NUTLEY, NJ - Lisa Danchak-Martin is one of three incumbents running for the Nutley Board of Education in November 2017. DAnchak-Martin (LDM) is seeking her third term. She is a graduate of Nutley High School and Kean University.
TAPinto: As a citizen and homeowner, what do you think is the greatest asset of the Township of Nutley?
LDM: Of course the bedrock of any community is our schools. As a parent, business owner and homeowner, I know the pivotal role the school district plays in the success of the township. I have two children who graduated from Nutley High. One attends Rutgers, the other is married and working in the public sector. I also have one child who will be in the 11th grade. My husband and I are both NHS grads.
TAPinto: Do you have a campaign slogan?
LDM: Working for Our Children, Our Community, Our Future. I’m seeking re-election to raise the bar and move our district forward.
TAPinto: What is the number one reason you decided to run again?
LDM: To continue moving the district forward on all the initiatives started from my past two terms. Also, meeting the challenges of our fiscal constraints and over-crowding.
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….
LDM: This question is thought provoking and one I didn’t think you would ask. How do I stand out from all the other candidates is difficult to answer not knowing one of the candidates. I don’t know Karen, so I don’t know what qualities she possesses. I think I’m very collaborative and open-minded. I like to take all information into account. I don’t go from my gut, my decisions are data-driven. I listen to all parties including parents, staff, students and the community before making a decision.
TAPinto: You have been a Board of Ed trustee since 2011. Have you found your role to be first and foremost a representative of the community or a representative of the school district?
LDM: A representative of the community. That’s why we are elected. We are elected to be a liaison and conduit between the community, the voters and the district administrators.
TAPinto: As both a homeowner and a person who represents the citizens of Nutley in your role as a member of the Board of Ed, what is the greatest challenge you see facing the Township of Nutley today?
LDM: I think one of the challenges as a homeowner for the township overall, would be increasing our tax base in order to alleviate the burden on the taxpayers. Not more housing because that puts a burden on the infrastructure and our schools.
The Roche property is a great opportunity to increase our tax base. The fact that it is 10-13 miles from NYC with great transportation options is a great draw for Nutley. We need to make it more attractive for the current residents to stay in Nutley by improving our infrastructure, maintaining and increasing the reputation of our schools. We also need to make our town more attractive for businesses.
The former Roche property is an innovation campus, that and the Medical School will be a great addition to our community; we can partner with the corporations and institutions to help to make our community more desirable.
TAPinto: Has the district reached out to the Dean and administrators of Seton Hall Hackensack Meridian Medical School to discuss partnering on programs, educational opportunities, internships etc for our students?
LDM: To my knowledge we have not, however I know we are planning to. We have been speaking with the commissioners. We currently have a partnership with Rutgers University School of Health Related professions. The Nutley High School Academy of Health Science Careers is a dual enrollment program with Rutgers.
TAPinto: Approximately 1100 students will be on the Medical School Campus when full enrollment is reached. Hopefully, these students will be walking and biking to our business districts instead of driving over for meals and services. How can we get more of our students biking and walking to our schools, especially our high school students in order to calm and reduce some of the traffic on Franklin Ave?
LDM: If I wanted to implement a strategy to get more students to walk and/or bike to school I would conduct a survey to find out how many students currently walk/bike. If the students do not walk/bike find out why. Ask them for their thoughts/ideas, analyze the data and build a campaign around the top reasons/ideas. Include appropriate civic, township, student groups where applicable.
TAPinto: You have been in the Nutley district as a trustee for two terms now. What do you consider to be the # 1 educational gap or weakness faced by the district in the upcoming 2017-18 school year?
LDM: When I first came on the Board in 2011, we had a big gap between our grades and state SAT scores. In researching the problem, the board and administrators found our curriculum wasn’t updated. We worked on implementing safety nets to make sure it would not happen again. We had rested on our laurels not looking at the inconsistencies between our grades, SAT and state scores.
We now have a lot of technology programs in place like Performance Matters, where we can go in look at grades and assess student performance. Our district has to continue to work on curriculum upgrades in certain areas and also professional development for our teachers to keep us ahead of the curve.
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.
LDM: I do think communication is the key. Most of the Nutley homeowners have had children or grandchildren or graduated themselves from the district. If they do not have students in system, education on why this referendum is necessary and is key. The Town Hall meetings were open to everyone and were well attended. The district intends to continue holding community meetings to inform the public.
TAPinto: As a BOE candidate, where do you stand re: the importance of athletics in the overall school curriculum and extra-curricular activities? Very Important, Somewhat Important, Not Important. Why?
LDM: Very important! Before my kids started taking advantage of sports and extra-curricular activities offered, I would probably have said ‘somewhat important’. However, once they got involved’ I saw how involvement in athletics and extra-curricular activities related to academics. When a student who may not have been that engaged in academics gets involved in sports and are mentored by the coaches, they blossom. We now have the Coaches Academy. Athletes participate in community service with their teammates, coaches communicate with the parents and keep track of how the students are doing academically. Football, crew, drama club, patriots club, the music program, anything that gets students involved and engaged helps them academically.
TAPinto: Do you play any sports or hobbies?
LDM: In my spare time I like to garden.
TAPinto: What book are you currently reading or what TV series are you following?
LDM: I just finished “A Team of Rivals”. It’s by Doris Kearns Goodwin and is about the Lincoln administration. I highly recommend it. You know Lincoln gets assassinated in the end but you just keep hoping he doesn’t. Back then cabinet members were not chosen by the President. It was brilliant how he was able to pass initiatives. The author made everything come alive!
TAPinto: Who was your favorite teacher and why was he/she your favorite?
LDM: There are so many. After you graduate, you figure out that one your teachers who wasn’t your favorite helped you out the most later on. Different teachers at different stage of my academic career were my favorites.
TAPinto: What is the best way for the Nutley voters to reach you?
LDM: They can email me with questions about the school system at firstname.lastname@example.org
Any general election questions can be sent to email@example.com
TAPinto: Anything you would like to say in closing?
LDM: I hope the community sees all the improvements we’ve made in the past few years and with their support I hope to be re-elected to continue serving on the Nutley Board of Education.
Editor's Note: Interviews with each of the five Board of Education candidates continue all week.