Dear Editor,

I write this in my personal capacity and not as a member, or on behalf, of the North Caldwell Board of Education.  Many have asked me who I support for the North Caldwell seats on the West Essex Board of Education.  While I have the utmost respect for the service and dedication of all of the candidates, I firmly endorse Jann Skelton and Jill Marcus. 

North Caldwell and the entire West Essex region are at a crossroads, facing perhaps the most difficult challenges they have ever seen.  The construction boom in our area creates extraordinary stress on our schools that will require a focus on forward-looking, strategic thinking, community engagement and student achievement.

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When Jann served on the North Caldwell Board of Education, I witnessed firsthand how she was responsible for that forward-looking strategic thinking.  It was Jann who pushed the North Caldwell Board to conduct demographic studies to determine the impact of anticipated development.  It was Jann who insisted that the Board’s thinking be 10 to 20 years out rather than one to two.  Only then could we begin to plan for future construction and prioritize how we wanted to spend our limited resources in a manner that maximizes student achievement.  It is these skills that West Essex needs more than anything right now. 

What’s more, having spent a lot of time talking with Jill about our schools, I know that, as an accomplished MBA and businesswoman, she shares the same strategic approach as Jann.  As an active parent, she has been advocating for West Essex Board of Education to engage in the same type of long-term planning that Jann pushed as a member of the North Caldwell Board of Education.

However, if there is one thing I have learned in my almost 10 years on the North Caldwell Board of Education, it is that even the greatest plans in the world are useless without full transparency and active communication of a Board’s vision.  Without community buy-in, we cannot possibly achieve our goals.  Again, Jann and Jill have demonstrated full recognition of this indisputable fact.  When Jann served on the North Caldwell Board of Education, she was the leader of our communication effort.  The most notable of Jann’s achievements was a biweekly newsletter directly from the Board informing the community of not only classroom achievements and events but also issues with which the Board was grappling.  Thanks largely to Jann, we held many public forums and surveys for the community to hear our views and provide us with feedback. 

Again, Jill shares these same values, encouraging our public officials to engage the community in its deliberative process.  Recently, she has demonstrated her initiative and leadership on this issue, by engaging with the Board and community, rather than remaining a passive observer. Recognizing the importance of community stakeholder involvement, she has stated that one of her key goals is to use the North Caldwell Board of Education communication model as a model for West Essex.  With her experience in marketing communications, she is uniquely qualified to achieve those goals.

Jann and Jill’s attention to these matters is evidence of their singular focus on creating an inclusive environment in which all students, no matter what their level, are best positioned to achieve their greatest potential.  I believe that they are uniquely qualified to achieve this goal and therefore endorse them.  For those who are unconvinced, I encourage you to spend a few minutes with Jann and Jill, as I suspect that will be all it takes for you to reach the same conclusion I did.

Rob Projansky