LIVINGSTON, NJ — Meet Livingston Board of Education candidate Barry Funt:
Current Occupation: Chief Executive Officer of Forum Partners Debt Investment Management, LLC
Education: High School: Ranney School, Tinton Falls, NJ; College: Brandeis University; Law School: NYU School of Law.
Family: Two LHS graduates (2004 and 2015) and two current LHS students.
Years lived in Livingston: 18 years
Q: Why are you running for the board of education?
A: As a parent, I have sent four children through the Livingston school system. One graduated in 2004. Another just graduated this past June, and two others are currently in LHS. Every child is different and four trips through the Livingston educational experience offers insights about the totality of that experience. My prior service also provides me with the requisite experience to help the transition of our new Superintendent; contribute to the shaping of our school budget; and to assist in union contract negotiations, which will come up during this next term.
Q: What do you believe is the most important issue in this election? How would you change it?
A: Many issues are important. One that is personal to me is formed from my experience as a parent with four very different children. Our district offers significant resources that challenge those students who embrace a varied and rigorous course offerings, and I’m supportive of that. As a board member, I supported improving our offering for special needs students and working to do what we can to improve our in-district enrollment—and I would continue that effort.
My experience, and the experience of others who have shared with me, is that the kids in the middle too often fall through the cracks. The high school experience is different for everyone, and I want to assure that the district, while striving for excellence for all students, demonstrates more sensitivity to those who may not be “college ready” and offer them more information and encouragement for alternative paths to success.
Q: What other issues are important to you?
A: The mental health of our students. From the earliest years, students hear “there is a college for everyone.” While that is generally true, the phrase creates an expectation that college is either the only or most desirable path. This creates needless pressure on students who are not informed well enough of other options, and begin to question the value of the education they are receiving at LHS if they don’t follow the college path.
My most recent graduate was not “college ready.” After much discussion and research, he decided to enlist in the United States Air Force and recently graduated from basic training. He will be trained for a security-clearance-level job working at a base command post. Depending on their jobs, Airmen during their four-year term of service may be able to accumulate close to two years of college credits through a combination of job training and other educational opportunities. After four years of service, options include either continuing an Air Force career, entering the work force, or enrolling in college, with more maturity, better focus and tuition paid by the Air Force.
Whether it’s better understanding military service options or vocational school programs, we need to do a better job of letting students and parents know that there are multiple paths for success.
Q: Tell us about your other career.
A: I currently run a newly formed commercial real estate debt fund. We are in the early stages of capital raising and I work for an institutional money manager based in London. My experience in both real estate and finance aided me during my prior service on the board in both being able to evaluate the needs of our facilities and in approving the school budget.
Q: What should people know about you that they might not know already?
A: I am a long-suffering Mets fan. I think cheering for a team that doesn’t win every year builds character and teaches you not to take success for granted.