(Editor’s Note: Elections for the South Plainfield Board of Education will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 7. This year, 7 candidates are vying for 3 open seats; incumbents John Farinella, Chere Glover, and Sharon Miller are seeking re-election while Keith Both, Jennifer Curtis, Pio Pennisi, and Stephanie Wolak are vying for a seat as well. All candidates were emailed the same questions and TAPinto is publishing each submitted profile in alphabetical order.)
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Keith Both, a resident of South Plainfield for almost 20 years, is seeking election to the South Plainfield Board of Education (BOE). His name will appear on the ballot in Line 3.
Both, a 1989 graduate of Piscataway High School and a 1993 graduate of Maine Maritime Academy (MMA), is employed in the maritime transportation and logistics field, currently as the managing director of CPC, a division of Norton Lilly International. Both also serves as a strategic sealift officer with the U.S. Navy Reserves. He and his wife, Michele, are parents to four boys, Patrick, Kyle, Cameron, and Jacob.
On a local front, Both volunteers with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, Special Olympics, the South Plainfield Junior Baseball Club (SPJBC), the Wrestling Club, and ATA Karate and is also co-chairman of the school district’s Special Education Parents Advisory Committee (SEPAC). The Both’s open their home to foster puppies with the Happy Paws organization and are hosts for the Rutgers Medical Students Pediatric Rotation/Special Education program. Additionally, he assists his wife with the running of the Buddy Walk of South Plainfield, which has been held annually in October for the past 13 years.
For this year’s election, all seven candidates vying for three open seats on the South Plainfield BOE were provided with the same questions. Both’s responses are as follows:
TAPinto South Plainfield (TAPinto): Why are you running for re-election to the South Plainfield BOE?
Keith Both (KB): I have a passion for helping our children. I have seen the great things accomplished by our current BOE members, but I have also witnessed some of the setbacks the BOE has experienced. I want to ensure we are always moving forward. I can add to our current BOE membership in a positive and professional manner.
TAPinto: In your opinion, what is the role of a BOE member?
KB: When you employ good leaders, who have a vision and can adhere to a mission statement, you will succeed. This is what our district did when they hired Dr. Noreen Lishak, which is further reinforced by extending her contract. To me, a BOE member does not manage the district. This is what Dr. Lishak and her staff do. A BOE member is elected by the people of South Plainfield to provide guidance and ensure the right people are in the administration to manage the district. A BOE member should be available to hear concerns from the public. They are accountable to the taxpayers of the borough. Fiscal responsibility is something every elected official needs to own. In the past, candidates have often used the term ‘micro-manage.’ I have witnessed how this impacts operations negatively. We have seen this in the past, and to some extent, still do. There is a chain of command, a hierarchy that needs to be followed. To me, that is the role of a BOE member.
TAPInto: What do you feel are the top 3 issues affecting South Plainfield Schools?
KB: A top issue to me is our special education program. As a parent of a child with Down syndrome, I have seen how the system can fail and de-rail the education process. I, with other parents, deserve to have a voice on these issues. We will improve the district and ensure our special education children have the opportunity to succeed. Some of these ideas also have the potential to save huge sums of money for the district in the long run. Another issue is a realistic approach for preparing our high schoolers to what life will bring them. We often speak about preparing our children for the future. Let’s make sure we give them the proper tools to do so. An example would be the foreign languages that are offered. Imagine if our children were offered Mandarin (Chinese). Our children could become more attractive to a variety of industries or other avenues of employment, before and/or after college. A few years ago, a distinguished alumnus of SPHS spoke about his career path, which did not involve college. He took a different route entirely. These same opportunities have to be given to our children also. How many of us know young adults who went to school with absolutely no clue as to what they wanted and after a few expensive years, realized it was not for them? They lost years and at times money, pursuing someone else’s dream, other than their own. Industrial arts, the military, trade schools, culinary arts, etc. need to be provided as an opportunity, not as a consolation prize. Not everyone is destined to a college education right out of high school. College is not for everyone and we have a duty to provide alternatives to our students so they can also become contributing members to our society.
TAPinto: If elected to the board, what is the first thing you would look into?
KB: Before I did anything, I would want to lean on the experience and the expertise of the veteran BOE membership. I have been passed multiple concerns by members of our community who are intimidated by our board or believe they will be pushed aside. If elected, a free flow of information and honest and actionable plans need to be put forward. We deserve transparency and open communication from our leaders.
TAPinto: What do you like best about South Plainfield Schools?
KB: Family. Our students start off as four separate families, with some interactions with outside school activities. They all come together when they reach 5th grade, becoming a large extended family. They spend the next few years learning and working together. They move on to middle school, where they become a member of a team and further strengthen their bond as classmates. By the time they reach high school, they are a family. They look after the ones who need that extra help and work together to become graduates and often go on to bigger and better things. When you see that many of our residents are SPHS graduates, this is a legacy that needs to be carried on.
TAPinto: Why should residents elect you to the South Plainfield BOE? What makes you the candidate of choice?
KB: I often see and hear the statement ‘I am here for the children.’ I cannot speak for my fellow candidates, but my record speaks for itself. I volunteer and donate my time for all of our children. I do not look for applause or recognition; I do what I do for the children. I will be there for ‘ALL’ the children, with the emphasis on ‘ALL.’ Again, I cannot speak for my fellow candidates, but I am a parent to both a child with special needs and typical children. You might have a relative or a friend with special needs, but that is nowhere close to being a parent of a child with special needs child. Until you walk in the shoes of a parent that has a child with special needs, you have absolutely no idea what we have dealt with, what we are currently dealing with and what the future holds.
TAPinto: Is there anything else you would like voters to know?
KB: I have served our country in various capacities over the past quarter of a century, both within the military and as a civilian. I served with honor and did my job with little recognition, which is fine by me.
I am honest and trustworthy, with no hidden agenda. I am a straight-forward person, who will speak his mind. If something needs to be fixed and I have a possible solution, I will put it forward. If I do not have a viable solution, I have no problem stepping up to assist those who do. Some of my fellow candidates will label me as the ‘special needs’ candidate and will harp on this as my platform, as they have done to others in the past. Let’s put that to rest, I am the ‘special needs.’ candidate because of my son, Kyle. But I am also the ‘typical’ candidate, because of my sons Patrick, Cameron and Jacob, who will have to carve their path in our society when they graduate high school.
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