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 Neal Goldstein, a 20-year Roseland resident running for a seat on the West Essex Regional Board of Education.
Neal Goldstein is a Canada native who earned his undergraduate degree from Trent University and received a master’s degree in Economics from the London School of Economics in the United Kingdom. He currently works as the Chief Technology Officer for Mutual of America.
He and his wife, Caroline, who was born and raised in Roseland, have two children: Max, a freshman at West Essex High School; and Sam, a junior at West Essex High School.
Q: Why are you running for board of education? (Again, if incumbent?)
A: Some of my most rewarding experiences in my 20 years living in Roseland have been those where I was engaged in my children’s activities. Whether coaching 15 plus sports teams or the 7 plus years I served on the Roseland Board of Education, being involved in the development of the children in town has been a truly gratifying experience for me.
After many years on the Roseland Board and then not having children in the school anymore, I felt it was time to take a few years off. I do think it is important that one have children in the school if serving on the Board of Education. Now that both Sam (junior) and Max (freshmen) are in West Essex I decided it was important to step back into the academic process and give back to the community which I love so much. As a parent of students currently in the WE schools, I can offer a fresh and relevant perspective on the board.
Q: Why do you feel you deserve the job? What qualifies you for it?
A: The role of a board member is bi-directional: on the one hand, the board member should help channel input from the community (preferably strategic guidance) to the appropriate areas in the administration and help use that to influence the long-term direction of the school. The other part of the job is to one influence the strategic direction of the school.
The board is fortunate in that it has on it many highly qualified academic leaders affecting policy. What qualifies me specifically is that I bring my private sector experience as a technology executive in financial services to the table. I’ve been fortunate to manage over 150 talented employees and manage a budget in excess of $100 million. This gives me unique insight into the opportunities in front of the board that others with only an academic purview may lack.
I would also reiterate that having two children in West Essex qualifies me to feel, see and hear firsthand how the decision of the board affects those close to me. It is a direct feedback loop that streamlines the communication channels.
Q: What do you believe is the most important issue in this local election? How would you change it?
A: There is no one issue that is most important in this election, but I will call out several that require further attention:
- Space for students to work between classes has been a challenge for years. Without the proper study environment, our children suffer. I would advocate a feasibility study to ensure we are maximizing the facilities space available and best utilizing it for the purposes of studying.
- Vaping is a crisis across our entire nation, not just in West Essex. That said, we should spare no expense to ensure we are treating this epidemic as seriously as possible.
- I applaud the steps taken to date by this administration and would encourage further doubling down on ways to tackle the problem, be it prevention (such as counselling) or detection.
- School safety is a national problem, tragically, that all parents worry about. We are fortunate to have Chief Deuer and a proactive Board looking into the best ways to ensure the safety of our children. I would make sure that the Board continues this trajectory.
- Communication between the Board and the broader community has always been a challenge. I think the most recent board has done their best to do what is right, but the gaps are observable. Recent issues have arisen where many felt more support and guidance could have been given by the Board to the administration to ensure a more streamlined communication channel with the community.
Q: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the West Essex Regional Public Schools district?
A: I’ve always felt that the greatest strength of the WE school district are the teachers. They are the front line, back bone and life blood of the school. The more we invest in their pedagogical excellence, the greater the return in value to our children.
One area where further re-enforcements are required, if looking across the entire district, is the level to which we align curriculum with the sending districts. Because the process still has a certain amount of variability in it, this requires more time spent in middle school getting each child to the same level of proficiency.
Q: Tell us about your other career and/or other ways you are involved in the community.
A: I’ve been very fortunate to watch many of the Roseland children grow up in front of my eyes as their coach. I’ve been actively involved in town soccer, basketball and baseball. These were some of the best times of my life and I still get great pleasure seeing a teenager at Roseland town center who says: “Hi coach.”
Even when times were tough for the 7 years on the Board of Education for Roseland, I always felt that I received back more than I gave.