Incumbent candidate Robert Garrison is running unopposed for a two-year unexpired 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 firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday, Oct. 22.
Name, Age, How long have you lived in Westfield? Robert S. Garrison, 47. My wife Erika and I moved to Westfield in 2005. Our daughter, Maya, attends fourth grade at Wilson School.
What are your qualifications for office? I have served on the Westfield Board of Education for nearly four years and I bring more than two decades of public administration experience on the federal, state and local levels and offers deep professional knowledge on a wide variety of areas including labor relations, public finance, budgeting and workforce development.
What would be your top priorities if elected to the Board of Education? Safety & security. We live in a world that has drastically changed over the last few years. Our own District witnessed this firsthand in June. The incident of an armed trespasser was earth-shattering and sobering for many. We are fortunate that the Westfield School District has always been vigilant in staying on top of safety and security issues. In the past three years we have more than doubled our efforts both in terms of policies and spending capital dollars on enhancing school safety and security. The district has installed safety windows, new high-tech cameras, state-of-the-art communications systems in each classroom, new security doors and continued training of teachers and staff. It is that preparedness, along with the amazing and heroic efforts of the Westfield Police Department, that help avert a potential tragic situation.
Do you support the proposed school bond referendum for full day kindergarten? I fully support and am an advocate for the proposed school bond referendum for full day kindergarten. My wife, Erika, and I moved to Westfield in 2005, due in large part to the great reputation of its schools. It was very upsetting to us to learn after the fact that the District did not offer full day kindergarten. Studies show full-day kindergarten is beneficial to the growth during that critical year between pre-k and first grade. Westfield remains one of only a handful districts that fail to offer full day kindergarten and that needs to change.
How would you work to promote student well-being and safety? See above.
What else would you like readers to know? When I ran for the school board last year, I opened up about my experiences growing up a foster child. I was extremely fortunate in having teachers and others take me under their wings and mentor me. Nearly 25 years ago I decided to pay in forward by joining the board of the NJ Community Development Corporation in Paterson. To quote their website: "NJCDC is a private, non-profit community development and social service agency focusing on education, youth development, housing and community building initiatives.” I spend many hours volunteering my time and leadership on after school programs, building and cleaning playgrounds and helping rebuild neighborhoods. I am most proud of assisting in the creation of a program for aging-out foster children.