MONTVILLE, NJ - Three Board of Education positions are on the ballot for Montville Township in Tuesday's election. Board member Frank Cooney will be stepping down, and since newcomer Michael D. Johnson is running uncontested, Johnson will be slated to take Cooney’s place. Board members Michael Palma and Matthew Kayne are running for re-election, also uncontested.
Johnson, a 2013 graduate of Marist College, lives in Montville and works as a para-legal. When asked why he is running, Johnson stated, “Having grown up in Montville, I’m no stranger to its school systems. I attended Valley View for elementary school, moved up to Lazar in the early 2000’s, and graduated from MTHS in 2009. Throughout those years, some of my earliest (and favorite) memories have centered around service. I joined the Builder’s Club in Lazar, continued my role in the Kiwanis Family through High School, and really developed an appreciation for public service and politics in college. Today, I’m an officer of the Montville Kiwanis Club, and a member of the Montville Township Drug Awareness Council-Municipal Alliance. Taking a more active role in the system that helped to shape me into the person I’ve become felt like the next, natural step in giving back to our community. I’m hoping to bring a fresh, new perspective to the Board as a fairly recent MTHS graduate, and carry on this legacy of ‘Mustang Pride.’”
When asked what he thought was the Montville School District’s most important goal, Board Vice President Matthew Kayne stated, "With the unprecedented amount of mandates coming from Trenton these past few years, combined with a great reduction in state aid year after year, our District has worked hard to stay ahead of the curve. The administration, led by Dr. Fried, has strengthened, and we are moving in a positive direction, developing a strong sense of trust, stability, and communication within and outside of the school community. Despite restrictive state-imposed financial limitations, our District has been prudent, but spends where needed. We have been able to add new curricular initiatives focusing on student-centered learning (including the science and humanities research programs at MTHS), enhance facilities, increase professional development, all while working to strengthen policy, security and safety."
“As a Board our biggest responsibility is to procure the best superintendent possible,” continued Kayne. "Just after the end of this current school year, Dr. Fried's contract ends. As he has done much to help our District progress in a positive direction, I have great concern as to how we, as a District, can work within the state-imposed superintendent salary cap to procure the best leadership possible should Dr. Fried decide not to stay."
Palma, when asked the most important goal for Montville as a school district, replied, “The most important goal for our District is to ensure that our students receive a well-rounded education that will prepare them for life not only in the classroom, but in the real world. While academics will always be our priority, we are also committed to investing resources to help our students to grow both socially and culturally to ensure their future success outside the schoolhouse walls. Schools need to consider the skills young adults need to achieve both in college and in the working world. With so much talk in our country about ‘failing schools,’ the potential failure of which we must be acutely aware is the failure to produce students with marketable skills other than being book smart.”
Johnson sited his focus on learning and the community as important District goals, stating, “The modern educational landscape has changed considerably since my days at MTHS. The introduction of the Common Core has ignited a great deal of debate and discussion; the safety and security of our students has become a particularly pressing concern in light of recent national trends; and yet, I’m a firm believer that a great deal of this turmoil boils down to the sense of community and spirit within our schools. I was a freshman at MTHS when Dr. Kramer stepped down, and remember how chaotic everything seemed when leadership changed from one year to the next. We’ve come a long way since then, but open communication and transparency are going to play a large part in making sure that we maintain this balance. That’s why I believe that our focus on ‘Communication and Community Involvement,’ as well as ‘Student Learning’ will be paramount."
“While our current goals emphasize raising communal awareness and bringing outside groups into the working of the District, I would also like to see a greater focus on community outreach in the form of service projects, " Johnson continued. "As I’ve stated, I’m a firm believer in the positive impact that community service can have on our students. Youth engagement and participation in community affairs is sorely lacking, not just in Montville, but throughout the country. I’d like to continue the Mustang track record for innovation, and build upon the amazing historical and cultural roots our community has for service, ensuring that our District is committed to providing our youth with the opportunities to become a knowledgeable and engaged citizenry.”
The three members will be installed in January at the Board of Education’s reorganization meeting, at which time a new Board president and vice president will be elected by Board members.