Incumbent candidate Michael Bielen is running for a three-year term in the Nov. 5 election for Westfield Board of Education. A candidates' forum will be held at Westfield High School, Wednesday, Oct. 23. Questions for the forum may be submitted to ptc@westfieldnjk12.org by Tuesday, Oct. 22.

Name: Michael Bielen
Age: 53
How long have you lived in Westfield? 20 years

What are your qualifications for office? Working in global IT consulting, I have used my business analysis, project management and marketing expertise to evaluate and make recommendations in all Board areas. As a current Board Member, I have served on the Curriculum (former chair), Technology (current chair) and Facilities committees. I have also been PTSO liaison for both McKinley and Edison schools and a two-year Trustee for the Westfield Memorial Library.

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What would your top priorities be if elected to the Board of Education?

1) Security

• Coordinate small group sessions with parents, district and security consultants to discuss concerns.
• Close schools on Election Day.
• Continue investment in smart security including security sensors and implementing smart door technology implemented in the high school into the middle and elementary schools.
2 Transparency — Publish full meeting meetings vs only a meeting synopsis to the website. Live stream meetings for residents unable to attend.
3) Goal Setting — Defining district and superintendent goals that will provide a cycle for continuous district improvement.

MORE: Submit Questions for Westfield Board of Education Candidates Night

Do you support the proposed school bond referendums for full day kindergarten? Please explain your answer. I do not support the March 2020 bond referendum for full-day kindergarten, but it is not just a yes or no answer. Is full day kindergarten the best use of our funds to educate our students?

The cost of full day kindergarten is $12.5 million for initial infrastructure costs and $3 million in recurring costs over 30 years — a total spend of $102.5 million or a $300 compounding increase in property taxes per year.

If we want to invest $100 million, we should increase our focus on healthcare, engineering and technology to better prepare our students for future jobs.

Should we spend $50,000 on a special election for a March 2020 referendum with a minority of voters participating or wait until the November 2020 election at no additional cost? The last special school election Westfield held was in January 2016 with a 9.28% turnout versus a 64% turnout in November 2016.

I would support a November 2020 referendum to make these decisions.

How would you work to promote student well-being and safety? Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) was a 2018-2019 district goal and continues to be primary focus area to ensure that the educational, social and emotional needs of the student are being met. We need to continue to thread SEL into the daily activities of the students to help them manage their anxiety, be resilient and cope with stress. I recommend we continue to expand our counseling programs to work with students to manage their well-being and expand communication to parents to allow them to partner in the process at home.

What else you would like the readers to know? Whether you agree or disagree with what I have written, I listen. I take everyone’s opinion into consideration when making a decision. Decisions are not political, but what is in the best interest to help the student ultimately succeed. I am asking for second term so I can continue the work in-progress. This is not a long-term career. I would only run for a second term and would not seek re-election in three years as my children would have graduated. We continually need new Board members with new ideas and views to continue Westfield’s Tradition of Excellence.