NUTLEY, NJ - Ken Reilly’s interview is the fourth of five candidate interviews brought to you by TAPintoNutley.  As your locally owned news and township information source, we are committed to bringing our readers information about each of the Nutley Board of Education candidates on the November ballot for trustee. 

Board of Education candidate Ken Reilly KR) was first elected to the Board in 2004. He was re-elected for a second term in 2008. Reilly stepped down two years into his third term due to health issues. Brenda Sherman was selected by the other board members to serve out the remainder of his term. Reilly has 5 children, 3 of whom attended district schools K-12, attending Radcliffe Elementary. His youngest daughter was elected President of her Rutgers Law School class. He also has a daughter in acupuncture school, one who is a Special Ed teacher in Hoboken; a son in retail management and one who works for a developer in NYC.

Reilly attended St. Mary’s and Essex Catholic High School

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TAPinto: Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed. Let’s start with a question about the Township of Nutley. As a citizen, what do you believe is Nutley’s greatest asset?

KR: Our citizens are our greatest asset.

TAPinto: As a citizen and former two and a half term Board of Ed trustee, what is your number one reason why school boards are a necessary asset for the citizens of Nutley?

KR: The answer is oversight. Like the US Congress, the Boards responsibility is oversee policy, bi-laws and budgets. Right inside the policy manual it says the board’s responsibility is not to run the district. Its responsibility is to make sure the district is well run. And by the way, my mind is going a million miles a minute on that one. These are great questions. 

TAPinto: What is the number one reason you decided to run again?

KR: I am running because I have a void to fill. I need to complete the work from serving previously. I never felt good about having to retire due to having to take care of my health. I’m better now and want to continue serving again. My mom moved back to Nutley to be closer to our family so we could take care of her. After she passed in April I made the decision to run again.

TAPinto: What is your number one quality that makes you stand out from the other candidates? How would you complete the statement: I am the only candidate who….

KR: I think I am the only candidate that has served almost three terms; more than Fred, Lisa and Sal. I have served as chairman of every committee and was on the Board during all previous referendums. The first of which was a $5 million Science and Technology project.  I’deal with architects, construction managers every day as part of my job. Look at the schools today; new windows and roofs, air conditioning. The schools look fabulous  - I started the district’s Autism program because of the parent of an autistic child was having challenges with the district. I also started the full day kindergarten program.

I’m the only candidate who has served as President of the Board. That’s where the responsibility lies. The President is charged with communicating daily with the Superintendent.

TAPinto: When you previously served as a Board of Ed trustee, did you find your role to be, first and foremost, a representative of the community or a representative of the school district?

KR: The community IS the district. As a Board, we are beholding to the people who pay taxes. They entrust us to educate their children and maintain their safety and well-being at the same time.  

TAPinto: As a Nutley resident, what is the greatest challenge you see facing the homeowners and citizens of Nutley today?

KR: I’m very aware of what’s happening in Nutley and the need for offsetting taxes due to the Roche departure. I understand Kenny Meka is paying $2 million in property taxes a year. I’m Director of Sales for a Northeast hardwood floor distribution company. I work with developers and contractors everyday so I’m pro responsible planned development. Nutley needs a plan for future development on the Roche property and throughout the town.

TAPinto: As a parent of three children who graduated from Nutley High, what is the number one policy change you would champion in the High School in the upcoming school year if elected?

KR: Block scheduling which is being added.

TAPinto: Approximately 1100 students will be on the Seton Hall-Hackensack Medical School Campus when full enrollment is reached. Instead of driving, hopefully some of these students and staff members will be walking and biking to our downtown business districts to enjoy our restaurants etc. How can we, as a Township and District get more of our K-12 district students biking and walking to school?  

KR: My kids walked to school because there was nowhere to park bikes. It’s still that way today. We need to formalize a program that will encourage kids to bike and provide a ‘home’ for the bikes of the students who ride to school. Hopefully the issue of kids driving to lunch will come up.

TAPinto: What do you consider to be the number one educational gap or academic weakness faced by the district in the upcoming school year?

KR: I have the same concerns as the average person that talks about Nutley schools. I think we are ranked 231 out of all New Jersey schools. Our test scores are average and need to be above average. The district is moving to ‘block scheduling’ to try to improve high school math, science and English scores. We shall see.

Our high school is now rated 166 in New Jersey, however we are almost last in Essex County. Some of the other towns ranking ahead of us are: Milburn (#4) Livingston (#6) Glen Ridge (#29) West Essex (#55) Montclair (#73) Verona (#94) West Orange (#123) Cedar Grove (#112). When I left the board in 2014 our high school was ranked # 130 and in 2016 we were ranked 166.

I also have concerns for the 750 special needs children in our district.

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.

KR: Most of the people who live in the town who do not have children in the system have nieces, nephews and grandchildren in the system. As our schools go, so to go our property values. In the past 25 years, people are buying homes and investing tons of money in them in Nutley.

TAPinto: Do you play any sports or hobbies?

KR: I enjoy golf. However, 99% of my time is spent with business.

TAP: 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?

KR: I do think sports are important. I was President of the Nutley Basketball Association for many years. Sports are about discipline and structure, which you need for your entire life. It’s about having something other than academics. Whether it’s band, cheerleading, the school newspaper, baseball, whatever extra-curricular activity they choose will support kids later on.  

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

KR: I’m reading Crime and Punishment. I’m an action literature guy.

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

KR: Sister Alice at St. Mary’s School was my 8th grade math teacher. She dramatically improved my math skills and taught me how to be a better person.

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

KR: The best way for voters to reach me is: kenreillyboe@gmail.com

TAPinto: What is campaign slogan?

KR: No More Trailers!

TAPinto: Anything you would like to say to the TAPintoNutley readers in closing?

KR: I’ve been a volunteer in Nutley for over 30 years. I was Board of Education President, Rotary President, President of the Basketball Association, on the Nutley Red Cross Board of Directors and Historical Society Board. I worked with Steve Rogers and Carmen Orechio on the Police Youth League. Please cast one of your votes for Ken Reilly on November 7.

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TAPinto readers: email us at nutley@tapinto.net with questions you would like to have considered for our next candidate series of candidate interviews. ‘Letters to the Editor’ can be submitted on-line at https://www.tapinto.net/users/sign_in.