LIVINGSTON, NJ - Ronnie Ferber Konner has announced that she has filed her petition with the Essex County Clerk to seek one of the two open seats that will be available in the November Livingston Board of Education election. Konner, who currently serves on the BOE, was elected this past November to fill a one-year unexpired term, after being appointed to serve on the board in August of 2014.
Konner said she believes that she is in a unique position, with more perspectives and experiences to bring to the BOE than any past or current BOE member. Her qualifications include (1) Ten years of service on the BOE; (2) A master’s degree in education from Johns Hopkins University, and more than 30 years of teaching at all levels—elementary, middle school, high school, and college at the graduate level; (3) Four grandchildren in the Livingston school system; and (4) Her community involvement during her fifty-year residence in Livingston.
Elected to three terms on the Livingston BOE, from 1983-1992, Konner served twice as president and once as vice president during that time period.
Last June, Konner retired as a K-5 teacher of Spanish in LPS, teaching at Burnet Hill and Riker Hill Schools, and previously at Hillside, Collins and for a short time at Harrison, as well.
In addition, the Livingston Education Foundation selected Konner to be inducted into the LHS Hall of Fame in 2013 as an outstanding educator. In 1992, faced with budget cuts and state caps, Konnor worked together with a group of community members to found the Livingston Education Foundation. While serving on the LBOE, she supported the establishment of the all-day Kindergarten Program, Alternative High School, change from a Junior High to a Middle School program, and the expansion of the School-Community Television Studio at LHS. During her initial tenure, she reviewed demographic changes within the district that necessitated the closing, re-opening, and review of the grade configuration of the schools and expansion of Livingston High School. She said she has also worked for pro-active action by the board in the area of planning for the future, in part by serving on a former Livingston Strategic Planning Committee.
As a seasoned board member, Konner said she would like to continue to provide a sense of past history within the district, to be well informed and exercise sound decision-making in working collaboratively with the other board members, to set goals, policies, budgets, and appoint personnel who will effectively administer the schools, as well as to create a long-range strategic plan for the future.
This past year, when asked why she wanted to return to public office, Konner responded that she had a vision to see every child in Livingston come to school each day excited to learn, to develop a love for whatever their personal interest may be, and to realize their full potential to learn, create, collaborate and contribute both locally and globally.
In her most recent tenure on the BOE, Konnor said she has worked collaboratively with her fellow board members and the interim superintendent to conduct a search for an educational leader for the district, create a budget to address the areas of technology, curriculum, reduced class sizes and special education, facilities, as well as review and revise the organization of the district.
As a retiree, Konnor said she attended many district activities and New Jersey School Board Association and Essex County School Board meetings. She was also appointed as the Board of Education representative to the Garden State Coalition, HCHY (Healthy Children Healthy Youth), PT Council, the Town-wide Diversity Committee, District Technology Committee, and as liaison to Collins, Riker Hill, and most recently Mt. Pleasant Elementary Schools. Konner has also served as an advocate at Garden State Coalition meetings asking the commissioner about such issues as the superintendent salary cap, funding to administer state mandates, such as the PARCC, and ways to help districts with shared resources.
In identifying future needs in the district, Konner said she would promote goals to establish a strategic long-range plan, as Livingston’s plan has not been updated these past two years. Konner has also identified the priorities of expansion of technology resources and devices as well as professional development for staff. With more than forty graduate credits in technology, as well as being the past recipient of an AT&T Grant and a Geraldine Dodge Grant to integrate technology, and a former adjunct professor of technology, Konnor said she believes that district curriculum planning must include providing devices that can be used not just for students to take assessments, but also to enable students to have real life experiences beyond their classrooms in Livingston, in all curricular areas.
She said that the technology students use at home should not surpass what can be provided in the schools. Livingston has made tremendous advances in this area this past year and needs to continue to plan for the future, according to Konnor. She added that initiatives, such as: 1:1 or (BYOD) Bring Your Own Device will be programs that will expand students’ abilities to utilize and integrate technology into their programs. According to Konnor, the challenge will be to provide budgeting for these initiatives within the two percent cap. Konnor also said that students and staff need access to embedded programs within the schools, as well as the curriculum. She added that professional development should not just include bi-yearly workshops for staff and that students should be used as resources, and with their teachers, they should provide their expertise in technology by participating in recorded “TechTalks,” which can be created in the same manner as the “LANCETalks” were this past year.
“We need to use all of our resources—students, staff, and community,” said Konnor.
In addition, according to Konnor, a major undertaking this coming year will be to once again search for an educational leader—a permanent superintendent for LPS. The board was unable to identify a permanent superintendent after the search this past winter, said Konnor.
“Unfortunately, due to the current salary cap, there are many districts in the same position as Livingston,” she shared. “There is not a large pool of candidates with experience as a superintendent in districts similar to Livingston. Our Interim Superintendent Mr. O’Neill has provided leadership and continued to move the district forward. As a result, we have many new organizational changes that will need to be monitored to ensure success.”
Konner also stated, “There are many challenges that will face the members of the Livingston Board of Education this coming year. I ask for your support in enabling me to continue to provide my unique blend of service, experience and perspective to appropriate board governance with my fellow members.”
Konnor’s family members include her husband, Alvin, their two daughters and son-in-laws Zanna and Scott Lantzman, who are current Livingston residents, and Alexis and David Benbassat, and son and daughter-in-law, Jarett and Maggie Konner. In addition, the Konners are grandparents to eight children. Livingston students include Macen (at LHS), Zane (at Heritage), Kai (at Collins) and Hunter (at Riker Hill). Their other grandchildren include Justin and Alyssa Benbassat (at Hartshorn School in Short Hills) and Brooke and Audra who are pre-school age and reside in Caldwell.
Not only is Konner concerned about the education of her immediate family members, and the hundreds of Livingston students she previously taught, but she said she views all the children of Livingston as “her kids” and wants them to be able to have the best educational experiences so they are prepared to contribute to “our rapidly changing global community.”
Konner said she is open to comments and suggestions and welcomes the opportunity to dialogue with the community and the other candidates for the Board of Education to share her ideas. She said she believes that “we have the responsibility of charting the future for our children—our most important community resource.” Every decision that is made needs to put our children first, according to Konnor.