KENILWORTH, NJ - Kenilworth native Dr. Michelle Panichi officially became the President of the Board of Education at the annual re-organization meeting that was held on Wednesday, Jan. 6.  

Every year at the re-organization meeting all nine of the Board of Education members nominate and vote on who they would like to be board president and vice president. There needs to be a majority to win so the vote needs to be five votes or more. Panichi joined the Board of Education in January 2019. Each term is three years, so she plans to re-run in November for another three years if elected. 

Panichi currently works for Elizabeth Public Schools as an AVID Coordinator. She has a full-time teaching position that focuses on AVID, one of the college prep programs, and expanding the criminal justice and public safety programs. She has participated in many EPS projects and says the greatest ones are “the leadership opportunities and career path that I helped to create for students and the collaboration between organizations that better the school and city of Elizabeth.” In 2017 and 2020 Panichi was a recipient of the New Jersey Governor's Teacher of the Year Award. She also was recently appointed to the Board of Health at their re-organization meeting in January 2021. Panichi sat down with TAPinto Kenilworth to speak more about her background and future goals for Kenilworth Public Schools.

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You have quite the experience in education. Could you elaborate more on the positions you have held and some of your accomplishments?

At the moment I have leadership responsibilities and assist with our attendance (ATF- attendance task force, (APEX credit recovery programs), Saturday programs, parent and community outreach and coordination of student organizations and student leadership opportunities through several student-based organizations. My team and I work with several local city and county organizations to develop partnerships and internships for our students that benefit our school community and our community at large.

I work with a team of colleagues including the administrators in building guidance, and several other personnel to help our building run efficiently and offer the best education and services for the students in our Academy. I am currently assigned to Admiral William F. Halsey Jr., Health & Public Safety Academy (one of the high school academies in Elizabeth New Jersey).

I started student teaching at Montclair high school and then I was offered a position there but at the same time offer a position in Elizabeth public schools and I took it in 2006. From there in 2007 I wanted to continue to do good things for kids so I decided to work on getting additional certifications and then my doctorate in K through 12 administration, leadership and public policy from Seton Hall University. I graduated with honors and was inducted into Kappa Delta Pi. The International Honor Society in Education that was founded in 1911 and one of the first discipline-specific honor societies. Its membership is limited and only open to the top 20 percent of those entering the education field. In addition, undergraduates must have a 3.0 GPA, and graduate students a 3.50 GPA. Membership for active professionals varies in the field of education.

What motivated you to run for President of the Board of Education?

I ran for the Board of Education because I have a lot of experience, knowledge, and an extensive background in working with kids and on program development designed to increase and support student achievement and promote college readiness.

While attending Seton Hall for my doctoral studies I had the opportunity to participate in field research and work with over 30 different New Jersey high schools and their leadership teams. In addition, I’ve had opportunities for consulting, teacher planning, assisting with instruction and working on high school curriculums and grants

What issues do you think are most important to the Board of Education at this moment?

The issues that are most important to the Board of Education currently are offering quality education and moving student achievement forward while navigating through the hardships we as a community are facing due to the pandemic. In addition, to the student achievement component, we are focused on managing the financial impacts of the pandemic while continuing to offer quality academic and extracurricular programs, support services, and mental health services. One of our top priorities is maintaining school safety and making sure that our schools are safe and healthy environments for learning.

What is something people should know about you that they might not know already?

I’m a graduate of Harding School and David Brearley High School prior to it becoming David Brearley Middle School High School. I played Rec softball, basketball at Harding, and was senior class president at Brearley. I also was homecoming queen and junior and senior prom queen. I was interested in and participated in leadership organizations and activism as a student and believed in public service. This I continued throughout college and my professional career to pursue those passions.

Anything else you would like to say?

With the support and dedication of our superintendent, administrative and leadership teams, teachers, support staff, nurses, custodians, secretaries, coaches, security, students, parents, families, and all the local government bodies, community support and organizations we will all work together to get through this crisis and to persevere as a community. We are a community of strength and always will be! 

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