WEST ORANGE, NJ — Meet West Orange Board of Education candidate Christopher Diaz:
Q: Why are you running for board of education?
A: Fresh ideas and opinions are sorely lacking in our district. There has been an outcry for a change in our community. I am ready to be an agent for change on our Board of Education. As a dad of a middle-schooler who has been very involved in his child's education, I can bring a perspective from "outside the system." I'm not a politician. I'm a parent, a West Orange Resident for 13 years and an active member of our community who is looking to make a difference.
Q: What do you believe is the most important issue in this local election? How would you change it?
A: It has been clear to me that the morale of our West Orange teachers, staff and students is the most glaring issue in this election. Our educators and community are unhappy. All you need to do is talk to them. The mood is palpable. We would be naive to think that this doesn't have a ripple effect that reaches our children and community.
A town with a fractured educational system is a town in despair. I would try to change that by listening to our educators and working toward creating an environment where they feel valued. Just as important, I will consider myself a trustee of the community. I will be open and receptive to the concerns of our parents and community members beyond the three minutes they are allotted at the board meetings.
Q: What other issues are important?
A: We have many issues in our district that are important to a great many people. I have been the only candidate who has advocated for Internet Safety Instruction beginning in kindergarten all the way through senior year of high school. Our children reside in two environments, the real and the digital. It is imperative that we keep them safe in both.
I also believe that our HIB policy is in need of a review and possible overhaul. I would engage experts in HIB who reside in our community to help us fine-tune the way we implement this important law. As a supporter of our special needs community, I feel that we need to include our parents who have very real concerns about our visitation policy, 504's, IEP's and training for teachers and aides who work with our children every day.
I think we need to evaluate how we implement our dress code in our schools. In talking to parents every day since I announced my candidacy, this issue has been raised numerous times. Clearly a dress policy is important, but it must also be tempered with common sense.
These are just a few issues. My campaign has been a conversation with the voters. That has been my favorite part of this experience. I'm learning more and more about what West Orange wants every day! We're In This Together!
Q: Apart from running for the school board, what other ways are you involved in the town?
A: I have been an active member of the West Orange community for many years. I was the first and longest running "Class Dad" at Redwood School from 2013-2016. In that capacity, I worked with teachers, parents and students to facilitate events throughout the year and to make the school year enjoyable and fulfilling for our students.
My wife and I are committed to our special needs community and as part of that commitment we brought "Bubbles For Autism" to Redwood School six years ago. As a result of this annual event, Autism Awareness was spread, much needed funds were raised for Autism New Jersey and our students had an opportunity to partake in this symbol of hope while helping a worthy cause. Students with special needs looked forward to this yearly event as they enjoyed counting and delivering the Bubbles to every classroom, allowing them the opportunity to interact with their peers.
Along with my wife, I was also instrumental in bringing the Girls On The Run Program to the forefront of West Orange. After helping run the Kelly School Girls On The Run site, we brought it to Redwood, where the program was full every season for six seasons. Girls from all over West Orange and the surrounding communities participated. We had a great time helping girls learn the importance of fitness and pride in themselves while giving back to their community.
Finally, if you had an opportunity to visit the Monster Mash at Redwood School last year, I was chairperson of that event. We turned the entire school into a Halloween Extravaganza, while raising a lot of money for the 5th grade. It was the first event of its kind and people are still talking about it!
Q: Tell us about your other career and how it might benefit you on a school board.
I have been a practicing attorney for 18 years. I began my career in family law and eventually transitioned into Insurance Defense. I have represented some of the largest insurance companies in the world and have spent considerable time earning my stripes at trial and in the Appellate Division. Along the way, I have been responsible for budgeting monies associated with defense costs. In this role, I have been charged with saving my clients money each and every day. In order to do this I not only call upon my skill as a litigator but as a negotiator. This experience gives me a unique perspective when it comes to dealing with complex issues and reaching creative resolutions.