NUTLEY, NJ -  Karen O’Malley (KO) is running for Trustee, Nutley Board of Education, November 2017 election. Karen is the Library Director at Union Public Library and previously served as Executive Director at Hudson County Community College. Her youngest daughter graduated from Nutley High in 2017. Karen grew up in Queens, NY.

TAPinto: What is your Number One quality that makes you stand out from the other candidates? Please complete the statement: I am the only candidate who….

KO: I am the only candidate with extensive, varied experience in the education field; I have spent my career working in academic & educational institutions such as a research university, community colleges with a focus on workforce development and in public libraries.

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TAPinto: As a Board of Ed trustee, would you see your role to be first and foremost a representative of the community or a representative of the district school system?

KOI would be representing the district and the district represents the community. A quality school district makes for a quality community. A good Board creates the conditions for the schools to offer excellent learning outcomes for all students.

TAPinto: Are school boards necessary? If yes, what is your # 1 reason WHY you believe school boards are necessary?

KO: School Boards are important and necessary. A good Board creates the conditions for successful educational outcomes. The Board of Education is also the liaison that must balance the needs of the taxpayers and members of the school community. It must ensure that the district is being managed appropriately. There is a “checks and balances” relationship that should exist to ensure local educational needs are being met and shared priorities are adhered to. The Board must serve both the district and the community.

As a Nutley Board of Education Trustee, I will keep open lines of communication with the taxpayers, parents, teachers, the superintendent, administration, business owners and other stakeholders. When making choices, I will use this feedback to inform decisions and balance the needs of all parties to create the best education system possible.

TAPinto: What do you consider to be the number one educational gap or weakness in the Nutley Public School district?

KO:The reality is not every student will go to college or complete college once there. As a district we are lacking in enough alternative options for high school students who cannot or choose not to go to college. We need to provide more opportunities for our students to earn industry-recognized credentials or licenses while in high school through partnerships with community colleges and vocational schools; opportunities for those who choose to enter the workforce upon graduation.

There are many strengths in this district. As a Marching Band mom, I have to say the number one strength in the district is the music program. Beyond learning to read music and play an instrument, there are proven additional educational benefits of music on a child’s school performance in all subjects.

TAPinto: As a parent of a student who graduated this year what is the one policy change you would champion in the High School in the upcoming school year?

I appreciate this question. I would like to see a significant increase in CTE – career/technical education opportunities where students can earn credential while attending High School. Providing opportunities to learn skills in high school that allow students to immediately enter the workforce is one of the policy changes I feel strongly about.

TAPinto: If elected, what one specific policy change will you recommend the Nutley BOE implement in the 2017-18 school year?

KO: I would advocate for a review of the mission statement, vision and objectives that our district will prioritize in the next 5-year strategic plan to ensure that the focus is forward-thinking and reflective of the future our children will encounter which is different than what we encountered when we were in school. The mission statement should include a focus on the skills necessary to be ‘work-force and college-ready’. In other words, we should have a more forward thinking mission that acknowledges important skills like Digital Literacy, Entrepreneurship, Communication and Teamwork to name a few.

I would also advocate for greater communication and input from the entire community to be involved in the strategic planning process through surveys, Town Hall meetings and small committees of various stakeholders; because if we want increased financial support and buy-in from the community it is important that their voice is heard and reflected when determining our priorities.

TAPinto: Please share one SPECIFIC idea you have to engage the Nutley homeowners who do not have children in the school district in voting YES for the referendum.

I am a homeowner who no longer has children in the district. My youngest daughter is a 2017 Nutley High Graduate. I am now also a single parent of a college student who is paying tuition. I recognize the importance of good schools to a community and I understand the concerns of rising taxes. I have spent a considerable amount of time studying the district Report Cards. Without proper facilities our scores will go down. I believe whole-heartedly that it is critical to support our schools in a smart and measured way.

High-performing, modern schools with needed amenities will benefit all homeowners in making the community more desirable which will increase all our property values. On the other hand, a poorly supported district with dilapidated buildings and outdated resources will make the community less desirable, which will adversely affect property values. Through a shared strategic planning process together we can prioritize what is important and what we are willing to pay for these choices. As a BOE Trustee I will bring the community to the table with me through open lines of communication and feedback.

TAPinto: What ideas do you have to get more of our students biking and walking to their schools?

KO: For kids to bike or walk to school they need to see the adults doing the same. In order for more adults to ride bikes, we need to feel safe by having bicycle lanes in the road and an awareness campaign and endorsement from the Township to ensure we can safely share the road. Bike lanes and bike racks at schools and along shopping corridors will show a commitment from the entire community for this. Once children see their Township’s commitment to keeping bicyclists safe and see adults riding, they will emulate them.

TAPinto: Where do you stand regarding the importance of athletics in the overall school curriculum and extra-curricular activities? Very Important, Somewhat Important, Not Important. Why?

I think sports and extra-curricular activities are very important. Personally, I have watched the kids in Marching Band learn about teamwork and endurance, they learn about leadership and personal responsibility and they form deep and lasting friendships. The entire music program provides educational and social benefits that we cannot put a price tag on, this program is worth every penny invested and more.

TAPinto: Do you play any sports or hobbies?

KO: I read, write and take nature walks and most importantly I love spending time with my family.

TAPinto: What book are you currently reading or what TV series are you following?

KO: I am reading Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

TAPinto: Who was your favorite teacher and why was he/she your favorite?

KO: I had so many wonderful teachers that it is difficult to pick just one. I was fortunate to have had a wonderful experience all through my public school years. If I had to pick one I would say Ms. Gelb, who was my gym teacher through Junior High and my homeroom teacher as well. Ms. Gelb has a great sense of humor and she took time to get to know all of us personally. She taught us applicable skills like having us get certified in CPR which empowered us. I remember feeling so proud of myself when I was handed that certification card. She always went the extra mile all the time and demonstrated a kind and energetic zest for life.

TAPinto: What is the best way for the Nutley voters to reach you?  

I can be reached by email or Facebook

TAPinto: What is your campaign slogan?

KO: "Our District's Future Begins Today"

TAPinto: In closing, what else would you like to say to the TAPintoNutley readers?

KO: As a Nutley Board of Education Trustee I will advocate for all children in our district, college-bound or not, to provide them with the foundation for lifelong learning they will need to be productive citizens in the future work world they will face. As your Board Trustee I will also advocate for learning opportunities for all children to explore and grow in their strengths, whether that is music, art, sports, technology or drama or anything else.

I  look forward to sharing my vision for our district and would appreciate your vote for me as your new board of education trustee.