Last week I concluded my second term as an elected board of education member thanks to the support of Westfield voters over the last six years. I wanted to take this opportunity to say "Thank You" to all the hard working taxpayers of Westfield that support the nearly $100 Million Budget annually through their property tax revenues.

When I ran for the board in 2010 I promised I would do my best as one out of nine members to be the voice of the taxpayer. I know that with every decision made at our table, regardless of topic, when money was involved tremendous due diligence was done by the board and specifically the Finance Committee which I was honored to serve on. I can assure you during my tenure every budget was meticulously analyzed, scrutinized and our Board Secretary Dana Sullivan, worked tirelessly to make sure all budgets were balanced, fair and that is why our audits were so successful year after year.

It is interesting how little one knows when first sitting on the board. Though I had a strong background in financial management and my day job involves that as well the world of New Jersey (specifically Education Funding) is in a universe by itself. The rules, regulations and codes alone take time to comprehend and then changes (for good and bad) are constantly being made by the DOE. But at the end of the day I am so proud of what is the most critical part of our board of education, and that is educating our 6000 kids to the best of our abilities. I couldn’t be prouder of our teachers, administrators and leaders at all of our schools. What really matters is that have made our kids feel welcome, wanted and worthy every single day.

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There are those that question why didn’t we rank better or why did this magazine or that magazine include us in their best of issues. To me that's not the important question a parent should be asking. Perhaps asking your kids, especially those who have recently graduated like my children and you will hear how well prepared they feel day one in college. Guided by the great leadership of Dr. Dolan, the administration and the BOE Westfield Schools are challenging our students to reach their highest potential and encouraging them to become creative thinkers and responsible, productive citizens in our global society. The current board of ed led by President Gretchen Ohlig will continue to do that for years to come.

Being on the board of education is all about checking your ego at the door and although you are elected as an individual, you have no real legal authority on your own to fix problems or decide issues. The ultimate judgment is not what one board member accomplishes but what we do as a team. I can proudly say that the 15 board members I have served alongside, including the current board, have always acted together and with great respect on every critical issue we face. We may not always agree, which is democracy in action, but at the end of the day whatever decisions are made we all support them 100 percent. Sure, I would have preferred to win a few of the votes I lost and although I fought hard (and lost) a few contractual issues it is not about what's best for me, but what is best for the greater good of the entire district.  As Nelson Mandela wrote, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

I couldn’t be prouder of all we have accomplished and once again I thank each and every taxpayer and voter and parent in Westfield for honoring me to serve you the last six years. I know I did my best, put in thousands of hours and although many call this the most "thankless" job in the world, I disagree. I am so thankful for having the opportunity to help make a difference, especially by leading our Technology Committee along with the incredible administration to get us where we needed to be- improving the infrastructure and integrating 21st Century Teaching and Learning Skills. Westfield is now not only "state of the art" but truly leading the way in Technology and STEM going forward.

Thank you again fellow Westfielders for giving me the opportunity to give back to a home my family has called home now for 25 years. I would buy you all a drink if that was possible!

By the way if you would like to view my actual farewell speech where I spoke more in detail please feel free to use the attached link in your browser.

Mitch Slater Farewell Speech -Board of Education on Vimeo

Mitch Slater