There are four candidates for three seats on the Montville Township Public Schools Board of Education in the Nov. 5 election. TAPinto Montville recently asked them five questions. We will be running their answers individually as part of a series; the order of the candidates’ responses was chosen at random.

MONTVILLE, NJ – TAPinto Montville recently asked board of education candidate Christine Fano five questions. Here are her responses.

Tell us a little about yourself.

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I graduated from The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York and performed in musical theatre productions after graduation. During the time I was performing, I taught dance and theatre while returning to school for my Secondary Education Degree in Biology and Theatre Arts at Seton Hall University. At the end of my education, I met my husband Mark, got married and started our family here in the beautiful township of Montville. We have been blessed to live here for over 23 years. Besides my two children, I have 13 nieces and nephews that have gone through Montville’s school system. 

I was a Parent-Staff Organization (PSO) President for 4 years and Vice-President for 2 years. I was a constant volunteer at my son’s elementary school helping with lunch duty and library, a class mom for multiple years, and on the committee for the year-end festivities for our graduating 5th graders. I was chosen to be on our Early Intervention Board for Morris County, and have been a special needs advocate for children and their families for over 18 years. I am a proud Montville Broncos and Mustang wrestling mom. Many of you know me as Dominic’s mom-he placed 8th in the NJ High Schools Wrestling State Championship for Montville and is now a student-athlete at The College of New Jersey. My son Christopher attends Spectrum360 which is a school for adults with autism and he is thriving. I really want to give back to our schools and our great community that have served my family so well. 

I have built and currently manage two successful businesses. Being a successful and profitable small business owner will serve me well as a school board member. The word “Budget” is part of my vocabulary. I also have great leadership and people skills as well as successful consensus building that I will apply if I am elected. I always successfully advocated for school policies which give parents and teachers a greater voice. 

What challenges face today’s student and what can the school district do to help manage those challenges?

There are a number of challenges facing our students. Every student is unique, and each has their own challenges. The way to help all students is by assessing and accommodating their diverse needs. Small classroom sizes are very important for learners, which in turn creates closer relationships between teachers and students. The drug, opioid and vaping crisis is something that will continue to be a challenge. In addition, mental health awareness, anxiety, stress and bullying continue to create challenges. Furthermore, some students have challenges at home and seek school as their refuge. The pressures of 24-hour social networking have created a negative impact on students’ mental health. This needs to be addressed. School safety at all schools is a big concern. Our school district needs to stay ahead of the curve, and work for our community. We need policies and programs that address all students needs, both educationally and emotionally. 

Are the new New Jersey Student Learning Assessments an improvement over PARCC?

Many parents don’t realize this, but the NJSLA IS PARCC but with less questions and sections. This means children spend less time out of the classroom and taking tests.  As far as I am concerned, this is a good thing for all.  When PARCC came out, I wasn’t a fan for the following reasons - the amount of time teachers and students needed for preparation and testing infringed on considerable class time.  Whatever curriculum teachers were focused on was put aside in favor of PARCC. Was PARCC necessary for graduation? This was another big issue being debating in Montville and in the courts. This caused a great deal of stress within the teaching community and families.  At the last Board of Ed meeting I attended, the audience heard that NJ may have a replacement for the current PARCC test, so stayed tuned. 

What changes or improvements do you think the district needs? Or, what areas of weakness do you see in the district?

As I campaign every day meeting with voters, some of the concerns I heard were:

-Communication and policy concerns between students, parents and administration at the high school level. 

-Sleep deprivation of high school students was the #1 complaint from high school parents. Even though the district performed a study which showed no direct benefit to a later start, parents still were deeply concerned about a lack of sleep for their children. Many students have intensive after-school activities such as athletics, band, work and so forth.  Many students go to bed after 11 pm and then have to get up at 6 am. If they can, students will take naps in the afternoon after school which disrupts their sleep pattern. When a student is sleep deprived, they can’t function at 100%. I’d like to go deeper into this issue when I am elected and investigate possible options with parents and staff. 

-Connecting of Broncos and other youth athletic programs to our high school coaches and older student-athletes to give the younger athletes a better connection to the high school athletic programs. And I am happy to report that both sides want more of this.

-I plan to challenge administration and staff on any new or proposed learning initiatives by thoroughly reviewing and examining them before implementation. I heard from retired teachers that every school district has waste, including Montville. If a new curriculum is being considered, my questions will be: Why? How much of a difference is it from the curriculum it is replacing? What’s the total cost per classroom? Many times, teachers have reported that curriculum changed - on average every 3-4 years. However, the curriculum was almost the same but just from a different vendor. It was frustrating for them. By the time teachers mastered the new curriculum and saw results, it was changed. Seeing new books and equipment in school dumpsters is not what teachers and taxpayers want to see.

-We need more math support for elementary, middle and high school students. I would like to see more technology and coding based programs for all students with a push towards involving more of our female students. If we currently have a comprehensive math program, why is there such a need for outside tutors? This is an additional financial cost burden for Montville families.

-Alumni parents who had children in their 20’s were concerned about higher property taxes, ballooning school budgets while Montville School District rankings appeared to be going down.  These are honest, legitimate questions that I promise to investigate and then communicate back to the community if I am elected. 

Why do you feel you are uniquely qualified to be a board member?

Right now, our school budget is over $80 million dollars. I remember a time when it was about half of that and our school ranking was better. Sometimes problem solving does not always involve spending more money.  When I tell parents and taxpayers this, they are shocked. With 68% of our property taxes going towards the school budget, being a Montville Board of Eduction member is a a significant job. The board has gone unchallenged for far too long with positions filled by long-time incumbents. I offer a fresh perspective and a better choice for voters. I have always advocated for children, families and teachers to have the best resources available and I have always been fiscally conservative when making decisions both in my private and professional life. I am a successful and profitable small business owner who will take the honor to serve very seriously. I will always advocate for student and parent involvement when any change or major decision affects their educational life. I will fight for fairness and transparency. Most of all, I will bring new thought, understanding and a fresh perspective for our diverse student population in Montville Township. 

Editor’s note: TAPinto policy does not allow editing of candidates’ answers.

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