyber safety and bullying as well as hands on programs. We have to make sure students understand the words they say or write about other students make cause them to harm themselves.
- We should find ways to offer the students a way to talk to some one about the health topics in private if they embarrassed to ask in class.
- We need to educate teachers and administrators about cyber bullying and how to spot the signs and also find ways to best manage cyber-bullying incidents.
5. What are your thoughts on your school district's programs for special education students, English Language Learners (ELL), and gifted students?
All children are important. Figuring out the need to help them learn at their own pace is important. We must continue to support teaching children in the ways that they will best learn. We must also make sure that we are still challenging these children at their own pace.
We need to support ELL families as well as students so that they can be more involved in their children's education.
We need more opportunities to challenge our gifted students. There is a struggle for children who learn faster than their peers to remain engaged in class, because they get bored, or just need to learn at a faster pace. We need to acknowledge that and find ways to support teachers who are trying to diversify the learning levels in their classrooms.
School Board Issues Questions:
1. What is your vision for education in this community?
· A strong education system that challenges every student to be the best student he or she can be and encourages families to grow and develop with students. It engages families in the process and includes close ties to outreach for any student and family who needs help (educationally or otherwise). We are educating our future citizens and we need to find diverse ways to meet their needs and have them ready for a vocational career or college when they graduate.
2. What do you see as the major issue(s) facing your school district? Public education?
- Balancing the needs of students with a limited budget.
- We need to address how we backfill teachers who take short term leave, change positions or leave the district. It takes too long for us to fill these positions and that is disruptive to our students.
- Assuring that we have a challenging curriculum for all students that address all students including our academically gifted students and those requiring enhanced learning assistance (Title 1, IEPs etc).
- Our middle school students need more choices for electives so that they can be better prepared as they enter high school.
- We have also faced a turmoil due to Administrative turnover that makes it difficult for our teachers, students and families. We need to provide them with more consistency.
3. What are your areas of concern regarding student achievement in your district?
- We need to look at the whole student. I am not always comfortable just looking at test scores to measure our success. Our kids need to be challenged to read books and articles that will push them to think. I have seen some improvement here with my own children. They are getting more compelling reading and writing assignments. This needs to start early so that they are prepared when they reach the Middle and High school.
- We have many bright students who are limited by language. Continued investment in ESL programs and outreach to their families will help to bridge this gap.
- Many families struggle with how math strategies are taught in the schools. Some schools have math nights where they help parents with this. Programs like that should be supported. We need to improve math skills in general and continue to offer advanced math programs for students who want them.
4. Do you have specific suggestions for improvement? Answered as part of #3
5. Given all the issues that arise, how can the board stay focused on student achievement?
- By educating themselves and attending training to understand how to best manage a district. There is training offered to members every year at school board convention and also thru out the year. Our knowledge helps us to assess what our Superintendent and administrator is doing and helps us to understand the challenges faced by students and teachers.
- Ask questions and make sure that we understand WHY we are voting on certain motions and understand the outcomes and tradeoffs of those decisions.
- We need to keep party politics out of our decision making process.
- We need to carefully screen all people hired to support the board and the district.
6. How does a school board balance the need to provide a quality education with the need to respond to the local taxpayer burden?
- By making careful decisions about how money is spent on each motion where we vote.
- By encouraging active grant writing in order to secure money that will offset taxpayer expenses.
- By looking at contracts that are not effective or inefficient and addressing them. There should be no “favors” granted in any vendor arrangements. They should all be fair and balanced decisions.
7. What are your thoughts on the current and the proposed budget for your school district?
- I support the current budget (which was a 0% increase this year), but going forward I want to secure more grants to offset taxpayer impacts.
- In past years—when I felt the budget was excessive or placed too much burden on tax payers I voted against the budget.
8. As a board member, where would you look to make budget cuts?
- This is difficult. I would first focus on where we have chances to make things more efficient or lower costs. Can we cut costs by using less paper and more digital options? The district has made strives in this area but we still have other things that we can do here. One example might be a program that allows parents to do all of their beginning of the year paperwork online. Many schools in the county already do this. We would still need to help families that do not have the ability to do this at home, but most families have internet and or a smart phone.
- Other things to consider—our vendor contracts. Are there ways that we can negotiate better deals. Are we paying for services that we don’t really use? We should always consider these things as part of our decision making process. We should also look to see where shared services with other districts might lower our costs.
- Every time we are asked to vote on an expense, we need to ask if this is the best use of taxpayer money.
- Instead of cuts—lets look at what grants we can secure. We need to look at grants for school safety which will help offset cost of our SROs and security staff.
9. Are there any areas you would not consider cutting?
- Every budget decision would need to be made with the whole picture, so this answer might vary based on the choices that need to be made at the time, but I would never sacrifice any costs tied to education of our children.
10. How would you determine your budget priorities?
- Education and Children come first, Safety of our students and staff is critical
- Programs that have the most impact on the greatest number of students come next.
11. What changes should be made on the state and local level regarding public education?
Standardized Testing helps us to understand our strengths and weaknesses but we have too much focus on it. The PARCC/ NJ Learn has become so important that teachers are forced to teach kids to pass a test. We waste instructional days practicing for tests instead of learning new things. We need better ways to assess student growth and performance and we need to stop tying funding and programs to standardized test scores.
Editor's Note: All candidates were provided the same questions and opportunity to respond. We are publishing all responses received by the established deadline as submitted by the candidates in their entirety.