WESTFIELD, NJ – Rosanne Kurstedt, 47, is serving her first term on the Westfield Board of Education. While she hasn’t decided whether she will run again when her term expires, her passion for her work is evident. Kurstedt is a published author of children’s and professional books and a longtime member of the Westfield Writer’s Workshop. Sundays are her days to relax and read, grade student papers and walk with her dog to friends’ homes. Sunday is also game night with her family. Sorry!, Kings in the Corner and Hearts are their favorites.
The Alternative Press: Tell us about your family.
Kurstedt: I have two boys 13 and 15, a Havanese named Dorothy and a wonderful husband, David.
TAP: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Kurstedt: I grew up in New York and lived in the city after graduating from college. I moved to Hong Kong with my husband and older son (my younger son wasn’t born yet) where we lived for about three and a half years. When we returned from Hong Kong we wanted to buy a house. Since my husband worked near Penn Station we wanted to live in an area that had trains into Penn Station, which meant New Jersey or Long Island. We didn’t want to live in Long Island, so we started looking in New Jersey. We didn’t really know much about New Jersey, so we looked at many towns. Westfield rose to the top of our list because of the downtown and the picturesque feeling.
TAP: Where were you schooled?
Kurstedt: Tufts University for my undergraduate degree and Fordham University for my graduate work. I am an adjunct professor at Fordham University teaching graduate-level courses in Literacy Education and William Patterson College teaching undergraduate courses for students preparing to teach in secondary education and basic reading courses for students who need to catch up.
TAP: How did you come to run for election for the Westfield Board of Education?
Kurstedt: My background is in education. People often suggested I run for the school board and four years ago seemed like the right time. My kids were in a good place and my work was in a good place so I thought I’d have the time to dedicate to it.
TAP: What do you see as your greatest accomplishment on the school board?
Kurstedt: Since the board is a unit, I don’t really think it’s fair to say anything has been “my” accomplishment. With that said, I’m most proud of the work the board and district have done with regards to upgrading our facilities, investing in technology and introducing and supporting the teachers in the implementation of Reading and Writers Workshop in the elementary grades.
TAP: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Westfield schools in the coming year?
Kurstedt: The most pressing challenge facing the district is PARCC, the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams that will replace the NJASK and HSPA tests. This year some classes piloted the completely on-line exam. Our kids are pretty savvy on the computer but some might find it difficult because they are not accustomed to taking tests on the computer. Our teachers are all working to ensure that students are prepared and comfortable with the new test and platform. In addition, the district has been getting the infrastructure in place and the devices ready. This is all in line with the Common Core, in theory a set of national standards.
TAP: What is your favorite place in town to go with your family?
Kurstedt: Yapple. We like to walk there when the weather is nice.
TAP: Which is your favorite of your published works?
Kurstedt: I’ve only published one picture book, "And I Thought About You," so that’s my favorite children’s book. As for professional books, "Teaching Writing With Picture Books as Models" is my favorite because it was my first, and the sales exceeded everyone’s expectations.
TAP: Do you have any additional books in the works? Can you share what they are about?
Kurstedt: I have quite a few children’s books in the works. They are mostly about childhood quirks and family traditions or routines.
TAP: Do you have any hobbies?
Kurstedt: I like to read, play tennis and ski. I don’t do any as much as I would like.
TAP: What do you feel that Westfield is doing right that other towns should emulate?
Kurstedt: I think other towns might want to emulate some of what our library does. The kids’ programming and the adult programming are wonderful. Whenever I go to the library, it’s bustling with kids and adults alike. I also think that other towns could emulate our tradition of giving the “apple” to children on their first day of kindergarten. Wearing it at graduation from high school it is a great tradition.
TAP: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Kurstedt: I think Westfield is a great place to live. The people are smart and interesting and there are just so many opportunities for kids to find their passion and develop into well-rounded caring citizens.
Editor’s Note: “A Conversation with …” is a monthly series of question and answer articles with Westfield people.