WESTFIELD, NJ — Five people are running for three seats on the Westfield Board of Education this November: Current member Peggy Oster and newcomers Lynn Benner, Simon Cirasa, Kent Diamond and Anthony Marotta.
For this series, each day this week a different candidate will answer the same questions posed by TAPinto Westfield. Candidate’s responses are published unedited, except as needed for spelling and punctuation, in alphabetical order. Candidates who do not respond to our survey will not be included.
Today’s candidate is Simon Cirasa:
Q. Please tell us about yourself and why you are running.
I am a proud native of Westfield. I was fortunate enough to have been raised in Westfield and educated in its public schools, fully attending Franklin Elementary School and Roosevelt Middle School before graduating from Westfield High School in 2000. Last year, my wife Kristen (also a Westfield native) and I, along with our two sons, Brady (age 41/2) and Reed (just turning 2) re-located back to our home with excitement after finding and purchasing our “forever home.” Our sons will be attending Wilson Elementary School for their first Westfield public school experience as they approach the appropriate age. We are thrilled at the privilege of providing our children the same outstanding community and education that our own parents provided us.
It is with the same sense of privilege that I am standing for election to the Westfield Board of Education. As the son of two career public system educators (a professor and a vice principal) whose dinnertime conversations throughout my life have seemed always to be one way or another about the importance and value of education, I am particularly mindful of and thankful for the great preparation for a productive and rewarding life that the Westfield schools provided me and I want, in return, to contribute as much as I can to preserving and enhancing Westfield's impressive tradition of educational excellence in everything from academics and athletics to the formation of good character and civic responsibility.
2. What is your professional background and education, and how will you use that on the school board?
Prior to entering the professional workforce, I attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, earning a bachelor of arts degree in political science from there in 2004.
For most of my professional career, I lived and worked in Manhattan, spending the last 11 years at the digital marketing technology and services firm Epsilon, an Alliance Data Systems company, where I am now a senior director of client services, managing our sizable business relationship with a New Jersey headquartered Fortune-35-company client, including all aspects of our finances related to this client. I believe my experience and acumen in prudently and successfully managing budgets and the allocation thereof (as well as P&Ls) will be applicable to some of the key duties of a member of the school board.
In addition, I also hope to make my professional expertise in digital marketing and data-management of some help to the district in potentially developing opportunities for our students to learn the effective, prudent and safe navigation of their online presences in the online marketplace with all its new identity-driven marketing practices that are to dominate their lives as consumers.
3. What do you see as the major issues in this election, and what is your stance on them?
If elected, I will devote myself to learning all that I can about the district’s current initiatives and challenges — the feasibility of an all-day kindergarten, for instance, or the best management of PARCC testing, for another — and I will seek to put my unique perspective (as a Westfield native) and talents to their most constructive use.
I want to help the board’s ongoing efforts to inform residents about the district’s accomplishments and needs and its efforts, in turn, to keep the district as responsive as possible to the needs of our residents. I believe my deep familiarity with the town and especially with its current generation of child-rearing families (such as my own) equip me well to help along these lines. I also support the expansion of the high-school AP curriculum, so that our students are best positioned to be on a level playing field with students from other similar districts in winning admission to their top choices in higher education.
4. Is there anything else about you that we should know?
In short, I am eager to serve in any way possible the town and schools that I love, and now is an especially promising time to do so. Some modest reform of state funding this year has gained the district a meaningful increase in budgetary support, and perhaps further reform will gain the district even more in the upcoming years. I believe that with such additional funding, the Westfield schools, already excellent, are poised to flourish as never before. I can imagine no greater privilege, or responsibility, than to help steer the district to what I am confident will be an ever brighter future, and I ask for your vote.
Want to learn more? A board of education candidates night hosted by the Westfield PTSO is planned for Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Westfield High School auditorium, located at 550 Dorian Road.
All candidates have been invited to post statements on TAPinto Westfield. To visit the candidate statements section, click here.
The election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 7.