Dear Westfield Voters,
For nearly the last two years, we have been inundated with the Presidential election. While important, the non-stop coverage of the Presidential election has diverted focus from the down ballot races, which arguably have a much more substantial impact on our daily lives. Down at the very bottom of the ballot, hidden below the partisan contests and three ballot questions, Westfield voters will be asked to elect members of the board of education.
I have proudly served the residents of Westfield as a Member of the Westfield Board of Education since 2012, and I humbly ask for your vote and support in my re-election campaign.
Contrasting from those up-ballot partisan races, I have nothing but good things to say about my fellow candidates. All candidates vying for seats on the Westfield Board of Education are excellent candidates who I believe will truly place the interests of the town and the school system above their own. I ask everyone who enters the voting booth next week, regardless of affiliation, to remember to cast a vote in the school board election at the bottom of the ballot.
As a lifelong resident of Westfield, I graduated from Westfield High School in 2007, after attending Tamaques Elementary and Edison Intermediate schools. I continued my education at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. My entire career has been in the construction industry, in varying capacities. I have worked as a construction engineer on some of the region’s biggest infrastructure projects. Currently, I am a project manager for a steel fabrication firm that specializes in high-strength reinforcements and geotechnical supports. Earlier this year, after years of saving, I became a homeowner by purchasing a modest house on Pierson Street.
I was first elected to the board of education to serve as out the remainder of an unexpired term in 2012, and I was reelected by the voters to a full term in 2013. During my tenure, I have served on nearly every board committee, and I am the current chairman of the Facilities Committee and the Legislation Committee and I also serve on the Policies Committee and the Negotiating Committee. Additionally, I have represented Westfield Public Schools at the county and state level by serving as the vice president of the Union County School Boards Association and as a voting member of the Legislative Committee for the New Jersey School Boards Association.
During the four years that I have served, the board of education, as a collaborative and deliberative body, in concert with our district administration, has overcome every challenge we've been faced with. Our facilities are, on average, more than 80 years old and operating at full capacity. To keep them in good working order we're constantly maintaining or replacing building systems and cosmetic features. However, without question, budget constraints are the largest perennial challenge we face.
The factors are well known: certain specific costs (special education and employee healthcare) are beyond our control and rising far faster than other expenditures, the state has limited our ability to raise revenue, our student population is growing (albeit slowly), collective bargaining agreements tie our hands for years at a time. All of these factors compete with our desire to provide every educational opportunity to our students.
We are proud of the excellent education our students receive, and we do so at a per pupil cost far below state and county averages, yet the residents of Westfield are taxed far more than our neighboring towns. State aid is only a few percent of our operating budget, leaving local tax payers with the bill for the rest. We're a fiscally responsible district, as evidenced by our per pupil expenditures, but we're at the point where cutting any discretionary expenses means directly impacting our classroom instruction.
Looking to the future, we're actively pursuing offering full day kindergarten. Academic research consistently shows the benefits of early childhood education (instruction prior to grade 1), and we believe the state will mandate that we offer such a program in the near future - currently even half-day kindergarten is not required by the state, at all. As such, we have made it a central component of our five year plan. However, we have both fiscal and facility constraints that we must overcome before we can get to that point. I gladly accept the challenge of expanding our programs, predicated that such a proposal is offered as a package, with a goal of being a net positive to all taxpayers, not just the parents of our youngest students.
Now, more than ever, we need to start being creative in how we do business. Now is the time to start looking into sharing services. We should be looking to eliminate duplicative efforts with our counterparts at the town council (snow plowing, IT services, field maintenance, etc), as well as forming a partnership with the town for any new athletic facilities that are to be built; and we need to look into sharing services and facilities with neighboring school districts.
We need to continue to build relationships with our state legislators. We need to let them know, on a regular basis (not just budget season), that the formula that the state uses to allocate school aid is harming Westfield. We need to fight back against unfunded mandates. We need to stand up for our town, but we can't be afraid of sharing across municipal boundaries, and we can't afford to operate in a silo, isolated from the town government.
If re-elected, I promise to continue my commitment to working together with my fellow board members, the town council, and the community to find pragmatic solutions to the complex problems we'll face.
If re-elected, I pledge to continue my role as a devoted, fiscally-responsible representative of the taxpayers of Westfield, especially in the negotiations and budgeting processes, while remaining committed to furthering our tradition of excellence in education.
Thank you for your continued support,