LIVINGSTON, NJ — Meet Ronnie Konner: The current Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) member who is running for reelection on Nov. 3.
Konner, who has lived in Livingston for more than 50 years, is at the end of the one-year unexpired term that she attained unopposed in last year’s LBOE election. This year, still determined to complete the work she set out to do in January, Konner is hoping to maintain her role on the board by achieving the three-year term that is currently available.
“I feel that there is a lot to do,” said Konner, who has served a combined total of nearly 10 years on the LBOE. “I feel that I bring an insider’s view to the table and I also feel like I’m the reality check. I have a unique perspective, I have that long-time community connection and I also have the educational background that I can use to help move the district ahead.”
Konner, the currently retired grandmother of four Livingston Public Schools students, taught Spanish in the Livingston school district for 15 years before retiring in 2014. According to Konner, one of her greatest accomplishments during her time as an educator was, apart from being inducted into the Livingston High School Hall of Fame in 2013, developing and teaching the Elementary Spanish Program.
As a product of the Livingston Public Schools system herself, an educational leader, and a mother invested in her children’s education, Konner felt the need to get involved almost immediately after her oldest daughter began Kindergarten.
“Someone had said to me, ‘When you’re not happy with how decisions are made, that’s when you decide to get involved,’” said Konner. “And for me that was the case and I felt like I had something to offer.”
Before running for her first term on the LBOE at the request of many parents and community members, Konner was regularly attending meetings for the sake of being in the loop. Ultimately, Konner served nine years on the board, during which she was president twice and vice president once.
Now that the school district is repeating history as it searches for a new superintendent, in a similar fashion as Konner experienced as president in the 80s, Konner said her history on the board would be extraordinarily valuable. In fact, when people in the community realized that the remaining board members had only two-and-a-half years of experience following Leslie Winograd and David Jasin’s resignations in 2014, they suggested that Konner put a bid in for the 2014 election.
“Having worked with a great number of superintendents, I know there are certain personality traits as well as responses to questions that help you fine-tune who best meet the needs of our district,” said Konner. “I think that my past experiences and insights were valuable as part of the superintendent-search process when we interviewed candidates.”
Konner said she is running for one of the two open seats in 2015 because finding a permanent superintendent is still a top priority and one that she feels she could be a tremendous asset toward. However, Konner also said this is not the only incentive she has for running again.
During her years as an educator, Konner was also on the Livingston Technology Committee and said she could be instrumental in discovering cost-effective ways to move forward in the 1:1 initiative.
“I have a lot of professional interest in terms of the technology,” said Konner. “I really want to see that start to move and I feel very strongly that we need someone with an education background who will pave the way for how the kids would be using technology. That was a very big passion of mine [when I decided to run for the one-year term.”
With more than 40 graduate credits in technology and experience teaching integration of technology in both classrooms and online, Konner intends to make use of her technology background if elected. Konner, who spearheaded a program where elementary-aged students communicated with Spanish-speaking pen pals in Mexico, said the kids need more authentic experiences like that and that the 1:1 initiative could provide them.
If elected, Konner also said maintaining a close relationship with the town council, so that they can coordinate on public issues like school parking, would be a top priority. According to Konner, both five-member groups should meet together so that the public has an opportunity to come and present any concerns they have to both bodies at one time.
Konner said she wants the LBOE to be able to come to decisions and take action on them rather than simply discussing them at meetings. If elected, Konner said she is determined to take action on these priorities.
“What’s really important to me is that the allocation of resources from the budget need to be able to really make a difference in the education of out students,” said Konner. “We need to be able to look at every dollar we spend and say, ‘Is this going to improve the students’ education?’ All of our decisions need to revolve around the students.”
Konner said her position as a candidate is unique because of her status as a retired Livingston resident. Not only will she be able to collect feedback from her own grandchildren and former students and come to conclusions based on her experience on the board, but she will also have the extra time to be out in the community, exploring its issues.
“As a retiree, I’ve been available to attend a lot of different district events during the day, whereas some of the other board members can’t,” said Konner. “I think that my status right now does actually let me go into the schools and let the people in the schools know the board is supporting what they’re doing and see what’s going on in the district.”
When Konner first started her career in the Livingston Public Schools system, she was a product the schools and said that she had been well served. According to Konner, her education in Livingston prepared her for college as well as for life. As a board member, Konner said she wants the current Livingston students to feel the same way.