This article has been published as part of a series of profiles on West Essex Regional Board of Education Candidates. All candidates will be featured individually during the week leading up to the November 2019 election.

NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — Meet Deborah Sacco-Calderone, a lifelong Roseland resident and West Essex Board of Education member running for re-election in November.

Basic background:

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Deborah Sacco-Calderone is a product of Roseland and West Essex Regional schools with more than 40 years of professional experience in public education. The Seton Hall University and Kean University graduate is a retired speech/language therapist and currently works as a speech/language consultant.

She and her husband of 36 years, Michael, have two daughters who also went through Roseland Public Schools and graduated from West Essex High School. Both are now college graduates and are working in New York City. Sacco-Calderone’s family currently resides in the Roseland home that her parents purchased in 1955.

Q: Why are you running for board of education? (Again, if incumbent?)

A: As the incumbent, I am running for re-election to the West Essex Board of Education to continue to represent Roseland with my support of the school and the educational environment it provides to the students.  

 

Q: Why do you feel you deserve the job? What qualifies you for it?  

A: I am the best candidate to continue to be a member of the West Essex Board of Education to represent the Roseland community because I am a lifelong resident of Roseland, attending elementary school and West Essex High School.  I have a clear understanding and vision our community strives for in the education of our children, with a career of 40 years in the public sector and an extensive background in special education. 

My re-election would also be in the best interest for continuity of the board to support the administration of the school.  

Barbara Longo said it best in her editorial in support of the (3) incumbents, Barbara Longo, “It is important for voters to consider the irrefutable fact that the current board has been the one to guide West Essex schools on the road to the excellence they have achieved.  This board and the incumbent members are very familiar with past projects and well-versed in district policies. This board is an intelligent, knowledgeable, cohesive unit of community volunteers and the West Essex School District deserves to have them continue the great work they have begun.”

 

Q: Tell us about your other career and/or other ways you are involved in the community.

A: I began volunteering as a Roseland resident first on the Roseland Library Board, which I served 5 years, as vice president and president.  The library board was asked to orchestrate the Mayor’s Ball to benefit the children’s section, which was a success by raising $50,000 for the children’s expansion. 

From the library board I ran for a seat on the Roseland Board of Education, where I was a member for 9 years as a vice president and president.  During my tenure on the Roseland Board we went out for a $13 million dollar referendum which passed and made it possible to renovate and expand the school.  The renovation project came in on time and within the budget allocated by the referendum.  This expansion allowed for additional classrooms, upgrades and the development of an innovative preschool program. 

At the completion of my 9 years on the board I took some time to continue my personal education and then ran for the West Essex board.

I am currently completing my second term on the board, where I have held the positions of president, vice president and curriculum chair. 

During my tenure I have attended NJSBA conferences/workshops/trainings to become educated in the role of a board member, in addition I was recognized by NJSBA for the 15 years of service as a board member.  I was asked by NJSBA to represent Essex County as a member of the County Alliance Steering Subcommittee (CASS) of Essex County for the past year.  

At the recent NJSBA meeting the West Essex board was honored as a Certified Board of Education, which involved extensive training by the state.  I take the role of a board member seriously, with missing only 1 meeting during my career on both boards, but most of all it is an honor to represent the community. 

 

Q: Do you believe the district currently provides equitable supports for all learners? If so, why? If not, what would you like to see enhanced or added?

A: The role of a member of the board of education is to develop, implement and support the policies of the school to ensure a stable and progressive environment.   As the representative of the community the board member is the voice at the board level, with this in mind I want to continue to represent the Roseland community and students.  What I would like to accomplish if elected is to continue to support the superintendent and administration in developing policies and programs to support the academics/athletics/arts for the students at West Essex. 

Yes I do believe the district currently provides equitable supports for all learners.

For example some of the programs that West Essex provides/supports the great achievements of our students are: 

  • Best practices for safety and security
  • Cybersecurity
  • Strategic planning
  • Curriculum development
  • AP courses
  • Strong relationship with the regional police/fire departments
  • Mental Health First Aid Training
  • Peer Leadership
  • Sandy Hook Promise 
  • Athletics
  • Arts    

These programs are a small representation of the vast opportunities available to all our students.  West Essex provides great supports for all the students in the school, whether it be their school environment or social emotional well being.  It is the due diligence of the board of education to maintain stability and ensure the excellence of the students and the school. 

 

Q: What do you believe is the most important issue in this local election? How would you change it?

A: I believe one of the most important issues in this election has many facets, to define the role of a board, clarify responsibilities and to provide transparency to the communities of the regional district.

The New Jersey School Boards Association governs the school boards and provides guidance in all areas of the board member role. Their definition of a school board/member is,

The board of education adopts policies under which the school district operates; oversees the budget; approves the curriculum; hires and evaluates the superintendent; represents the public during contract negotiations; and serves as a communications link between the community and the school system. School board members must remember that they have no authority except that which results from participation in decisions of the board during an official meeting. Actions, promises or commitments made by individual board members are without legal basis and have no binding commitment upon the district. Board members should be aware that they are elected to represent the entire district in all matters pertaining to education, and not any one segment. 

The function of the school board is not to run the schools, but to see that they are run effectively. The board establishes school district policy and goals and communicate those goals to the superintendent. The superintendent is accountable to the board, and all other staff members are accountable to the superintendent. Teamwork between the board and superintendent is essential. Board members should look to the superintendent for leadership and guidance on educational procedures.

This school board and the administration are one of the most transparent and inclusive governing bodies with the stakeholders.  In the recent superintendent search a survey was disseminated to the administration, staff, parents and students to gather information on the characteristics deemed important in a new superintendent.  The board received significant responses from the administration, staff and students, yet the parents were the least vocal in the survey.  As a result of the survey/responses received the board developed a rubric to be utilized during the decision making and provided information during public meetings. The search and interview process was extensive and resulted in choosing the best candidate for the position of Superintendent of Schools.

It is also the role of the board member to uphold confidentiality and to be ethically responsible in their actions on the board. Therefore, specifics on negotiations and personnel are not permissible to be discussed in public session.  This board adheres to their role and communicates to the public that which is allowed.  

With this being said, is there room for improvement, of course.  Board meeting attendance by parents is the best forum to communicate with the administration and board members.  It allows for information and dialogue regarding issues/concerns in the schools. Administration provides numerous presentations regarding programs, test scores, student achievement and events which are present in the district.

We need to all be present and active participants in our communities.