This article has been published as part of a series of profiles on Livingston Board of Education Candidates. All candidates will be featured individually during the week leading up to the November 2019 election.
LIVINGSTON, NJ – Meet Alyse Berger Heilpern, a 15-year Livingston resident running for Livingston Board of Education in the upcoming election on Nov. 5.
Alyse Berger Heilpern graduated from Wayne Hills High School in 1993, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Binghamton University as well as a Juris Doctor degree from Seton Hall University School of Law. She currently works as an attorney for L’Abbate, Balkan, Colavita & Contini, LLP.
Her husband, Ken Heilpern, was raised in New City, New York and currenly works as a veterinarian. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University and his Veterinariae Medicinae Doctoris degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Together, they have two daughters: an eighth grader at Heritage Middle School and a fourth grader at Hillside Elementary School.
Q: Why are you running for board of education? (Again, if incumbent?)
A: I am running because I believe, as great as our schools are, I can bring my diverse skills and work with stakeholders to do better. We can do a better job of educating every child at their academic level. Education is not just academics, but it also means providing our children with the skills and tools that they will need to be happy, productive members of society post-graduation.
Q: Why do you feel you deserve the job? What qualifies you for it?
A: Through my involvement in our community, I have learned so much about our diverse needs. I have been actively involved in the Hillside School PTA, where I served on the executive board for 3 years. In addition, I served on the Special Education Parents’ Advisory Committee for 4 years. I am a member of the township’s committee for Diversity and Inclusion. I have been an active member of Temple Beth Shalom for the past 14 years, and currently serve on the Temple’s Board of Education.
As an attorney, I know that it is important to listen to all sides, to educate myself, and to do research. As an attorney, I often do not personally agree with my clients, but I know that their interests are paramount because I am not representing myself -- just so are the interests of our community as a whole.
I am qualified to be a school board member because I know and understand that school board members represent the parents, students, taxpayers, and staff of the district, and I am qualified because I am open minded, thoughtful, and approachable, qualities that will enable me to connect with our community even more and understand the needs of those I represent. I am qualified because I am present in our community, dedicated to all stakeholders, and willing, ready, and able to do the work.
Q: What do you believe is the most important issue in this local election? How would you change it?
A: I believe that social and emotional learning is an important issue, not only in this election but in our society. Part of educating the whole child means evaluating their social and emotional wellness and assessing how our efforts to promote social and emotional wellness are coordinated and implemented throughout our district. We need to make sure that our programs assist our students in understanding and managing their emotions, setting goals, forming relationships, and making age appropriate decisions. Our children’s safety and well-being depend on all who interact with them.
Our elementary, middle and high schools have already made great strides in incorporating social and emotional learning into the curriculum and providing assistance to students through a broad range of counseling and support systems. Hillside Elementary School is nationally recognized for its school-wide character education program. This program provides students with an understanding of social norms in the form of pillars of character: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Caring, and Citizenship. Cross-sections of students and teachers meet in small groups, “caring communities,” to work on various activities that reinforce the pillars of character.
In the middle and high schools, student assistance counselors provide support for students who are experiencing problems that range from mental health issues to those affected by substance use in one-on-one settings.
As set forth in the District’s Strategic Plan, we should build upon these successes by collaborating with community stakeholders including our PTA/PTO/HSA, to provide programs for parents to support the social and emotional well-being of all of our children. Further, we should continue to explore opportunities to enhance curriculum and program offerings, and continue to evaluate ways in which we can provide services in an easily accessible manner. These efforts will empower our children, not only to be more effective learners in their classrooms, but more effective citizens in their workplaces and communities after graduation.
Q: Tell us about your other career and/or other ways you are involved in the community.
A: I am an active member of the Hillside Elementary School PTA, where I served as a member of its executive committee for three years. For four years, I served on the District’s Special Education Parents Advisory Committee, collaborating with District administrators and educators to represent the unique needs of families with special education students.
Currently, I am the Secretary of the Livingston Inclusion and Diversity Committee, the townwide committee, appointed by the Town Council to promote awareness and acceptance of all community members. I have been involved with the planning of the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. day of service, flag raisings, and I am currently working on the upcoming Religions of the World event. In addition, I am an active member of Temple Beth Shalom’s Board of Education and previously served as chair of the Temple’s family program committee where I planned educational and social events for young families.
When I am not volunteering around town, I am an attorney at the law firm L’Abbate, Balkan, Colavita & Contini, LLP in East Hanover, New Jersey. My practice focuses primarily on complex civil litigation with an emphasis in defense of professionals. In addition, I teach Sunday religious school at Pine Brook Jewish Center. I have taught religious school since 1999.
Q: What should people know about you that they might not know already?
A: I have been a Livingston resident since October 2004. My husband and I moved to town shortly after we got married. We were attracted to Livingston because of its reputation as a vibrant community with a top-notch school district. Since we moved to town, our family has grown -- we now have two daughters, one dog, and one cat.
I am a product of public schools. I graduated from Wayne Hills High School, in Wayne, New Jersey. I went to a public college, Binghamton University. While in high school and college, I was a member of the fencing team, and played clarinet in the band and in the pit orchestra for numerous musicals. I believe these activities helped to shape me into the person I am today by teaching me resiliency, how to learn from my successes and failures, and how to be a part of something bigger than myself.