WAYNE, NJ – At the January 2 Wayne Board of Education (BOE) reorganization meeting, Dawn Kumar was sworn in and became the newest member of the Wayne BOE.
Three seats on the BOE were up for election this year, yet only two candidates filled out the paperwork to officially be on the ballot on election day. Michael Bubba and Suzanne Pudup ran for re-election, while the third seat would have to be determined by write-in votes.
There were over a dozen write-in candidates but it was Kumar who received the most votes to gain the final seat. She was endorsed by the Wayne Education Association (WEA) and Wayne teachers, many of which came to the polls during the slow election day, chose Kumar.
Kumar, a former Wayne Hills High School Chemistry and Physics teacher, sat in the audience of the reorganization meeting with her husband, pediatrician Dr. Munish Kumar until it was her turn to be sworn in.
Soon-to-be-elected President of the BOE, Cathy Kazan had the honor of swearing in Kumar who stood with her husband holding the bible during the ceremony. Kumar then took her seat on the dais, officially joining the Board.
Why did she want to become a BOE member?
“My son, Logan, will attend Wayne public schools when he is five. He will be one of the first classes of full day kindergarten--an important new development for the school district,” said Kumar. “I want to be able to help with the implementation of the new program and guide the district during the execution and through the many budgetary considerations.”
“I also think that it’s important to support, train and retain good teachers,” continued Kumar. “There are many factors that cause teachers to leave the profession and leave our school district. I hope to be able to lessen some of them.”
Kumar spoke of maintaining the schools’ infrastructure, transportation issues, inclusion and the importance of considering research before trying to implement new programs and policies.
“When talking about education policy, my overall philosophy is research,” said Kumar. “Does the research back up where we want to go? For example, the district recently changed to Block Scheduling. Did the research show that it would be detrimental? Did the research show that there would be a benefit or was there another reason why we made the change? We shouldn’t just be making a decision because, say Oakland decided it was a good idea, and we are just trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses.’
During the election, Kumar accepted the endorsement from the WEA, Wayne’s local teachers union. When asked why she decided to take the endorsement and serve a one-year conflicted term on the board, Kumar said: “I was a member of WEA for five years while I was a teacher, and it’s our teachers that make the day work for the schools and the students.
“For me, it’s really important that we have happy teachers so that we have happy students,” Kumar continued. “The WEA is the advocate for our teachers, and we need to negotiate with them on good faith not bad faith.” She then added: “A lot of what the WEA has pushed for over the years have been about educational needs, rather than just solely teacher benefits and pay.”
“You only have a few jobs as a board member,” said Kumar. “One of them is budget, one of them is negotiating teacher benefits and salary and the other one is policy. At the end of the day, the biggest shareholders in the district are the students. I will always do what’s in the best interest of the students and that’s what will direct my decisions on the Board of Ed. I will always ask myself is this decision going to affect the students positively or negatively because that’s my job.”